Good, Better, Best or Quit?

On any given day, should you strive for good, better, best, or just quit? In the past week, I’ve read three quotes that stuck with me:

The first was from Arkansas Razorback Men’s Basketball Coach Eric Musselman:

“If you strive for good, you will get average. If you strive for great, you will get good. Strive for perfect so you can achieve great.”

Eric Musselman

It’s the kind of aspirational statement you’d expect from a coach. It immediately made me think of Michael Jordan. (I just finished watching “The Last Dance.”) Jordan was a great player! He was a great player because he was always motivated to win.

miss target
I can improve but still miss the target.

I can be motivated to win, but I’ll never be a great basketball player. In fact, I can do everything Eric Musselman says and I’ll never be a great basketball player. I could play a lot of basketball and I’m sure I’d improve, but would I be wasting time that could be better spent in some other endeavor?

That question brings me to quote #2 and perhaps an even better question. Is striving for perfection good?

Let me start with a quote from newsman Josh Belzman replying to @EricPMusselman

“Strive for perfect and you’ll give yourself an ulcer and then a heart attack. No thanks.”

Josh Belzman

Obviously, Mr. Belzman believes striving for perfection is detrimental to one’s health. But even if it doesn’t lead to a heart attack, the idea that we must reach an ideal that cannot realistically be attained or sustained prevents some of us from ever getting started. And there’s some wisdom to that. Why put time and energy toward a goal you know can’t be achieved?

So, what’s the best way to be outstanding in your life?

I’m going to go with the idea that it’s more important to be a great human being than to achieve any certain anything. And that brings me to the third quote, one by Marianne Williamson:

“As big as the problems are on the outside, that’s how big on the inside we have to be in order to handle it. Every unhealed place in our lives is coming up for review now, because the more healed we are within ourselves the more healing we can bring to the world.”

Marianne Williamson

Real strength always shows itself in the midst of difficulty. It looks attentive, kind, caring, vulnerable, empathetic, and loving. It feels solid. It does not need to manipulate or mislead. This kind of strength lies within all of us.

The way to be outstanding in your life is to honor, support, reinforce, and display your best self often. If that is your intention, you will succeed no matter what you achieve because you will bring peace to your life and healing to the world.

The one thing you need to quit doing is punishing yourself. Whatever you’ve done is done. Apologize, make amends, learn something, let it go. You cannot be your best until you do.

I’m all for reaching for the stars and pushing yourself and achieving great things. I’m for showing up with energy, focus, and effort. I’m for doing the very best job I can in any job I take on. I just don’t think achievement, as we currently think of it, is the best measure of a life well lived.

Need Some Tools To Help You Thrive?

Need some tools to help you thrive? Cooking is a tool for some. Biking is a tool for others. Gardening, yoga, meditation, gratitude journals, and volunteering are tools. Some people can just pick those up on their own, but some of us need help getting started.

So many things in the world are out of balance right now that it’s hard to focus. I’m usually good with efficient time management and plowing through a to-do list but right now there are days that I feel distracted and restless. I don’t really care whether I accomplish anything.

I think it’s that I just don’t want to push myself. I need to leave plenty of time and space to be and to process the myriad emotions brought on by distance, separation, virus threats, work changes, and added everyday tasks. While I believe that’s a reasonable response, it’s creating distress for me because I feel like I’m not accomplishing enough.

Fortunately, there are many tools available to help me through difficult moments. You may find some of them useful as well.

If you are inspired by books, here are some to consider:
The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Fearless Living by Rhonda Britten
Waking the Tiger by Peter A. Levine, PhD
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

If you prefer workshops, here are some venues:
The School of Life
Classes can be attended via Zoom and include:
How to Enjoy Life, How to Fail, How to Develop Self-Knowledge, How to Be Confident, How to Be Serene

Onsite
Workshops include:
Centered Living, Grief and Loss, Healthy Love and Relationships

The Yoga Center Retreat Workshops online include:
Yoga for Anxiety, Detox and Restore, Yoga for Larger Bodies, Slow Flow Bliss

There are also apps that can help:
Calm, Headspace, Aura, Inscape, as well as Stop, Think & Breathe

Exploring new ideas is a great tool for thriving:
Ted Talks
Whatever motivates you, there’s a Ted Talk for that. With over 3500 talks readily available you won’t lack for options.

Documentary movies and series can also change the way you see the world. Here are a few to explore:
I Am a Killer
Phil’s Camino
For Sama
Fire On the Mountain
The Man Who Saved Ben Hur
Fed Up
Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story
42 Grams

Spending a few minutes using a tool to calm your mind can sometimes get you past feeling restless so you can focus again and get back to work. For this, I sometimes work Sudoku puzzles. I also like the New York Times Mini Crosswords number game 2048.

