I recently stumbled across a Discover Challenge called “Mind the Gap“, which introduced me to a new concept. When you set out to create something, your efforts are part of an “ongoing struggle to close a gap between your idea for what [it] should be, and how it in fact turns out”.
I absolutely love it. Such a simple notion, but it speaks volumes to me. Now that I think about it, there are just so many aspects of my life in which I find this “Gap”. It’s there when I’m fiddling around on my guitar and trying to come up with something original; whenever I’m cooking, making something for the first time or trying to get creative with left overs; taking a free kick in a soccer match; or writing a new post for my blog and trying my best to connect with readers.
Between the dazzling image of success and satisfaction that I have in my mind, and the reality that I produce; therein lies the Gap. After a week of putting my mind back together and exploring this new way of thinking, there are 3 things that really stand out.
1) What you set out to create probably won’t be what you end up with.
The Gap exists. Especially so when you’re only just starting out or don’t really have much experience; you’re bound to fall well short of where you hoped to be.
But I’m okay with that. I usually set my sights pretty high, and it’s understandable that I might not reach my lofty goals. Just because I don’t get it the first few times, doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It simply motivates me to redouble my efforts, but smarter the next time round. I can scrap it all and start again from scratch, or refine what I’ve already done and work towards where I want it to be.
My perceptions of my own work play a part too; it’s often not until someone else tells me how awesome it is that I’m able sit back and appreciate it properly. I recently baked some choc-chip cookies from scratch – I personally thought that they’d turned out pretty average, but my housemate couldn’t stop eating them. What I’d seen as a failure to reach my ideal garnered a really positive response. Sometimes things turn out better than originally intended, or I accidentally create something that I never realised I could.
Don’t confine yourself to the image of perfection that you have in your mind. Work towards your goal, but keep an open mind and go with the flow. Allow yourself the freedom to create without being impeded by the fear of falling short. If something doesn’t work out, just try again.
2) Trying to bridge the Gap will lead to incredible things.
We’re always concentrating on the ideal end result and never seem to give due credit to the process; but all of that effort you put in trying to reach your goal? That’s where the magic comes from.
To be able to consistently achieve results that match the ideals we dream of – takes tenacity, hours of practice, a bit of hard earned luck, and a whole lot of knowledge and experience that’s gained along the way. You hit a few set backs and go through some steep learning curves, but you always keep at it. That’s what makes great people great. They’re not just talented; they do what they do over and over again, until they’re effortlessly amazing at it. They learn from their failures, recognise their past mistakes, and work tirelessly to get it right.
Persistently trying things over and over has made me better at the things I like doing. It’s a crucial part of the learning experience; the more I write, the easier it gets. If I churn out enough crappy songs, I’ll eventually produce something decent. If I bake enough bad batches of cookies, pretty soon I’ll be going toe-to-toe with Nigella Lawson.
Every now and then I produce something that I’m really happy with – but that only ever comes about as a result of all the work I put in. If I didn’t put in any real effort, I’d never achieve much at all.
3) The Gap will never completely close. Ever.
No matter how amazing you get at something, or how successful your latest attempt; there will always be something else to reach for.
It’s kind of bittersweet. As I’m working to shrink the Gap, I’m getting better, becoming more confident and trying new things. I put in even more time and effort, and I end up heading in directions that I wasn’t expecting. I’m always refining my goals, always aiming higher. I evolve as I go, inadvertently pushing myself to achieve something bigger and better.
I love baking cookies; but once I get it right a few times, I find myself wanting to try something different, to improve them in some way. I try to make them softer, tastier, healthier. By the time I reach what had been my goal, I’m already aiming for something well beyond it.
The Gap never closes simply because as you approach your goal, it inevitably evolves into something greater; you’re only going to set the bar higher and higher for yourself. The real question is, just how high can you get?
The Gap seems to exists in every thing I set out to do; it’s impossible to confine it to just my creative side.
It applies to my life goals, the sort of person I want to be, the relationships I hope to have. I imagine being the perfect romantic partner, the owner of successful businesses, a major catalyst for positive change in the world. Right now, there’s a very obvious gap between where I am and where I dream of being. I know that it’s not yet the reality, but I’m okay with that. I’m always learning, and striving to improve. I’m on my way there.
So if I cook for you, play for you, write for you, sing for you, draw for you, or perform for you – and if I live with you, work with you or simply share my aspirations with you; forgive me, bear with me, but most of all encourage me.
I’ll always be trying to close that Gap.