Present Over Perfect

  • Dec 9, 2020

If there has ever been a book that has prompted me to reflect and renew, it would be Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.


This foreword sums it up best:

Present Over Perfect is a hand reaching out, pulling you free from the constant pressure to perform faster, push harder, and produce more, all while maintaining an exhausting image of perfection. Shauna offers an honest account of what led her to begin this journey, and a compelling vision for an entirely new way to live: soaked in grace, rest, silence, simplicity, prayer, and connection with the people that matter most to us. In these pages, you’ll be invited to consider the landscape of your own life, and what it might look like to leave behind the pressure to be perfect and begin the life-changing practice of simply being present, in the middle of the mess and the ordinariness of life.

Let’s break this down into my own “Cliff Notes” version of my takeaways from Present Over Perfect.

Takeaway #1: Change results from experiencing a substantial burnout moment.

Burnout can happen to anyone at any point. Whether it’s personal or professional, no one is exempt from burnout that being ‘busy’ can cause. By stepping back from the constant barrage of pressures life throws at us, we allow ourselves to establish connection, peace and essential relationships. Being present is when change starts to occur.

Takeaway #2: No is a powerful word that can change your life….for the better.

In her book, Shauna states: “The word that changed everything, of course, is no. But you can’t have yes without no. Another way to say it: if you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it. In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments. All my yeses brought me to a shallow way of living—an exhausting, frantic lifestyle that actually ended up having little resemblance to that deep, brave yes I was searching for.”

Saying no for the first time is like breaking down a wall. It’s the ultimate boundary setter. And it’s ok; even GOOD to say no. This book is timely for the season we are in now. The current pandemic has forced us to navigate life in a different way. Whether it was weekly business travel, last nights stuck in an office, taxiing kids from one sporting event to another five days a week or spending too much time at the gym after work, many of us were guilty of trying to do it all.

But then our lives abruptly decelerated in the spring of 2020. Initially, people were shocked, even anxious, about how to approach this new way of life. We were used to filling our days with a barrage of to-do’s. We then watched those to-do’s get cancelled. It was then that we realized the true importance of connection; we made more time for family and friends. We were compelled to have more in-depth and transparent conversations with our co-workers and customers. We took time to stop and wave to strangers on the street. We were all facing confusion and uncertainty in some aspect. It felt like we were all in the same boat. Life became different; almost eerily better.

Although there is no question that the pandemic has been challenging, it has also brought insight and awareness of the blessing of being present. May this holiday season bring you reflection, rejoicing and renewal. Present over perfect. Quality over quantity. Relationship over rushing. People over pressure. Meaning over mania.

~Shauna Niequist

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