The fear of getting it wrong

There once was a man who had no fear, he said, “Bring on change – my mission is clear!” Then one day this changed, doubt reared its ugly head, uncertainty reigned and stagnation was fed.

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dalí

With a change in practice there is always fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the repercussions, fear of getting something wrong. I get it, educators want to do what is best for their students and they want to do it well. Yet this desire for perfection creates apprehension when exploring new procedures and practices. Don’t get me wrong, change can’t just be for the sake of changing. It does need to be well thought out and planned. But even when this happens, the follow through is daunting.

I was (and still am to a degree, although I try to fight it) guilty of this. I want everything I do to be planned perfectly so it will go smoothly and beautifully the first time through. I never want it to seem like I am unsure or uneasy. I think that somehow the process is devalued unless the outcome is exactly as I have predicted it would be.

But the question is, do we give in to this fear? Do we allow worry to get in the way of trying something new? Anxiety about a change is bound to pop-up with a shift in practice no matter how large or small. Yet we ask students every day to jump into new learning, try something different, and not to worry if something doesn’t go as planned. As difficult as it is, this is what we have to do as well.

Each time the fear of doing something wrong creeps in, I would challenge you to remember…Whatever you do, you’ll be better than you were before. Whether the thoughtful change in practice is something that has staying power, or if it will fall by the wayside, it is worth it to go through the learning process. It is worth it to experience the success or failure. It is worth it to share that with your students. It is worth it to show you’re human and admit that things don’t always go as planned.

If we allow the fear of getting something wrong stop us, how will we know if it could be something right?

Just one more thing to consider…

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” – Suzy Kaseem

 

3 thoughts on “The fear of getting it wrong

  1. This is a truth. It would also be tragic if one did nothing. So, here’s to the fear of doing it wrong, but it still beats doing nothing at all, my friend!

  2. One of the achievement “secrets” I used to teach my middle school students has a catchy name: “The Pitfall of Perfectionism.” I got the phrase from a wonderful psychologist, the late Michael J. Mahoney. But I applied it to a management idea that is a derivative of the law of diminishing returns. The effort one applies to achieving effectiveness in any endeavor is directly proportional to the increase in effectiveness… to a point. No one is sure where that point lies on the graph, but it’s a long, long way from perfection. When one realizes that he or she is near that point, the return on the investment in effort is not justified by the increase in effectiveness, and one must declare that, as an old USFS smoke jumper and teacher buddy of mine used to say, “It’s good enough for government work.”

    The upside to the acceptance of this “law” of economics — and the accompanying irony — is that no matter how we miss the perfection mark, if we’ve worked in good faith for the benefit of the kids, we can’t seem to do them any harm.

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