Image via Wikipedia
The title of this article started out as a placeholder. I thought I’d come up with a real title, or a real article, and fill in the blank later.
For example, this picture of an Easter Bunny. No bunny available? Let’s use Gladys! She’s a placeholder for the real thing, yet is becoming famous in her own right, thanks to Wikipedia and Flickr.
Using a placeholder offers temporary convenience, but it can be a dangerous practice, sometimes with comical results. I recall one harried church music director, responsible for a flurry of printing bulletins and service leaflets, leading up to all of the Holy Week and Easter services. He would start preparing weeks in advance, submitting all of the information so that the secretary could produce all of the bulletins. Frequently, titles of choral anthems, organ pieces, and especially sermon titles, would be inserted or changed just prior to printing, as those choices were made. Amidst the distractions and pressures of multitasking, occasionally a placeholder title would slip through. Once, thankfully not at a major service, a bulletin was printed and distributed to the congregation which listed “Some Little Ditty” as the special choral music for the day. Another time, the temporary placeholder for the sermon title, “Twenty Minutes of Droning,” slipped through undetected. Until Sunday morning. Oops.
It seems that there are lots of examples of things we do, or have, or are, where we intend to change it later. Sometimes, we do go back and make an adjustment or an improvement. However, sometimes the placeholder becomes permanent. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s possible that what was originally intended as a placeholder actually works quite well. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
That doesn’t mean that the status quo can’t be improved. All too frequently, placeholders become permanent because the prospect of changing whatever it is seems too daunting. I’ve been able to enlarge my perspective on this through my continuing work in the Feldenkrais Method. Instead of two choices: a) settle for the same old, same old; or b) insist upon and strive for perfection, I have many choices for effective action that fall along that spectrum. Anything that we learn to do well, we learn by successive approximations.
It’s possible to make tiny changes over time, that result in a big difference. If I set a timer for five minutes, and use that time to organize my workspace, things look, feel, and work much better, almost immediately. Relationships can blossom or heal with the simple inclusion of a smile or kind word. Ways of moving with better coordination, more comfort, increased skill and effectiveness, improved balance, deeper enjoyment — all become available as we learn alternatives to our “placeholders” for those actions.
A placeholder is a “first approximation” of what you desire. Make a tiny change, and notice the result. Would you like more of that, less of that, or something different altogether? The process goes quite rapidly, and the results are astonishing. You can learn to play along the way, improving with each successive approximation. In this way, growth and change are assured. After all, everything is temporary.