While out walking last week, I saw a handwritten sign someone had posted on the sidewalk. It read, "Please forgive them, they are doing the best they can." On the other side it read, "Everyone has something they want to be forgiven for."
This sidewalk philosophy was a great reminder of a lesson in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements. The lesson is that we should always strive to do our best. And our best is going to change from moment to moment. Which is a very different idea that some people have regarding doing their best, and being perfect.
Aren’t you tired of being perfect?
So what is the difference between doing our best in a spiritual way and perfectionism? One is always the same and requires a heavy expectation that our effort be a sacrifice. The other asks us to soften our expectations and allow an effortless effort that is always fluid and changing. Don Miguel Ruiz writes,
“If you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough. When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself and it will take you longer to accomplish your goal. But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgment, guilt, and regrets.”
At the other end of perfectionism is apathy, where we don’t try at all (or care!). In our poses all I ask is that the effort of doing the pose is balanced by not exhausting ourselves. The practice should never be punishing. I am concerned when students leave someone’s class saying things like “I survived that Power Vinyasa Class” or “I almost died.” To me that is not the intention of the yogic practice. If that is how you are doing your yoga, then you are sacrificing a lot. And in the long-term, it won’t be sustainable.
Ideally, we should do our best because we enjoy doing it, not because of something external. I never want you to do the poses:
- Without any effort where there is no sensation until you get bored and want to give up.
- With too much sensation where you get frustrated and want to give up.
“Action is about living fully. Inaction is the way that we deny life. Inaction is sitting in front of the television every day for years because you are afraid to be alive and to take the risk of expressing what you are. Expressing what you are is taking action. You can have many great ideas in your head, but what makes the difference is the action. Without action upon an idea, there will be no manifestation, no results, and no reward.” Don Miguel Ruiz
At the end of the day, “doing our best” is all any of us can do. Each day is so full of promise and it is our duty to enjoy our life. We aren’t here to make life a sacrifice. We are here to be happy and love others.
Today, Practice The Affirmation: I Am Doing My Best Without Pressure To Be Perfect
Don’t forget that everyone is also doing the best they can. Love yourself, love your day, love your life!
"On a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty. Today is such a day. My eyes are like the sun that makes promises; the promise of life that it always keeps each morning." Rumi