Installing decorations, holiday cooking, and watching holiday movies are some of the Clancy family favorite holiday traditions (really my favorite holiday traditions). Another Clancy family holiday tradition is the annual Christmas card with a photo of the Clancy kids on the hallway stairs.

By the time our son Luke (our youngest child) was born, our narrow hallway staircase became the traditional holiday photo location. Every year there was great hope that the photo session would be short and sweet. Perhaps, even a one-take event. 

Surprise! Young children do not always take direction well, particularly when they are sitting next to each other in a narrow hallway. So, there were outtakes. Many, many outtakes in my pursuit of that one PERFECT Christmas photo.

When I look at those old Christmas photos, it is not the perfect ones that bring me the most joy. It’s the outtakes that warm my heart. All those perfect photos depict four lovely Clancy children. The outtakes depict Clancy life. Looking at those outtakes I remember the fun, the humor, and the wonder of those early years. 

I have come to realize that perfection is overrated. Perfection can become a quest that obscures the joy of life. Thankfully, those young Clancy Christmas card photos were taken before digital photography. Otherwise, I may have deleted all those imperfect joyful moment reminders.

Perfection can also waste time and energy. The quest for the perfect picture caused unhappy Clancy kids and a frustrated mom photographer. It would have been much better to take a few photos for the Christmas card and spend the rest of the time doing something fun, like baking cookies. Nowadays, I have seen the error of my ways, and the Clancy photo session is much shorter and happier.

Like wanting the perfect photo, we sometimes wait for the perfect time to act. A perfect time when we are ready to accomplish a task. In life is there ever really a perfect time? So very often waiting for the perfect time is just an excuse for inaction. Inaction (procrastination) due to fear, feeling overwhelmed, or just plain laziness. 

Winston Churchill said, “perfection is the enemy of progress.” Bestselling author, Marie Forleo, advises that we should “start before you’re ready” because action generates motivation. 

I think this is good advice for life and for estate planning. I hear so many people say they have been planning for years to create an estate plan. My husband Mike and I kept putting off creating an estate plan largely because we did not know much about it. 

Our lack of knowledge became a vicious cycle. We did not create an estate plan because we lacked information about the process, and we lacked information about the process because we did not pursue creating an estate plan. Now that we have an estate plan, I realize had we just started we would have been halfway to completion. Like many things in life, estate planning action creates motivation.

Like embracing photo outtakes, I think we can all learn so much from our kids. In the Berenstain Bears children’s book series, Mama Bear states that her children cubs learned to do by doing. They learned to walk by walking, and they learned to climb by climbing. The same can be said for estate planning. We learn to create an estate plan by creating an estate plan. Stop waiting for the perfect time. Progress not perfection. Start before you’re ready. No one, anywhere, has ever said, I created an estate plan and now I regret it! Start creating an estate plan today.

Theresa Clancy, Attorney at Law

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