Our expectations need to be reasonable, and expecting perfection is not reasonable
today at 8:00 am
It’s the human condition to strive for mastery and vie for control. King of the hill is the goal and nowadays there is no philosophical contemplation of the ends justifying the means. It’s all go-for-it and winner takes no prisoners.
Yet clearly the race to the top produces stress, not peace. The unending competition puts the emphasis on the culmination, rather than the journey where the awe-inspiring discoveries are found (if we slow down long enough to recognize them). Focusing only on the result forces us to think in linear terms, as if there were two markers – the start and the end – and everything in between is merely struggle toward the finish line… turning a grand journey into a long grind.
THE WEIGHT OF GOLD, an HBO documentary by Emmy Award-winning writer/director Brett Rapkin, talks to the emotional consequence of winning at all costs. Featuring interviews with many decorated Olympians including Michael Phelps as narrator, we get firsthand insight into the consequences of striving relentlessly “to be the best,” notably anxiety and depression and worst case scenario, suicide.
We’re not world class athletes but we can relate; every day we feel the pressure inherent to these common pep talk expressions, “fast track,” “career path,” “reach for the moon and “go the extra mile.” Not a lot time put aside for smelling the roses!
Ironically, underlying the pursuit of perfection is the propensity to make more mistakes than normal because we are so bound up in the chase.
It is far more rewarding to make the journey at a comfortable, doable pace, taking the small steps that allow time for rewarding adventures along the way. Reasonable expectations of ourselves – and the people in our lives – are more apt to lead to where we want to be in the long run.
Of course there are twists and turns to every worthwhile endeavor and we can be sure that bumps in the road will pop up to slow our progress. But often, the detours and obstacles turn out to be the challenges that when overcome, provide the most satisfaction.
Be it a personal, professional or spiritual goal, fulfillment comes when the journey itself absorbs the quest, our happiness shaped by the discoveries made as we follow our own path within the flow of life itself.
The further we progress toward that elusive goal of understanding where we fit in this chaotic world of ours, the more we realize how much there is to learn from our travels. Clarity – and contentment – comes with recognition that in a universe of one hundred billion galaxies there is no mastery.
The best we can do is to create a healthy, loving environment and trust the path that comes into view.