“Good is the enemy of being great,” is one of the most popular self improvement statements there is. In todays fast paced and “don’t look back keep running world”, we are told that being great and never being satisfied are necessary to get ahead and become successful. It’s thought of as the only route to financial wealth, athletes victories, and even the way to find happiness at home in the family setting. Everybody wants more. I understand that, I really do. And if people become complacent and don’t continue to grow and push themselves out of their comfort zones then they will in fact become bored in their career or love life or plateau with their fitness training and dieting. Why do we have to push ourselves 110% over our max threshold of what we can emotionally and physically handle though? What is the purpose of running ourselves into the ground in an effort to get more when in reality it can often cause us to lose everything. One of America’s most famous sports coaches, John Wooden, once said, “I don’t want my athletes to give me 110% tomorrow, I want 100% effort consistently everyday. If they can’t give me 100% today then give me their max level of consistent effort each day.” I may have butchered the quote but I’m sure you can get the morals behind what he is saying.
You simply can’t give more than 100% effort. If you give more than 100% than you are going to burn out in your practice, your career, whatever it may be. Rates of clinical depression and anxiety are higher than ever. Some experts believe that loneliness and social isolation have reached epidemic proportions. Two-thirds of employees report feeling burned out in their work. That isn’t fulfilling. That isn’t success, at least not my definition and I’m sure since you’re here and part of the Backcountry community it is not yours either. These people tried to over compensate and do too much. Consistency in doing the right things over and over again is going to play a huge role in your success.
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh offers that true success means feeling content with the unfolding of your life. It is “finding happiness in your work and life, in the here and the now.”
The kind of success the Thich Nhat Hanh channels is not about striving to be great at all times. It’s about being at least OK with where you are today, and accepting good enough. For me this was a very hard concept to wrap my head around at first. I am a perfectionist and I feel – like many people – that I must do things great at all times. However, if you study the true greats, the people so many look up to in our society as successful athletes or entrepreneurs, you will find that they did not do everything great, they simply did a good job consistently and never gave up. It’s easier in the long run to be consistent at a feasible level of effort so you don’t burn out. If you went to the gym eight times the first week you decided to start working out then you would surly burn out and likely never go back, rather than if you went three times a week and increased based on how you felt but you always met the 3 day a week quota for years to come.
“Whats interesting is that not always trying so damn hard to be great isn’t just the path to being happier; it’s also the path to getting better.”
Adopting this mindset will improve confidence and release pressure because you don’t always feel like you’re coming up short. It also lessens the risk of injury – emotional and physical- since there isn’t a perceived need to put forth heroic efforts everyday. The result will be more consistent efforts the will compound over time to yield greater results. Research shows that sustainable progress, in everything from diet to fitness to creativity, isn’t about being consistently great; it’s about being great at being consistent. It’s about being good enough over and over again, which in reality turns out to be more of a challenge than being great a few times.
A prime example of this is marathon world record holder, Eliud Kipchoge. He is literally the best in the world at what he does.Yet Kipchoge says that the key to his success is not overextending himself in training. He’s not fanatical about trying to be great all the time. Instead, he practices what we have been discussing. He has an unwavering dedication to being good enough all the time. He recently told The New York Times that he “rarely, if ever, pushes himself past 80 percent – 90 percent at most – of his maximum effort during workouts.” This allows Kipchoge to string together weeks and weeks of consistent training that will ultimately lead to his better performance.
Unlike the many other runners who have tried and trained to specifically break the world marathon record, Kipchoge told the The Times, “To be precise, I am just going to try to run my personal best. If it comes as a world record, I would appreciate it. But I would treat it as a personal best.” Kipchoge is living in the here and now and is not striving to meet the ever increasing expectations. “When I run,” he says, “I fell good. My mind feels good. I sleep in a free way, and I enjoy life.”
A “good enough” mindset might very well be the key to being great and happy. It seems as though the less you want to be happy, the happier you will be. The less you need to perform better, the better you will perform. Think about this in terms of your own life and experiences. At times when you performed you’re best, were you striving to be the absolute best? Or were you like Kipchoge – grounded and at peace, feeling good enough with what was in front of you?
Accept Who You Are And Your Training Needs
Ultra-endurance athlete, author, and self-growth icon Rich Roll once said, “You’ve got to train where you’re at. Not where you think you could be, not where you want to be, not where you used to be, but where you are right now.”
This is a hard thing for a lot of people to accept. Far too often we think of ourselves in a magical land where we are convincing ourselves that we are doing better off than we actually are. Or we may be ignoring the problem all together and pushing it away. Striving to be better at something even though we don’t even know what we are actually trying to get better at so we’re just going in circles. This may save us from some short-term pain, but it is not the best solution in the long run.
Progress in anything means confronting your issues and accepting who and where you are at. Whether it is lack of mobility in a sport, loneliness in a relationship or boredom in the workplace, be engaged with you current surroundings and recognize your situation around you.
“Acceptance,” writes the meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn in his bestselling masterpiece Full Catastrophe Living, “does not mean passive resignation. Not at all. It means taking a reading of a situation, feeling it and embracing it as completely as one can manage, however challenging or horrible it may be, and recognizing that things are as they are, independent of our liking or disliking and wanting it to be different.” Only then, writes Kabat-Zinn, can we take the appropriate action to improve our condition. “A desire for things to be other than the way they actually are is simply wishful thinking,” he writes. “It is not a very effective way of bringing about real change.”
People want results instantly. Generally speaking, results don’t work like that. If you want to be consistent at being good, then naturally it is going to take time because that is how consistency is developed, over time. Be patient and track your progress so you can celebrate the small victories along the journey. I know it sounds cheesy, but in the end the journey will be its own reward.
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As always, stay #BakcountryStrong