In the pursuit of excellence, when it comes to creating meals for myself, organic clean foods pretty much fill my grocery shopping cart these days. I have recently discovered that I like bok choy, and that a cup of steaming green tea is a good substitute for that second cup of coffee with creamer. Freshly grated beets with feta cheese and arugula are great in a sprouted grain tortilla wrap, who knew?
My kitchen is currently seeing more activity than it has for a couple of years. No more bagged salads, rather I’m prepping fresh produce and splashing freshly squeezed lemon juice and EVOO on my assorted greens. I’m following an anti-inflammatory eating plan and though it requires extra time and effort, I like the adventure of trying several new foods and enjoy creating recipes. Since I also feel better on this new regimen, I’m discarding my ‘it is not worth cooking for one’ mantra.
I suspect I’d feel fantastic if I were applying the same amount of time and discipline to exercise. An area of my life that would no doubt benefit from a dose of commitment to the pursuit of excellence. Now that I’m almost a month into my new and improved eating plan, I’ve decided to select March as the month for adding discipline in the exercise arena. (My favorite gym is re-opening; enrolling in a class or two will dramatically increase the odds of my success.)
It doesn’t seem to work for me to try more than one lifestyle change at a time. Borrowing the advice of a sweet friend, I’ve given myself permission to invest incrementally in additional self-care. And to intentionally refrain from beating myself up (figuratively) for not attempting everything at once.
There are also ongoing disciplines in my daily work routine, those have been in place for a while and being practiced with varying degrees of success; those carried out imperfectly count as a victory in my book these days. It would have seemed like failure to me not long ago, but I’ve accepted that if doing my best results in executing imperfect work, it counts as getting it done and yields better work going forward. Here’s a favorite quote from Michael J. Fox:
“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.
Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
As a recovering perfectionist, I try to remember to heed these words. I’ll never be able to count the cost of all the times I’ve been held back or blocked by my perfectionism. I’m not completely cured, perhaps I never will be, but I’m aware and learning to combat the tendency.
God doesn’t expect me to be perfect…
I repeat, God doesn’t expect me to be perfect, it’s a self-inflicted impossible standard to achieve.
So, what am I discovering in the arenas of discipline in increments and accepting the results of my best efforts instead of holding out for perfection?
In a word, well, two words – release and relief.
Here’s what I mean:
- Release from the guilt-and-shame-inducing practice of setting unrealistic goals for myself. (Yes, other people I know can seemingly launch into a new diet-exercise-meditation regimen all at the same time and succeed, but that isn’t how I’m wired.)
- Relief to embrace and accept the parameters of the way God created me and to remember He doesn’t expect perfection.
Here’s a quote from the psalmist, David, a man who appreciated and understood an astounding truth:
“I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14
This verse has been highlighted and/or underlined in every Bible I’ve owned since I invited Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior decades ago. Why? Because I often need to be reminded that the way God made me was intentional, a design He created for me alone.
Instead of striving in vain for perfection or trying to precisely copy a winning formula that may work for someone I respect and admire, I will try to remember to focus on this discipline:
…to adjust my expectations to fit within the scope of my own unique blend of gifts and abilities.
And then… I will purpose to do my best in the pursuit of excellence.
Will I always soar above my perfectionist tendencies and the pressure (self-inflicted) I sometimes feel to multi-task like other people? Nope. But with practice, I hope to land on those old strongholds less often.
Blessings to you my friend.
Here’s to your own pursuit of excellence and to celebrating the fact you are wonderfully made,