The other night, during the first of my two at-home Pilates workouts, I was feeling frustrated with some of the movements, so frustrated that I was thisclose to hitting eject and going for the Rodney Yee instead. Out of the blue, this quote from Les Brown popped into my mind:
You’ve always heard, “Practice makes perfect.” Well, there is no such thing as perfection. Practice makes improvement.
I’m not sure where this notion that I should be able to pop in the DVD and just be able to do all the movements perfectly came from. There’s not a single exercise I do that I do perfectly. That’s one of the things that makes exercising fun! Yes, it’s frustrating, and sometimes embarrassing, to struggle through what seem to be basic exercises. We see other people knocking out push-ups left and right, and an image of ourselves as we fumble through three pitiful ones (pardon author’s biographical intrusion) comes to mind, and our spirits and self-esteem tumble.
The trick, I learned after a few months, is to know that where we are now is just the starting point. If we view it as that–a starting point–the pursuit of improvement becomes fun. Joyful, even. One day we’re doing three push-ups (and doing them badly), two weeks later we’ve upped our number to five, a month after that we’re doing ten pushups and then another ten after a brief rest. We’re improving! The joy and pride in that can’t be measured.
Just as with exercise, building and maintaining that positive viewpoint takes a little practice. Two things help me most:
- Keeping a log of my progress – From time to time, I revisit my exercise calendar from 2007. The one entry always guaranteed to make me smile is the entry that marks the first time I walked a full hour. It has an exclamation point! Seeing the miles or reps add up, knowing that you’re progressing even when you aren’t where you want to be is incredibly motivating.
- Having a sense of humor – Finding the ‘funny’ in any situation or event helps. The other night, I attempted some sort of Pilates maneuver that required I hold my arms and legs in the air, rock onto my back, and then propel myself forward until I was balanced once again with arms and legs off the floor. I could do the initial balancing, and I could rock back just fine. The problem (and hilarity) came in when I tried to stop the forward movement and balance myself. I would rock too far forward and in trying to regain the balanced position, I’d end up rocking back again. After the first three attempts, an image of me as an old-fashioned rocking horse came to mind, and I was overcome with giggles. Seriously, I had to freeze the DVD until I could compose myself. Once I restarted, I began to see progress (of sorts) on the sixth repition. (On my second workout, I was able to (sort of) do this move by the third rep.)
Focusing on improvement rather than perfection builds confidence and self-esteem. It creates a sense of purpose and building toward something, as opposed to reaching for some future ideal that may or may not exist.
Mantra: There is no such thing as perfection.
Your turn. Do you get caught up in the chase for perfection? Or are you able to take the “bird’s eye view” and see the bigger picture? Any tips for the rest of us?