Here’s the bitter truth: we will never be as good as we think we should be.
None of us will.
There will inevitably be times when we slip up and fail to meet our (unreasonable) expectations of ourselves. It’ll likely happen quite often too. And if we don’t embrace these slip-ups and failures as necessary lessons learned, we will gradually and unknowingly become self-conscious about everything we’re not doing and achieving according to planned.
Honestly, it happens every day to the best of us – we hopelessly catch ourselves thinking about how we’re falling short.
We worry that we haven’t made as much progress as we thought we would. We worry that we’ll never be as productive as we could be. And our worrying just leads to more senseless worrying.
We worry that we don’t…
- have better-looking bodies
- get to the gym more often
- accomplish more of our goals
We worry that we should be doing…
- something better
- something more amazing
- all those amazing things the people on TV and social media are doing
And so, we’re left feeling guilty that we’re not as good as we “should” be – that we’re not doing the perfect thing at the perfect time, ever.
The good news is that thoughts like these are natural, because the human mind isn’t perfect – it worries about things. But we can learn to catch and control these thoughts, so they don’t catch and control us.
Letting Go of Our “Perfect Life” Fantasies
To an extent, we all have this lavish idea in our heads about how our lives are supposed to be. We fantasize that we should be living a different and better life…
- A life without procrastination and failure
- A life with spectacular feats of success
- A life of travel and adventure
- A life with perfect friends, family, and partners
And through it all we’re supposed to be smiling too, right?
Wrong! That’s not how life really works. At least not 24/7.
The truth is, we are miraculously flawed human beings living miraculously flawed lives. And the “miraculous” part only transpires when we accept and make the best of what we have.
Close your eyes and reflect on the present reality of your life, and whisper, “I am OK. Life is OK. I will let my present life situation be what it is, instead of what I think it should be, and I will make the best of it.”
The key is to accept the fact that there’s no such thing as a perfect life. There’s no perfect thing you should have already accomplished, and no perfect sequence of things you should be accomplishing right now.
There’s just this moment you’re living through and what you choose to do with it.
And yes, disappointment with this moment, with yourself, and with others is often part of the picture – there’s no escaping this reality.
But what will you choose to do…
You can be disappointed in this moment and do nothing, or you can practice being satisfied with the opportunity to make the very best of it.
Making the Best of the Reality We’re Living
When Angel and I guide our course students through the process of letting go of their “perfect life” or “perfect self” fantasies, we cover a four-step practice for doing so. It’s a simple series of steps that can work wonders at any given moment in time, but it takes some diligence (it’s not necessarily convenient or easy):
- When you feel your “life isn’t good enough” anxiety rising, pause, close your eyes, and notice that you’re in the process of worrying about what you’re not doing, or what you haven’t yet achieved. Notice the feelings of disappointment you have with yourself and your life at the present moment.
- Accept these feelings of disappointment as a part of you, focus on them, and just allow yourself to feel them. As you focus, notice the emotional sensations of this feeling throughout your body.
- Open your eyes, turn your attention to the present moment: what are you doing right now? Put all of your awareness into this moment – be 100% present with the physical and emotional sensations of whatever you’re doing.
- Notice that the present moment is enough – enough for right now. It doesn’t need to be better. It doesn’t need to be anything more. It’s good enough already, in its own unique way. And so are you.
Again, this is a practice – a life-changing daily ritual – and it’s not something any of us will ever be “perfect” at. We just remind ourselves often, and when we forget we remind ourselves again, and we begin again with our practice. One day at a time. (Angel and I build life-changing daily rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
Oh, and this short article, by the way, is as much a reminder to Angel and me as it is a guide for you or anybody else who might find value in it.
We’re all in this one together.
May this moment, right now, be as good as we collectively choose to make it.
This Moment: Our Most Precious Resource
As I wrap up here, I’m reminded of something Angel and I have learned the hard way from the most heart wrenching moments of our lives – losing loved ones early and unexpectedly:
Death is an unpredictable inevitability.
Embracing this fact provides a renewed sense of awareness, to realize that we’ve lived a certain number of days, and the days ahead of us are not as guaranteed as the one we’re living through right now. When I think of this I am reminded that every day truly is an opportunity to be grateful for, not in a clichéd kind of way, but to honestly appreciate what we have here, and to admit that we alone are responsible for the quality of our present lives. This makes our self-respect and positive focus evermore important, right here, right now. It leaves no time to wallow in self-pity and self-doubt.
The last thing any of us wants to do is die with regret, hence why respecting the reality of death puts life into perspective. It humbles us and should also deeply motivate us to lead our lives and make the best of it…
Less criticizing and complaining.
More presence and positive focus.
All day, every day.