It seems like ever since I can remember I have been working to improve myself. Lose weight, tone down, eat better, work harder, get better grades, be more confident. During this journey of 'self-improvement', I went from being a gung-ho, crash-and-burn type to someone who gradually works towards personal change. As you can imagine, the second method has brought me the most success.
Yet recently I have felt very frustrated. Although I may have accomplished a lot in the past few years, I still have many more goals- perhaps more than I have had at any time in my life. But I don't seem to be getting anywhere with any of them.
Thinking of posts I've read from success gurus like Leo Babauta, I decided to make one last-ditch effort. Leo is at the forefront of advocating bite-sized change for big-time goals, from losing weight to becoming a great athlete. Baby steps are key.
With this in mind, I planned to take the smallest step I could. I made a date with myself to work on my own self-improvement, for just one minute each day. I could choose to do anything I wanted, and stay at one minute until I was comfortable to move on to two minutes, then three, then four . . . all the way up to an hour of working on self-improvement each day. What a great idea! (Right?)
Well, even though I do actually think this was a pretty decent plan, I had not anticipated the massive resistance I would put up against it. After procrastinating for several hours, I finally was ready to do my 'one minute'. However, instead of the one minute of pushups I had planned, I just sat there and rested for one minute. Then two. Then three.
Feeling defeated and angry at myself, I decided to go for a long walk to calm down. As I was walking, I kept wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Couldn't I just work on improving myself for ONE MINUTE?! How lazy am I, really?!
After some time I calmed down and thought more rationally about my behavior. Okay, I had obviously been resistant to that one little minute of change because I simply didn't want to do it. Fine.
But it was the answer to my next question, Why didn't I want to do it?, that really hit me.
"Because I've had enough!" my mind blurted out. Surprised, I realized in that moment that I don't need to do this to myself anymore. The idea of 'self-improvement' is all well and good, but the way I was going about it was sucking the joy out of my life. All the goals I have, everything I love and want to do in life, I had demoted to mere drudgery.
And, turning inward, I realized something more. My slavish effort in 'self-improvement' was implying (and constantly re-enforcing) that there is something fundamentally wrong with me, that I somehow need to 'fix'. I know now that this is simply not true. I don't need any more 'improvement'.
Does this mean I think I am perfect? Absolutely not. But I think it is time for me to become comfortable with my own imperfection. Following a Buddhist way of life has helped me establish and strengthen a code of conduct not based on faith alone. Instead, the guidelines set by the Buddha in the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and Five Moral Precepts have resonated with me as fundamental laws of the universe. In my effort to be in balance with them, these guidelines have helped set a distinct framework for my behavior, and shifted the emphasis of what I feel is important in life.
Keeping this framework close to my heart, I think the time has come that I just need to do what makes me happy. It is in this way I will work towards my goals, joyfully, without self-reproach and judgement.
I am finally free.
I feel like a butterfly, spreading my wings in freedom!
May all beings be happy (even me)! :)
As always, I welcome your comments. With love and Metta, Renata