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Power of Progress, Not Perfection

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's been said that yoga is a practice. Yet I get frustrated the first time when I can't be at the advanced level.

When I start a new job, I want to already be the subject expert. Not because I think I know everything. I don't even expect that I'll know it all.. I just want to know the big picture and how things fit together, and the scope of what I don't know. ...so, I pretty much want to know it all. ;)

When I make mistakes, I've been very hard on myself in the past. I've been brutal sometimes. But I'm getting better. I expect a lot from myself.

And that expectation makes it easier to quit if I don't live up to my expectations. Rather than suffer through the humiliation of not living up to my potential, I have chosen to avoid it altogether.

That's how I avoided consistent strength training for over 4 years, even after I knew better. Even after I thought I WANTED to do it. Even after I said I would, time and again. It was hard, confusing.. I made it harder by believing I didn't know what to do. I had small efforts, even some success - did 200 squats on one program, worked up to 100 wall-push-ups. But it wasn't rewarding fast enough, I held back, not wanting to hurt myself.

But in my CrossFit class, twice weekly, I fail again and again. I hold a plank until my arm will not hold me up any more. I do more burpees than I possibly can, even when it feels like I'm crawling at the end and not doing them very well, my face hot and lobster-red with stray hair plastered to it. I focus on my counting instead of how I might look even though I weigh more than anyone else in the class, because the bigger guys quit a few months ago.

And my friend saved me from quitting with the simple phrase "Good job." Even if I was struggling, he'd yell out that encouragement from across the room. I RAILED against it. First with frustrated denial, outright rejection.

I thought about all of the ways I wasn't doing what *I* classified as a "good job". I'd want to get mad, but have to save my energy for my physical effort. Eventually, I couldn't afford to get mad. And I started nodding, or trying to acknowledge it aloud, even if I didn't have the breath (it sounded like "Ughf").

Then I noticed that he said it when I was struggling. It confused me until I realized that it also took me out of any negative thoughts I was building for not performing like a super athlete, and I'd try again.

I learned to be a little easier on myself. I learned to accept that I was doing a good job. And by slowing down my own expectations, I learned that I really was doing a good job.

In order for my class to be as effective as possible, it needs to be more challenging than I can handle. It will ALwAYs be that challenging, not because I'm terrible or "suck", but increasing the difficulty to be slightly ahead of my ability builds my body to handle more and more, and become more efficient.

So I've redefined my "good job" to include good effort. Continuous effort, the kind that drives me toward my goals, is my objective, not being the super-performing athlete.

And yet, that is exactly what makes me able to do super-athlete things, the things I felt were impossible before. I thought I was strong before, but I keep getting stronger.

And stronger.
And more confident.
And self assured, knowing that even if I can't do this right this very second, I will one day. I will work up to it. There is nothing wrong with that. How perfect is that?

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Genius. I will remember that during tomorrow's workout.

    1736 days ago
  • HHB4181
    1736 days ago
    emoticon It feels so good to learn to Love Ourselves enough to recognize and Give Ourselves Credit for our Accomplishments.

    emoticon We Are Worth It!!!
    1736 days ago
  • ASTRA58
    emoticon Great effort!
    1736 days ago
  • KITT52
    1736 days ago

    When I started going to spin class I could barely sit on the bike that long, let alone do everything.

    But I looked around the room and thought, "These people look really fit. I bet that's not a coincidence."

    So I made a pact with myself and said, "If I can't keep UP, I can at least keep COMING." And I did, and amazingly, after about 3-4 months of going, and trying every time, I actually could keep up!

    So keep plugging away at it, Joc. You're absolutely right. If you're not being challenged then you're not improving.

    1737 days ago
  • MARTY728
    You are emoticon emoticon
    1737 days ago
    Good job! ;) Of course you're doing a fantastic job, you are there, you're putting in your best effort, you are working out HARDCORE! I bet you are getting stronger and stronger everyday!
    1737 days ago
    I say, "Great Effort"
    1737 days ago
    Wonderful efforts on going easy on yourself...! That can be some of the "hardest" work we do: re-learning how to be "good enough"! :-)

    1737 days ago
    I've been teaching adults how to play guitar, make pottery and belly dance for a good long time and yes, as adults we all expect to be awesome at something first try.
    I tell my students to approach this new experience as a child. Kids don't give up very easily. Remember when you learned to ride a bike? Out there every day trying to master this balancing thing, totally freaked out about falling off and the pain from the fall? But we did it anyway because the challenge was there and we saw other people doing it with ease and knew somewhere deep inside that one day we could ride like the wind too.
    Thanks for another awesome blog!

    1737 days ago
    Thanks for sharing your experience! I saw myself in your words.
    1737 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this! I think too many of us don't do things because we can't do them perfectly, or what we consider perfectly. Just doing it is a win right? Keep up the GREAT work!
    1737 days ago
    I think we are smack dab in the middle of the "cut to the chase" generation. And so we can find ourselves (or others) wanting semi-instant gratification. We don't want to be on A or B or Q. We want to be Z.

    It's like reading the last page of the book first.

    And what does that killing of the surprise do for us? Does it prepare us for letdowns? Make endings easier to take? Are we less invested in it all? I don't have the answers. But you're right about the need to try to do more than you can. I well recall feeling - KNOWING - that I could not go past a mile. Now that's routine. ;)
    1737 days ago
    You are awesome. Just sayin'.
    1737 days ago
  • FIREFLY4407
    "Increasing the difficulty to be slightly ahead of my ability builds my body to handle more and more, and become more efficient" - these are words to live by - thank you!! It's easy to forget that if you are doing something "comfortably", you are no longer getting the most benefit from it.
    1737 days ago
    It is a perfect attitude!!! Well done! You truly are doing a good job!

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1737 days ago
    I'd say that's ABSOLUTELY PERFECT, if you as me!
    1738 days ago
    No one is always the best, but consistantly working is the way we will get and continue reaching our goals.
    1738 days ago
    Sounds perfect to me! I suffer from all of those expectations of myself that you hold yourself to. Then one day I realized that very good or even just good is good enough and it changed my life. Great introspection!
    1738 days ago
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