I’ve always been a wanna-be yogi.
Although I’ve never really dove into a consistent practice, I’m drawn to it because of all of the inspiring stories I’ve heard. So many people talk about how it has led them to a better physique, but more importantly, to mental clarity and peace of mind; I decided to give it a shot. Even my best efforts have been a bit spotty, but there has been progress.
Some days the yoga poses and practice of being mindful come very easily; I glide from posture to posture, fully focused on my breath and the intention I have set for the day.
Today was not one of those day—every movement took effort and lots of it. The unexpected humidity outside and crowded room made for an extra warm class and holding a posture for more than a couple of breaths was anything but comfortable. Nonetheless, breathe by breathe, I made my way through the discomfort, leading to a realization about success that applied both on and off the yoga mat.
Success is an ambiguous word—ask 20 people what it means and you’ll get 20 different answers. To some it means having a prestigious, lucrative career. To others it may mean sharing their art and living their passion. Some find success in having a family or giving back to the community. For many of us, it’s a combination of all three definitions, among many others.
But regardless of one’s personal definition, there is one element present in all meaningful forms of success; that ever-present element, is discomfort.
In order to experience success on any level we must learn to be ok with discomfort.
Sometimes our journeys to success demand that we take risks outside of our comfort zone. Whether the challenge is embracing the learning process, daring to be vulnerable in our relationships—or in my case, holding crow pose for a few extra breaths— our success is directly proportional to our ability to be handle discomfort.
Disclaimer: not all discomfort should be accepted; sometimes we feel uncomfortable becasue things aren’t working and changes need to be made, but more often than not the discomfort that comes with commitment and growth is a necessary check point on the path to success. Our invitation is to learn the difference and act accordingly.
Perhaps a helpful objective on the yoga mat, and in real life is this: Instead of resisting discomfort, simply observe it and choose to use it as a stepping stone to a much bigger reward than we would have received in our oh-so-cozy comfort zones.
I am grateful to have been shown this important life lesson on the yoga mat and will do my best to apply it off the mat as well.
Maybe I’m becoming a yogi, after all.
Years ago, I had a blog where I shared my experiences, stories and perceptions. I hoped what I had to say would resonate with people and cause some kind of shift in their internal world. Eventually, when life got a little more complicated and busy, I stopped blogging. I didn’t just stop blogging— I stopped creating—writing, dancing, acting, etc. Once in awhile, I’d make things behind the scenes that I had a desire to share, but it took me months to finish, if I ever did; even then, I never thought they were ready to be released. I chalked this up to just being a perfectionist. I wasn’t scared, I just knew I could do better so I would revise, and then revise some more. Finally, I became frustrated with my hesitation. After looking deeper, I realized, despite what I had thought, I was scared; my perfectionism was a smoke screen, covering an enormous amount of fear that what I had to say wouldn’t be good enough to matter.
I know I’m not alone in this struggle. So many of us, wear perfectionism like a badge of honor. Unfortunately, we wear this badge at the expense of our creative expression; it holds us back from creating our best work.
In fact, the expectation of creating our best work may be part of the problem.
I often think that if I can’t create my best work (hell, if I can’t create the best work of any writer on the planet) then why bother? In such a digitally connected world, where opportunities for comparisons are in no short supply, creators often wonder, do I create for the sake of creating, or do I create only if the external approvals validate my talent and effort?
The prolific author Elizabeth Gilbert explains that there are two ways to address this dilemma. In her book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, she tells a story of her talented friend who believed his writings could never live up to the perfection they were in his mind; so, he stopped writing, letting go of any physical proof of his words, but preserving the perfect vision he had in his mind. This is one path we can take. If it satisfies you then walk it! No judgement, your creative journey is yours to explore or not.
But if it doesn’t sit well with you, there is alternative, which is to become what Gilbert calls a “highly disciplined, half-ass”. The disciplined creator commits to consistent practice; the half-ass isn’t too attached to whether or not their creation is perfect— they know it won’t be and that is just fine with them.
Becoming a disciplined half-ass is difficult becasue it contradicts both our natural tendency towards old habits and the societal pressure to push for perfection. In order to transition from idle, perfectionist to disciplined half-ass, I propose asking yourself the question:
Why do I create?
When we set out to write a New York Times bestseller, make an Oscar winning film or some other grandiose external goal, we put way too much pressure on ourselves and our creativity. Creativity requires freedom and there’s little freedom in demanding certain results. In contrast, when we create for ourselves, we find the freedom that nurtures creativity and allows us to express what we desire to express. If you want to create, then create—but not becasue someone else needs to hear what you have to say, but becasue you need what you have to say.
Surprisingly, I’ve found that in the process of creating for ourselves, we do inspire others.
Creating our best work is a lot like finding the right relationship: search for it relentlessly, and it’s nowhere to be found; go with the flow and it finds you.
So will I ever see my name on the New York Times bestseller list or get a letter saying I positively changed the course of someone’s life? Maybe, maybe not. Either way I will create. Whether anyone else needs it or not, I know I do—and that makes it worth it. I hope you’ll join me in creating wonderful, fulfilling, and imperfect work, for no one else, but you.