Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it. – Salvador Dali
Over the Christmas holidays I didn’t write a single word and I gained seven pounds. For more than a month, I exchanged long-standing habits for new ones. While not ideal, the new habits might have been just what I needed.
Five-day-a-week workouts became two-day-a-week workouts and instead of writing in the evening, I watched television, surfed the Internet or took a nap before dinner. Getting more rest and doing less felt right to me.
Life ebbs and flows and so do we.
The Universe’s unpredictable dance influences how you feel and what you do. Often the reason for a new pattern is clear – illness, managing a crisis, financial challenges, etc. Other times the reason for doing things differently isn’t as obvious.
When you shift from what you think you should be doing to what feels more comfortable, the change can come with feelings of guilt, even shame. The expectation to stay the course – no matter what’s happening around you – can be overwhelming. Simply put, the expectation to be perfect can be a burden.
When a shift in direction heads your way, and those unwelcome thoughts of shame, guilt and regret surface, the best bet is to make the shift anyway and then give yourself a break.
My holiday sabbatical came with feelings of guilt, too.
At first, it felt like I was going backwards – as if everything I had accomplished was going to vanish. But after a week or so, I grounded myself and understood that I was only listening to my inner wisdom. By reframing my “new normal,” I was able to give myself a break and enjoy the slower change of pace. Here are some ideas that helped me change my perspective:
- See what’s good. Instead of focusing of what you are doing wrong, or not doing, or have stopped doing; look for the good things that are happening in your life right now and the things you are doing well.
- Trade shame for grace. You are probably harder on you than you are on anyone else. Rather than beating yourself up for what you think you are doing wrong, allow yourself to be imperfectly human and take in the grace.
- Rip off the labels. Resist the urge to label yourself as lazy, underachieving, unhealthy or any other negative word. These labels only add to the discomfort. Rip them off and begin finding comfort in the just being you.
Sometimes the simple path to giving yourself a break begins with the awareness that you don’t have to be perfect all of the time – you just need to be aware of what your inner wisdom is telling you and learn to be comfortable with that.
I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions because people don’t change until they are ready.
When I returned home from my trip to Atlanta and Florida after the New Year, I was ready.
I was ready to get back to writing; to get back to exercising and soon Mary Beth and I are going to change our diet in an effort to reduce gluten and sugar.
But on the days when I don’t feel like writing or running and only a Snickers bar will do, I will acknowledge my inner wisdom, do what’s needed and then give myself a break.
After all, perfection isn’t needed to be human – to be happily, beautifully and imperfectly human.
What is A Simple Path?
This post is in A Simple Path, a series of short pieces inspired by my own life experiences. Each post is a simple path to experiencing something wonderful: maybe seeing life from a different perspective, or celebrating its beauty. Please be sure to check out my book on Amazon: 20 Simple Paths to an Amazing Life.