The world is a pretty noisy place. We have television and radio rattling on in the background, YouTube videos and all manner of information textual information to devour at our fingertips. People - family, friends, coworkers, or that guy on the bus who shot you a dirty look. Pets. Bills. Whether it's audible noise or mental noise, the volume of our lives can be deafening.
Sometimes this becomes overwhelming. We lose our focus, can't "hear" anything. We end up giving up on our life's projects and immersing ourself in that constant static hiss. So many outlets for this - TV, movies, music, alcohol or other drugs... Sometimes we get lost in the informational deluge of our times. A lot of the time we can do something about it.
I recently stumbled upon a lovely blog called 'Daily Cup of Tao', where I had read one of the best posts I can remember reading since I ventured into the blogosphere a few months ago:
"All conversations end in silence."
Simple. Profound. All of the life we paint in the world sits on a canvas of nothing. All of the noise we make starts with silence and will end there, too.
I invite you to take 5 minutes out of your evening. Turn everything off: computer, television, radio, lights, kids (good luck). Eliminate all of this pesky little distractions that daily life brings. Find a nice comfy chair. Or better yet, a cushion on the floor.
Do you ever find yourself unable to move forward? You have an idea of what you want to happen, but feel stuck because none of your actions feel like they're "good enough". You end up paralyzed by the need for PERFECTION.
I was so excited to have written my first blog post a few days ago: I had finally achieved one of my long-term goals - "Become A Blogger" (quickly replaced with "Become A SUCCESSFUL Blogger")! It was exhilarating to create something substantial, even if it was only an introductory post. Well, that high faded by the time I got home and I had to start thinking "So, what's next?"
Obviously another post. But on what? I had a couple of ideas laid out, but none of them seemed right. I had to have the perfect post to follow up with, or the few readers I had drawn would scatter to the wind. And so, in my pursuit of perfection, I dismissed topic after topic after topic... and got pretty much nothing done.
Man, was I getting frustrated - here I am wanting to become a professional blogger and I can't think of a single damn thing to write about! On top of that, the layout of my blog wasn't quite where I wanted it. Oh, and my text editor isn't the BEST - shouldn't I be searching for a better one first? And that's when I remembered...
"The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good"
Thankfully I had remembered an old GRS post which was very instrumental in getting me DOING things. J.D. talks about how obsessing over things like interest rate comparisons or investing in the BEST mutual fund can keep you from investing at all: where you could have made a 1-2% return on a suboptimal investment, you're now making 0% because you can't make up your mind. This is applicable in many other areas of life; many of my endeavors in the past year have fallen short because I was unsatisfied with the results I was getting, or worried I wasn't working in an "optimal" way. I either gave up halfway or didn't even bother to start.
Perfect A good example: strength training. When I finally decided to get in shape back in February, it took ALMOST A MONTH to finally get to the gym. Why? I had to make sure that the program I chose was the "best", of course. Why waste my time on anything less?
And when I finally started a program, I found myself constantly questioning it's effectiveness. Hour upon hour was spent researching better programs that would use my gym time more optimally to gain faster results. If I had applied a fraction of the energy I had spent trying to find the perfect strength training regimen to actually lifting, I would be a monster by now. Instead, I got fed up and stopped exercising altogether, convinced I would never find the perfect routine.
Because I did not believe what I was doing was optimal, I did nothing. When action is required, I cannot think of anything less productive than getting stuck in this cycle.
This is the curse of the perfectionist. In settling for nothing but the best, we end up missing out on quite a bit of life. David Turnbull recently wrote a "guide", How To Be Imperfect, that illustrates many of the dangers of seeking perfection and offers some solutions. To me, the greatest danger is that in constantly striving for perfection you are essentially getting nowhere, as perfection simply does not exist. Anywhere. Ever. Name me one thing that is perfect. Just one! (Don't bother. Green & Black's 85% Organic Dark Chocolate is about as close as we're going to get.)
The world we live in is does not conform to human-invented concepts of 'perfection', and that is exactly what makes it interesting. It's perfectly fine wonderful to have ideals and want to do the best you can, but if you get caught up in trying to do something 'perfectly', you'll probably find you end up doing nothing at all.
So I settled for imperfection. I read Tim Ferriss' Geek to Freak article recently, and it lit a fire under my ass. Time to get back to the gym! But there was no way in Hell I was going to make the same mistakes again, or waste all of that time researching. I packed up my gym bag and busted out a couple of sets - and boy did it feel great! It may not be the 100% best program, but I guarantee you it'll give me better results a month from now than the alternative - nothing.
And hey, look at that - in just letting go and not worrying about how great it is, I managed to write up a pretty decent post. It may not be perfect, but it'll do.
Trying to follow my own advice and not edit this thing into oblivion.
It's been quite a strange year - at once it seems to have slogged on forever and to have gone by in the blink of an eye. At the beginning of the year I was a wreck - depressed and miserable, no idea what I wanted to do with my life, living in a roach hotel without heat or water (during below-freezing winters). Not a good situation. Now, as I sit here and delve into my nascent blog, I cannot help but smile. Life is good.
How did I move from dejected misery to, well, being happy? We'll get to that later. In the meantime, here is some of what I've experienced in the past 345 days:
Moved three times. Not a big fan of moving, but, as I've discovered, when you don't know yourself, you don't know what you're looking for - out of a living situation especially. At any rate, I now know that I really like living where there is heat during the winter.
Been on a vegetarian diet, the Standard American Diet (SAD) and am currently Primal. I like to experiment with different lifestyles - a constant effort to find the "best fit". Eventually I found the Primal diet (and general lifestyle) and haven't looked back.
Lost 50lbs. of fat and gained 15 lbs. of muscle. I've experienced quite a transformation physically, thanks to a change of menu and habits.
Lost someone very important to me. May 29th my grandfather died, a man who greatly influenced who I am today and had been a bastion of stability in my life. Thankfully, his death had the positive effect of bringing my family closer together, as well leading me to think very deeply on the transient nature of life. Silver linings - always find them.
Made many friends. I've also had some relationships grow weaker, and have had to terminate others. The type of people you surround yourself with will greatly influence your journey toward contentment.
Started a job I hate and found a career I love. Serving up processed meat on white-bread buns for a soulless corporation can be frustrating when you are an advocate for healthful living and local businesses that give back to the community. However, this facilitates my new schooling endeavor: massage therapy! There's a job you can feel good about, trust me.
Let my finances spiral out of control, then reigned them in. Last year I accrued a substantial amount of debt due to school (and have nothing to show for it). Add another $8000 for massage school, while working a minimum-wage-slave job, and things start feeling overwhelming. After a few overdrafts and a lot of fretting, I decided enough was enough. Now I put down 3-4 times my minimum payment and still have enough to put into savings.
Discovered Lifestyle Design, frugality, minimalism and many more amazing concepts. The power of blogging! The inspiration for why I am sitting in a coffee shop (on my 4th cup of Ethiopian, dark) typing this up. I have to thank people like Tim Ferriss, J.D. Roth and his crew, Leo Babauta, David Turnbull, Mark Sisson, and so many more. These people have truly inspired me to get off of my keister and actually do something with my life.
Really, that's just the tip of the big, ship-devouring iceburg that was 2009. It's impossible to encapsulate a life with words, but sometimes we can write down enough to learn a bit about ourselves, and others.
And so I ask you - what are your major "landmarks" for the past year? What events inspired you? Have you made any significant changes or come upon profound realizations?