I sometimes see inspiring or funny tweets, but social media is more likely to suck you into a vortex of its own rather than giving you new tools to navigate life. Even a long thread does not allow the space for the depth of thought a book yields. Medium.com, podcasts, and full-length blog posts are more likely to be good sources.

With so much in flux, it’s not surprising that we all need a little extra support. Whenever you find yourself needing some tools to thrive, just come back here and grab whatever best fits the moment!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. One 3 Squares Productions, Inc. shareholder was paid for contract work on the films Fed Up and The Man Who Saved Ben Hur. He will not receive additional compensation from this post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

You Can’t Beat a Speeding Train

Most of the time, you can’t beat a speeding train. Should you try? Sounds risky.

My oldest grandson LOVES the movie Cars. At one point in the original movie, Lightning McQueen hits the gas to beat an oncoming train. He’s a race car. He makes it across the tracks in time.

Always in teaching mode, I feel a need to let this 3-year-old know that it’s not a good idea to try to beat an oncoming train. At the same time, I don’t want to take away his heroic view of Lightning McQueen. I tell him, “Only race cars can beat trains.” To me, this is a reasonable compromise that will convey the message that he should not try to beat a train because he isn’t a race car.

His response? “My mommy’s car is a race car. Her car can beat trains too.” He doesn’t just believe Lightning McQueen can beat a train. He believes his family car can as well. I have failed to effectively communicate the lesson I intended.

The way to repair this misunderstanding is to, first, recognize it. The good news is I didn’t ignore what he was watching. The topic has been introduced and is open for discussion. Now I just need to build on his knowledge in a slow and consistent way until I’m sure he understands the risks of trying to beat a train.

If you have kids, you know lessons that stick are taught through repetition. You may also have observed that all lessons are learned through levels of understanding. Some must be absorbed many times over on one level, then another, then another.

We are at a moment in time when clear, consistent, trustworthy health messages must be delivered for us to survive. They should be repeated, built on, expanded, repaired when new information reveals previous cracks in knowledge, and repeated again. Yes, that requires more effort than sticking to a theme, or talking point, but it’s the only responsible thing to do.

The country is still in the midst of an opioid crisis that began with misinformation. But the train that is speeding toward us now is the expansion and growth of COVID-19. There is no time for playing semantics, slow reporting of numbers so that positivity rates look low, or downplaying the risks of sipping wine for hours with a group of friends at your favorite indoor bar.

There may be safe ways to interact, open schools, and keep businesses open, but we simply do not have adequate diagnostic testing, sufficiently accurate antibody testing, and ample contact tracing in place to do it now. We have not studied the airflow in our restaurants, office buildings, or classrooms. We have not expanded classroom space to ensure sufficient distance between students. We have not added funds for schools to replace group supplies with individual kits. Many states are not mandating masks for adults or children 2-10.

And perhaps more significantly, health agencies, institutions, and political leaders have failed to deliver the safety messages needed in a manner that will be effective. In fact, they are actively making the situation worse. Each day, we receive such confusing and conflicting messages, we instinctively know we cannot trust what is being said. Because we are not being provided timely, accurate, consistent messages in an understandable manner, those in charge of policy are losing the information war. And that is costing us lives.

It also makes it more difficult to thrive. You and I may stay home, clean surfaces, wear masks, and adjust to the very real threats of the virus. We may find sources of inspiration and joy. We may practice gratitude. But a basic tenet of thriving is feeling safe. It is impossible to feel safe when we cannot trust the information we receive and the institutions that deliver it.

Since we cannot rely on our leaders to level with us, it takes a massive amount of reading each and every day to filter, decipher, and piece together a cohesive image of the scientific picture of SARS-CoV-2 that’s emerging. That means it’s easier to ignore. Add to that, the tendency we all have to deny hard truths and you have a recipe for the disaster we are experiencing.

There is always the opportunity to change course, but at this point we cannot wait for instruction from an authority. It may not come. It is incumbent on individuals to take charge of the country’s destiny.

I understand that choosing safe health practices that are not fun while everyone around you has resumed life as usual can be lonely and painful. It will have financial and personal costs. My quarantine bubble unexpectedly burst last week. I feel the loss deeply. That doesn’t keep me from researching and following a safe regimen.

