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  • Writer's pictureAnna Buchanan

Practice, not perfection

Step aside perfection, practice is the goal

Practice makes perfect. There’s some truth to that saying – although what is ever perfect in this life? – but I’ve discovered a focus on perfection can be my undoing when I am trying to make a change.

Typically, it would go like this: I would set a goal and aim for a perfect outcome, say exercise for 30 minutes a day, seven days a week. I’d embark with high hopes then life would get in the way. I might be too busy or just have one of those days when I don’t feel like exercising.

At that point my inner critic would take over with, “Why bother?” and I’d accept that as truth. The next day it would feel just a bit harder to get back on track. Before long it would seem my goal might be too hard to accomplish and disappointment rather than excitement would settle in.

Sharon Salzberg, the noted author and teacher of Buddhist meditation says when self-doubt arises, it would be nice if it showed up with a sign saying, “This is doubt”, but it appears to us as the most brilliant thought we ever had. No wonder we believe it.

Those interior voices are just our brain doing its job, sending out information that is real but not necessarily true. Getting to know those gremlins for what they are and developing a useful relationship with them can go a long way to improving our practice not by forcing ourselves to ignore them and pushing through but in noticing them then moving on. We take what we discovered in that time out and get back at it. In this way our practice becomes as much about learning about ourselves as about improving performance.

Perfect is a tough measure of success. It’s all or nothing. But practice that makes room for life’s ups and downs and welcomes learning along the way offers us a way to sustained growth.

You can learn more about Sharon Salzberg's teachings here.

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