Perfect Effort Breeds Success

It’s 9:00 p.m. I’m sitting at the computer, my eyes tired and straining to see the words that come up on the screen as I’m typing.  I’m in a bit of a mental fog because its late (I’m old, I get it), and it feels much more like ‘sitting on the couch watching “The Crown”’, then ‘writing a blog’ time, but I really need to get this done.  The problem? I keep deleting everything I write before I even give it a chance to start to gel. 

I’d like to say that this habit of needing everything to be just so right out the gate is restricted to just my writing, but I think you know better.  Confession time. This ‘throw it away, and start again’ has followed me throughout my years in sports, as an Acupuncturist, hell…even drawing a birthday poster for one of my kids.  I throw away huge pieces of poster paper, with half-drawn pictures a mere 20 minutes before the cake is supposed to come out! I’m sure I’d still be in there right now if Sarah didn’t assure me, “Dad, it’s good enough.  Let’s just get it on the wall before Daniel comes home!” But doesn’t this ‘be the best or die trying’ attitude fortify my ability to be resilient?

What is the perfect antonym to resilience?  The perfect opposite. If you were looking for the villain who stopped you, your best friend, or anyone in any situation from attaining personal growth, who would it be?  Who is the greatest antagonist to your success? The culprit stopping you from bouncing back from your setbacks, immobilizing any and all resilience you may have in the face of overwhelming adversity? 

The perfect outcome.

There is no doubt that the number one killer of any of your hopes and dreams, the saboteur of your ambition and your ability to overcome the obstacles you face to get the life you want, is needing the perfect outcome.  The more you hold onto the ideal that there can be a perfect moment, a perfect situation, something of perfection to reach for outside of yourself, the more you bring emotions like fear, doubt, anger, and uncertainty to your doorstep.  Now I’m not saying that these uncomfortable emotions don’t have important, very valuable information to bestow on you, a lot of times they do. I’m saying these emotions, when left unidentified and unchecked, beat you down, keep you feeling ‘not good enough’, and can stop you from striving all together .  

So what can we do?  What is the golden branch that we can reach for when we are down in that ugly, muddy, ‘perfect outcome quicksand’, and we find ourselves being sucked down by self-judgement and shame?

Give a perfect effort.

Giving our all from where we are in a given circumstance is our perfect effort.  A great president, Teddy Roosevelt, once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  President Roosevelt knew that perfection outside of our effort was a myth, and a self-destructive one at that.  If we’re going to be looking for any kind of perfection in our lives, we have to look within ourselves at our own efforts.  Furthermore, this introspection always needs to be in the context of the time, the situation, and what we have available to give of ourselves in that circumstance.  

When you are giving that perfect effort, you are being sincere, honest, and authentic yourself.  That authenticity is truly giving your best effort.  It is being who you are in the moment, not feeling ashamed of it, and being accepting of whatever results from it, including accepting the reactions of others.  When you can give your perfect effort, authentically, and detach yourself from a perfect outcome, you can move forward. When you allow for all of the possibilities to transpire, rather than holding your breath and clutching tightly to a particular outcome, you allow for possibilities and success you may never have imagined.   

If something doesn’t work out perfectly it isn’t a catastrophe.  Giving a perfect effort with detachment from the outcome allows you to move forward even when you are in the midst of uncomfortable emotions.  You may feel like: “Man! I wish that went my way.” Or, “Wow! I’m disappointed.” Or, “Holy crap! That’s embarrassing!” Instead of allowing those feelings to freeze you, you can acknowledge them, learn from them, and use them to keep going.  Because, on the balance, you can also acknowledge your effort: “I worked really hard.” “I’m going to try again tomorrow.” Or, “Well, that didn’t work out. What other angle can I find?” The ability to acknowledge your effort builds your emotional resilience, your ability to feel all of your emotions and use them as fuel to keep coming back to the task at hand.

Alright.  I’ve gotten some time in, actually gotten some good writing down, and I’m feeling all the better for it.  Am I thinking that it’s perfect? That it came out like a polished final draft of “The Count of Monte Cristo” and even Alexander Dumas couldn’t do better?  Of course not. But it’s as good as I’ve got right now in this moment, and it’s enough to keep my editor happy. More importantly it let’s me know I have my back, and can trust myself to show up and give my best effort, even when I’m tired and feeling crappy.  That’s resilience.