Advocating for half-assery

A sketch of a person standing, wearing a T-shirt that says “Be a little less awful today.”
Let’s face it, some days ‘a little less awful’ is the best we can do. lee lim

Half-assed and failed is better than never even tried 

For the majority of my life I believed that it was always best to either fully complete a task or to not engage with it at all: to full-ass or no-ass, but never half-ass. Recently my view has shifted, and it’s brought some immense growth that I’m hoping you’re able to benefit from too.  

One obvious benefit to the ‘full-ass or no-ass’ perspective is that you never wind up with a task that’s only partially done – everything you begin is brought to completion. That is, if you’re able to start it in the first place. 

I’m no stranger to problems with motivation. In fact, I’ve come up with many ideas that I was incredibly excited about and then was never able to even begin achieving because, in hindsight, I don’t think I believed I could fully see those sorts of ideas through. I didn’t believe that I could full-ass the whole concept I’d schemed up, so I stayed at the starting point, idealizing but never actualizing those plans.  

If I had just attempted those plans, had given myself the benefit of the doubt and just try to see what would happen…who knows what could have happened. When I would hold myself back from even beginning to attempt something, I would limit myself based on what I already believed I was able to achieve. I left no room to surprise myself, which was wildly unfair to myself.  

Here’s a (translated) quote that’s always stuck with me from Galileo Galilei: “I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.” I actually have this quote pinned up beside my desk in the Carillon’s office, and I appreciate it deeply because it reminds me that everyone is capable of surprising you. I deserve that same flexibility from myself, and half-assery helps me get excited about the possibilities that giving myself a chance introduces. 

In simplest terms, half-assery is the ability to attempt a plan without obligating yourself to achieve the full and complete scheme you’re picturing in one attempt. As an example, let’s take physically caring for your body. For those of you who, like me, can find themselves in some very low-mood dips for extended periods of time, it can be difficult to keep care-of-self at one consistent standard. In fact, it is absolutely unrealistic to expect that a consistent standard could be kept for the sole reason that your baseline well-being isn’t consistent. 

When it comes to physically caring for myself this still takes many different forms, so I’ll break the example down to be even more specific and we’ll just look at showering. On the best of days, I’ll shampoo and condition my hair and maybe toss in a hair mask, wash my face and do a face mask, use a body wash and then a scrub on the rest of my body, and once in a blue moon I’ll shave.  

Some days this feels like a very simple one-step process of showering, but some days it feels like the eight-step process of each individual task plus the tasks of undressing before, drying off after, and putting lotion all over my extraordinarily dry skin. And some days, I don’t have the motivation to get through every damn step I normally require of myself in that routine.  

Half-assery comes in clutch here because I can simplify the routine, doing just a few aspects without feeling like I’m failing myself. In the past, I’d sometimes force myself to go through the entire process only to find I’d used up all my motivation for the day and couldn’t get through other non-negotiables in my day like work obligations or making meals. Or, I’d prioritize the non-negotiable aspects and then feel guilty for not caring for the body I have that got me through that day. 

In short, half-assery means that I can at least begin rather than sitting stagnant and not even giving myself a chance. Rather than feeling daunted by the entire scheme, I focus on a few steps that I can absolutely accomplish like, in a shower, just doing the shampoo and body wash on the worst of days.  

I’ve found this useful in physically caring for my body but also in fulfilling work obligations, writing a thesis, or doing course readings. Even if I only have the drive to read five pages, that’s five fewer to get through tomorrow – still a favour for future me.  

Give yourself a chance to half-ass something for a change. At least you’ll have a start, and that’s a hell of a lot better than not having assed at all.  


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