Friday, August 6, 2010

It works for me, but maybe not for you

Tradition: Path to perfection

Story: A friend of mine recently posted some amazing comments on Facebook about goals and such. I responded with the following

True, but also remember that we define our own perfection and the happiest, healthiest people are honest and confident even if they are shy of perfection. Progress without being consistently disappointed in oneself is not easy. Now if I could really take your point and mine to heart I could make progress.

Jess, being the amazing, smart and insightful person she is responded basically telling me she agreed except about that perfection stuff.

Why is it that I must define my aspirations in terms of perfection? It’s probably a combination of my general upbringing and my religious belief that perfection is attainable even if not in this life. Let me explain why that works for me, though. I know that perfection is unattainable, but MY perfection is MINE. I know what I want myself to be, I know what I need to do to attain that level of perfection and I know that my perfection is not perfection for anyone else. I also know that the path to perfection is to be enjoyed even if I am sometimes on the path alone.

I can point out the 12 thousand different ways I disappoint myself on a daily basis. I can tell you all about the goals that I did not achieve and my responsibility in that failure, but I have reached some sort of peace with it. I don’t mean peace in a hippy “life is what it is” way. I mean the peace that comes from knowing myself well enough to know how much I can gain from my own disappointment and how much is too much. I think there is something valuable in failure.

The most apt example from my life is running. I have been running regularly for 7 months now. I am nowhere near where I should be at this point. I should be able to run longer, faster and feel better doing it. I know this, but I can’t change it. Really. I can do nothing about where I am currently. I am currently failing, truly failing and it doesn’t feel good. I also know that there is value in my failure. I can evaluate where I veered off the path and I can backtrack. I can be currently failing without thinking I am a failure. I can also work to get back to success. I can succeed in the future and when I do I can do so knowing what it felt like to fail.

I had trouble expressing this point back in April when I ran a 5K. I did not meet my goal and I was disappointed. I felt good because I finished, but finishing was not the only aspect of my race perfection. I appreciate the thoughts from everyone who encouraged me with their comments, but it did not change the failure. Some people thought it would feel good for me to hear/read things like “you did better than most people” or “you finished and that is accomplishment enough” These people had their hearts in the right place, but missed the point. I set a goal and did not reach it, being sad about it was worthwhile. I had to be disappointed. Prolonged disappointment and self doubt is not healthy, but I think we often try to avoid any disappointment and we justify failure. There does not need to be justification. When we do that we miss so much that there is to gain from living.

So when I am focusing on the moment, the current feeling, my current place and existence I learn from the disappointment and I celebrate the successes. I haven't always been able to see life this way, but once I began to view it this way I have been much more confident in myself, who I am and who I am working to be. Just because I want to be perfect does not mean I hate who I am now. This statement alone is why this works for me, but does not necessarily work for anyone else.

Does perfection work as your goal or do you, like my friend Jess, find more success in defining goals differently? Why does it work for you? I am sure there is something I can learn from your methods

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