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Friday, October 21, 2011

Aiming for Mediocrity

I am a perfectionist and its a curse!   But last year I decided that I give too much of myself away in striving for perfection and instead my new motto was simply "Aiming for Mediocrity."  A friend made me a card with a target on the front with the arrow missing the center with the motto below--it was perfect--I still hit the target, but I wasn't quite in the center.  Perfect!

In my new found liberation, I vowed to do enough to fulfill all my obligations but I also vowed I would no longer expend myself to the Nth degree in this silly and counter-productive pursuit of perfection.  Unattainable and probably unhappy with something even if I reached perfection, I finally climbed down off the mountain of pressure I had created for myself and decided to breathe.

What did this do for me?   I relaxed about some things that used to drive me nuts.  "Let it go," became something I uttered frequently as a new mantra of sorts.  And my work didn't suffer one bit!  Aiming for mediocrity was a worthy pursuit! And yet, I still slipped into my old ways now and then.  

So, my motto as of late, lowering the bar even further, is, drum roll..."Aiming to show Up."  
Now you may laugh, but for a perfectionist, this has been a major turning point for me.   Sometimes when you care less you can actually achieve more.   I got to a point in some aspects of my life where I could literally say, "I don't care about this, why do I stress over it?" So I let the contral freak in me go on vacation. 

One would assume then that my work has in fact suffered in some way.  To the contrary, dear friends!   So perhaps everything isn't as I would love it to be, but nothing is greatly out of place.   Yes, there may be a typo in a document, yes, I don't return all my calls within 20 minutes. But the pay off?  A calmer, happier, nicer me.  

Where did I become such a stress ball in the first place?  I really had to take stock of this question and find the answer--this was the key to my transformation.  

After some soul searching and encouragement from a patient friend who just tells it like he sees it, I saw myself through a different lens.  Sometimes hearing the perspective of others is difficult but most of the time we really need their perspective.  The reality?  We are not objective and cannot be objective about ourselves.   Ponder this-- Even if you see yourself head to toe in the mirror you cannot ever truly see yourself as others see you--you can only ever see a reflection.  How humbling is that?   God knows we need others and proves it by making us unable to see our entire body.  We need another to complete the vision.

We need the perspective of others to whip us into shape, motivate us, affirm us, and change us.   So, with a new perspective, a desire to still achieve that life-work balance, I decided to focus on the things that really needed to be focused on, and to "let it go" where everything else was concerned.   I decided that others come to expect things of me because I exude that expectation of myself.  If I expect less of myself that others may come to expect less of me as well.   And in fact I found that to be true.  

So my new goal was simply to show up to life.   And when glitches happen, instead of stressing over them, I can embrace them.  Well, ok, not all of them, I'm human!   Remember, sometimes when you care less (and I don't mean that I don't care) you can achieve more.  Relax.  Make your goal either Aiming for Mediocrity or Aiming to Show Up and see if you don't feel better and actually achieve more.