Most people have their eyes on some sort of prize. To look like the guy on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, to be able to bench press 225 ten times, to climb Mt Everest, to sell the company for $10 Million in the next five years.
Every one of these goals obviously comes along with a ton of time, work and dedication. And if you’re anything like me, you wanted it to happen yesterday. Intellectually you know it takes learning how and a lot of practice, but in your heart you just want it already.
Another thing that happens if you’re anything like me, is that in practicing, it doesn’t always turn out perfectly. We make mistakes. We fail. We had a perfect plan for how we wanted it to be and it didn’t turn out that way.
WTF!? We took the time to do the research, make a plan, take action against the plan, and it still didn’t work!? Is there something wrong with me? Am I not good enough? Is it not meant to be?
This line of thinking is totally normal. When we don’t get what we want, it stings. That sting is the feeling of our survival emotions being triggered. Our fears, concerns, and feelings of frustration, anger, shame, anxiety, guilt, etc. are driven up and it hurts.
What’s The Meaning Of This!?
I believe we’re all here for a reason. To learn something, to be something, to give something. From experience I’ve learned that fulfillment is to be found in the journey, not the destination.
If we wait for arriving at the destination to be happy, we’re going to be waiting a long time. And, again, if you’re anything like me, you’re just going to choose another destination once you’ve arrived anyway. Life is a constant game of setting the bar higher for people like us.
So, what do we say from here? We could continue the vicious cycle of setting a goal, working towards accomplishing it, making mistakes, beating ourselves up for those mistakes and whether or not we crushed the goal good enough, fast enough, etc., then raise the bar higher and start all over again. Or….
We could surrender to the natural process of falling in love with the perfection of imperfection. Natural process? Yes. It’s completely 100% natural and you already know it.
How so? Glad you asked. Have you ever loved another person? A friend, child, family member or significant other?
Then you know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s always something in that person we don’t like. Some kind of imperfection. Yet we love them anyway.
We learned to see them as perfect even though they’re imperfect. Oh, and they love you too, and you know very well that you’re not perfect.
So why do we set a new goal and expect it to go exactly as planned? That’s crazy talk. It’s actually not weird that we do this though. We’ve been conditioned to go for perfection (think fairytale heroes) and made wrong for being imperfect countless times as we were growing up (think parents, teachers, religion).
OK, What Now?
Consider that we’re all writing our stories in every moment of every day. The fairytale heroes weren’t heroes because they were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. They were heroes because they went through a ton of hardship on their journey and either won in the end, or failed masterfully.
Consider you’re on your own hero’s journey and you get to write the script. Remember that each of your favorite heroes went through some kind of unreasonable hardship before they were called a hero. Luke Skywalker, Batman, Wesley from the Princess Bride. All of them.
If you take a close look at what the hero went through you’ll see they all learned from each mistake, each hardship. What did they learn? They learned how to win. It may not have looked good. In fact, it may have looked like they were going to lose at times.
With each stumbling block they learned how to rework the plan. With each setback they learned how to get further on the next push. With each loss they learned how to fight harder next time. With each failure they learned how to win.
I just used a whole lot of words to say, “get over it”. You’re going to fail. It’s not going to look exactly how you think. You’re beating yourself up for no reason. Stop it.
Stop it because you’re missing out on the lessons your journey has to offer. Stop it because you’re missing out on an amazing experience of life while you’re waiting to arrive at the destination. Stop it because other people are watching you and they deserve to have an amazing journey too.
I’ll leave you with my all time favorite quote. It’s by Teddy Roosvelt:
It is not the critic who counts
Not the man who points out
How the strong man stumbles
Or where the doer of deeds could have done them better
The credit belongs to the man
Who is actually in the arena
Whose face is marred
By dust and sweat and blood
Who strives valiantly
Who errs, who comes short again and again
Because there is no effort
Without error and shortcoming
But who does actually strive to do the deeds
Who knows great enthusiasms
The great devotions
Who spends himself in a worthy cause
Who at the best knows in the end
The triumph of high achievement
And who at the worst, if he fails
At least fails while daring greatly
So that his place shall never be
With those cold and timid souls
Who neither know victory nor defeat