Have you ever put yourself under so much pressure to be or do something that when you fail to make progress or reach that “point” you feel incredibly frustrated, disappointed or disheartened?
What was it for you? Maybe you know someone who has been in this position?
“If we continue to improve all the time, aiming for an idea of ‘perfect’, are we not going to reach a point where our results stop adding value? As if our efforts are asymptotic?”
No! No! No!
Let me challenge the way you think about change.
The above idea was put forward to me recently and I was immediately struck by two underlying messages…
- The idea of both ‘perfect’ and ‘change’ has some room for improvement.
- People can be resistant and uncomfortable with change.
Again, like most things here I challenge you to take my opinion as just that… opinion. After all, I’m just speaking from experience here and I’ll let you judge what value that has.
1. Challenging what you think you know about ‘perfect’…
From the age of about 16 I had this almost ridiculous goal of being ‘set’ as they say by my early 20’s, if not 30 at the latest. New flash. I’m 30 and after learning a serious lesson in patience, I’m only just starting life now.
It’s extremely easy for us to become obsessed with this idea that the picture perfect life is out there and although on a macro level there is certainly a way to have some form of balance and happiness, but to get caught up and sold on images of what that means on material terms — I now believe that view is a path to unnecessary stress and pressure.
At this point in this article I might lose some readers. How do I know? Because my 21 year old self would have said “I’m different” and will have moved on by now. If that’s you, bookmark this article in your calendar to read on your 31st birthday and see what lessons about patience you have or haven’t learned; and I say that with the best of intentions for you.
This idea of an ‘end point’, a time in life when things finally get perfect is not necessarily wrong, it’s just, in my opinion, probably not the best angle to approach your goal. The way I’ve come to look at life is that it’s more about a vision, a vision that evolves but at the same time isn’t based explicitly on time, it’s not a milestone, rather something you work towards and in all honesty you wont really know you’re there yet until one day you stop and reflect and realise life is ‘pretty much’ the way you like it, and at that point you realise it’s just about ‘perfect’.
Let me draw it out for you;
As time goes by and you move through life it’s about making little adjustments, about holding onto an end vision and realising that life will constantly change and you will need to adjust to that change. It’s the gap between your adjustments and life itself that your personal continuous improvement lies. This principle can be applied to anything you work on really, from life at a macro level, to your work, relationships, health etc. It’s a constant progression of change and adjustment until one day you reach that ‘vision’ and realise it through an ‘ah-ha’ moment.
2. Why is it that some people are resistant to the idea of change and how does one overcome that fear?
For many the idea of change signals that there may be a loss of stability. About 48% of the population can be profiled as liking stability as a predominant part of their personality. It stands to reason then that it’s not surprising that so many people have difficulty dealing with micro and macro forces that shape the world they live in when their stability is threatened. More often than not if stability and resistance to change is something you find you are challenged with you may see the world out of the lens that the ‘perfect’ path to travel is that which is stable, comfortable and certain. The idea of accepting a model where the world is constantly evolving and shifting in and of itself can be a trigger for stress. Strangely though the antidote to this fear could lie in the simple realisation that the model of ‘perfect’, although not to indifferent from the one of ‘vision’ at large, is a possible alternative, and a simple awareness of the possibility that another option exists could, in irony, be the first step to getting comfortable with change.
One of the benefits about believing in the ‘vision’ model over the ‘perfect’ model is that it takes away the unnecessary pressure of feeling as though you have to reach this idea of perfection which is thought to exist somewhere really high up and instead shifts your focus to an overarching vision with an understanding that you just need to focus on the course and be willing to change as it all plays out, and actually enjoy the process as it occurs, taking the ups and downs as inevitable but valuable lessons and opportunities to get closer to whatever your vision is. And once you appreciate that the end destination is not a line you cross but a gradual transition, you enjoy the journey more and learn to be patient.
As I explained earlier, take the source of this advice as experience. Having turned 30 and realising I had been impatiently running towards an unrealistic goal that didn’t match the actions I was taking, the lessons came tough but were worth the wait. Across the last 15 years I have seen tough times and challenges but each moment has taught me a valuable lesson, the largest of all was patience. The greatest thing I can do now is accept all of the shortcomings and move forward with patience and a belief that hard work and a slow and steady attitude will win results and will ultimately be something worth looking back on.
I encourage you to reflect inwards and see if this article resonates with you and if it does to then evaluate how you look at what you my perceive as the end and start enjoying the journey, accepting that change is both necessary and valuable. Most of all, proceed with patience.