I admit it. I am a perfectionist. I aim high, and I don’t quit. If I can teach a class better, tweak a PowerPoint presentation so it’s more interesting, do something more efficiently, or show up better for a workout, I will do it. No excuses. I’m not going to apologize for that because I know that there is nothing wrong with it. If you don’t aim high, you don’t go high. It’s as simple as that.
There’s not much that I remember about my Dad, as he died when I was young, but I do recall him saying (often), “If you’re not going to do it right, don’t do it at all.” So that’s a lot of where this is probably coming from. However, what he meant and what I mean are two different things. I guess he defined “doing it right” as doing it a certain way he favored and that he thought was best. So, washing the grill? Do it thoroughly. Get it completely clean. No little sticky bits left on it. That kind of standard. Nothing wrong with thorough. No one wants to eat last week’s barbecue today.
Doing It Right
I define “doing it right” as meaning doing it the best I can in this moment based on how and who I am today. So, if I worked out hard yesterday, I am not going to push myself to lift heavier weights in Body Pump today. That’s simply unwise. To my mind, rightness is a changing parameter. One day it will look a certain way, and another day it will look different. Part of what makes a thing “right,” for me, is being present with it, open to being creative with it, and allowing some intuitive inspiration to come into it. It’s not all doing, and it’s not all thinking. It has to feel good, too. Why not hum or sing as you scrub the grill? That could bring the experience to a feeling of greater rightness. You also could breathe as you do it. Put on some good music. Take a bathroom break and come back to it fresh.
There are some baselines that may need to be met for something to really be at its best, but there is wiggle room, too, because life is just flat-out boring if all you do is robotize (is that a word?) your activities according to unchanging or meaningless standards.
What about those tired days? Those uninspired days? When you have to show up for something, and you kinda don’t want to. How do you go for the Gold, then? Do you muscle your way through it, gritting your teeth and wincing? I say not because that’s just downright unpleasant. I think getting a good match between who you are and where you are at with whatever activity you are doing is most important. And making good choices are always a part of living life right. So, it’s a tired day; how can you make it a GREAT tired day? Lying in bed reading a book is not some kind of failure; it’s a success if that’s what you most need to experience. Go all the way into it. Enjoy it! Fall asleep! Doodle around. Going for best doesn’t mean being on a hook of some sort, and it’s definitely not about over-achieving. You will only think you are achieving “less than” when you are holding inappropriate standards you think you need to live up to. That’s not going for the gold. That’s called being mean to yourself!
What about “Progress Not Perfection”? Eh. That’s something different. That phrase is a reminder to shift the way you are looking at something you are attempting to do that brings compassion and acceptance into a tendency to beat yourself up for not being good enough. Living life at your best doesn’t at all include self-punishment, harsh judgments, or endless criticism. Ick! No.
Going For Gold
If we are truly going for Gold, it means we are fully alive and inspired in the moment, allowing our God-given talents and energies free expression. We are doing what we are doing as if it really matters. With all of us in it. It’s not about being better than someone else. Who cares what everyone else is up to? What are we up to? Are we living to our fullest potential? Not only are we initiating enough, but are we receptive enough? Not only are we moving enough, but are we still enough? Throwing balance out the window does not bring the Gold. So, yeah, better not to think about the Olympics because there you have a really poor role model. Competitive. Self-punishing. Relentlessly driving the body to do more in spite of injuries and pain. Yeah. No. Not that.
Life is meant to be enjoyed. To do that, we need to be flexible enough to drop rigid stories of who we think we should be and how we think we should be. Some of the best yoga classes I ever taught were not in line with what I might rattle off the top of my head about how a well-balanced practice looks. No, the best were the classes when I didn’t even think about that and just opened up to teaching, inspired. I was present, we had a good time, and we reached a place of deep serenity. How cool is that?
A suggestion. Consider this week, or just this day, going for your personal best. No rules about how that needs to be, just that it will take you to a felt sense at the end of the day that you allowed the fullness of who you are to inhabit every moment of the day, and you didn’t hold back on receiving or expressing your goodness and your passion for life.
Give it a go. It should feel good. Golden, in fact.