I’m one of those Type-A people who enjoys filling a 30-day calendar challenge with X’s. Solidly motivating for me, or at least a simple reminder to practice my Italian!
Recently I saw a challenge with a different take: a repeating loop of “do activity, get less awful.” (Paraphrased.)
I found it funny…until Chelsea pointed out how that mindset is essentially bullying myself. Which hadn’t registered at all for me.
In fact, I often beat myself up for falling short of self-prescribed expectations. I want to be GOOD at things. But what does that even mean?
If we think we’re not “good” at something, is there a finish line? There’s always someone more skilled at a hobby, richer, fitter than us.
How freeing would it be to drop all (or at least most) comparisons and be happy with our efforts and current abilities simply for the joy of the activity? Enjoy the journey, not the results. Draw composers because the process entertains me, not for the finished sketch.
Would you trade it all?
Reminding myself how much effort and sacrifice goes into proficiency – much less mastery – of anything helps me gain perspective. As Ryan Holiday writes, would you permanently swap your entire life with someone – negative and positive aspects – to have their talent?
I sure wouldn’t trade all my hours of travel and outdoor adventures for portrait drawing ability or the wizardry to play Beethoven piano sonatas. (Welllll…how many hours are we talking here?)
This felt like a powerful reminder that approaching life’s activities with a negative mindset – “I’m not good enough, so I need to improve myself” is a recipe for life-long disappointment. “I’m bad at piano, so I need to practice” pales for long-term motivation next to “this process is satisfying and I’m excited about learning it no matter the progress.” I want to practice the latter.
What if we talked to ourselves the way we talk to a best friend? Supportive. Inquisitive. Loving us for who we are and celebrating us as a human being, not a human doing. If we can do that for our closest friends, surely we can do so for ourselves.
I’m still aiming to put the X on the calendar to keep my streaks alive. And also to feel fine if I miss a day or struggle with a piece of music.
Practice–>Enjoyment–>Practice–>Enjoyment. That’s a loop I want to be in!
P.S. Check out this podcast with Jim Loehr from minutes 25-30 for more insight on our inner voice. From the chat: “Would you broadcast what your inner voice is saying on a Jumbotron?”