I can see that things are going to get worse before they get better because that’s the choice we’re making. We want so badly to beat the train. We want to return to our previous lives. The messaging failed to tell us we can’t yet do that safely. Now we’re all piled in Mommy’s slow, clunky SUV thinking we’re Lightning McQueen.

We are in a skid. Now is the time to turn right to go left.*

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7293495/

https://elemental.medium.com/coronavirus-may-be-a-blood-vessel-disease-which-explains-everything-2c4032481ab2

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7191274/

*Advice from Doc Hudson to Lightning McQueen in the movie Cars.

Vigilance Takes a Toll

Vigilance takes a toll, but there are rewards. Safety and good health require vigilance and over time. You don’t just put your child in a car seat on the way home from the hospital and call it good. To keep him safe, you put him in it every time you take a ride in the car. You have a system to remind you to take him out of the car on a hot day. You religiously scan the ingredients of food if your daughter has a peanut allergy. You don’t just do it on Mondays. You do it every day of every week of every year. That’s what it takes to keep her safe. No matter who you are, each day will require you to be alert and diligent to stay safe and healthy.

Brush your teeth twice a day. Look both ways before you cross the street. Scan your surroundings before you enter an intersection or drive across a railroad track. Don’t click on email attachments that can’t be verified. Watch for snakes when you swim in the river. Check the depth of the water before you jump in. Check the temperature of the water before you put a child in the bathtub. Keep laundry pods, household cleaners, and medication out of the reach of children. Don’t leave a six-month-old unattended on an adult bed. Don’t pour lighter fluid on a fire. And, of course, don’t run with scissors.

While most of us accept the vigilance required to follow the safety rules above, we often become defiant if we believe a safety rule will take away something that brings us pleasure (avoid fried food, avoid sugar, stop smoking, stop vaping, drive within the speed limit, don’t hug your grandchildren), requires us to do something that doesn’t offer immediate benefit (wear a mask, stay out of a crowded dance club, limit contact outside your home), and/or requires us to pay attention to multiple choices each day (drink plenty of water, eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, avoid gluten, walk 10,000 steps).

You don’t have to pay attention to any safety or health guidance. You can assume the risks. You might come out okay. And there’s no question, vigilance takes a toll.

Paying attention all day long and making mindful choices doesn’t feel carefree. It doesn’t feel fun. Sometimes it’s tedious. Sometimes it’s annoying. Sometimes it’s exhausting.

And constant vigilance can affect your physical health. Living in a heightened state of vigilance each and every day is stressful. The body may respond to that stress by making and releasing extra cortisol – a stress hormone that increases glucose in the bloodstream, alters immune response, and suppresses digestion. It is corralling the body’s resources for fight or flight. Normally, this response is self-limiting, but when danger is constant, the spigot may not get turned off without deliberate action to reduce stress.

In March, the US public at large began to get a glimpse of what it feels like to live defensively every moment. Suddenly, we were instructed to be on guard for a virus that could be anywhere, or everywhere. There was no way to know who may spread it so all interactions became suspect.

There’s still no way to know with certainty when you’re in danger and no way to know when the risks will decrease. The only way to be safe is…constant vigilance. A large percentage of us have not been able or willing to practice this. In a mere three months, it’s become evident that Americans as a whole have little emotional stamina even when the consequences of letting down are guard may be deadly.

This could be a window into a path for improving both mental and physical health. What if we put a laser focus on building resilience and learn from those who have been through trauma but still manage to thrive – Elizabeth Smart, Michelle Knight (Lily Rose Lee), Jeannette Walls, Joey Jones, Oprah, Maya Angelou, Col. Charlie O’Sullivan, etc. What if we entertain the thought that their spirits shine not in spite of, but because of, what they endured?

I believe flipping the script could make all the difference during this pandemic and beyond. It has been life’s difficult, heartbreaking, horrific, traumatic experiences that have taught me how strong I am, how much resolve I have, how to put fear aside in order to function, how to be alone, how to live with heartache, how to build trust, how to reset, reimagine, reinvent, how to be flexible, and that what I do matters. I am more resilient because of, not in spite of, a sometimes rocky path.

Focusing in with determination and the openness to learn when faced with difficulty puts us on a whole different path than lamenting what could have been or should be. Attempting to avoid life’s harsh realities rarely has positive consequences in the long term. And denying real challenges does not help build emotional muscle. Weathering life’s unavoidable storms requires vigilance.

And, yes, vigilance takes a toll, but there are rewards for sticking with a plan–safety, health, resilience, and the possibility of thriving even in dire circumstances.

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/11/18/nine-years-after-war-took-marines-legs-new-causes-give-him-purpose.html

http://www.injuryslight.com/