Setting yourself up to fail is the least you can do.
A coach once asked me, “What is the lowest expectation you can have for yourself?” I hesitated, slightly confused and mumbled, “Doing nothing? Failure?” He smiled and said, “Perfection.”
It wasn’t at all what I was expecting and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had to think about it for a while to understand his answer. This is what I have come up with. Let me know if you agree in the comments below…
Perfection doesn’t exist and when I expect it, I set myself up for failure. Why? Because the unattainable standard I’ve set for myself can never be reached. So in other words, I’ve unknowingly set the lowest expectation for myself, thinking I’d set the highest.
My pursuit of perfectionism created an unhealthy cycle I continuously repeated. I’d be crushed by setbacks or missteps. It affected my performance in athletics, academics, business and relationships.
I would imagine future scenarios in my mind, anticipating failure, before I’d even given myself the chance to try. I pursued only things that played to my strengths, the things I knew would produce good results.
I still played sports and had some high moments, but I mostly shied away from what terrified me. I’d watch others pursuing goals and passions courageously. I sat like a cowardly lion consumed by crippling doubt.
Many of us put way too much emphasis on how our mistakes, losses and failures will look in the eyes of others. We fear disappointing our parents, teammates, fans, but in reality we are really just disappointing ourselves. We project so much into the minds of others, while neglecting to realize it begins and ends with our own thoughts and perceptions. Pressure comes from the fears and insecurities we put on ourselves.
We cannot possibly predict or rehearse what will happen in the future. Life has a beautiful unpredictability to it.
The root of our anxiety and stress can be found in our expectations. We wake up each morning thinking we’ve got the day all figured out and typically it unfolds differently than we expect. As soon as we’re wrong, we get stressed.
The only things we can control are our thoughts and emotional responses to the inevitable ups and downs of life.
When I got stuck in thoughts like, “Things should be different,” I realized I was resisting “what is.” This just led to deeper pain and prolonged despair and frustration for myself, because what I resist, persists.
What has helped me change is no longer believing that I know what “should” be happening. Instead, I accept that if something is happening, then it is what “should” be happening!
Hardly anything goes perfectly as planned or the way we think it should, so achieving perfection is impossible. I now believe the fun of life is in the twists and turns and the unexpected. And so my new goal is to stay flexible and optimistic through it all—not try to control it.
Next time I find myself holding back from trying new experiences, stopping my ideas from getting out there because they are not yet “perfect,” or waiting for the perfect time to launch, I plan to acknowledge the resistance, but do it, anyway!
I plan to remain grateful for the opportunity to try, gracious as a loser as well as a winner.
What unfair expectations do you set for yourself? Do the standards you place on yourself differ from the ones you hold for others? Do you see how perfectly imperfect your life already is?
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