For most of my life I’ve struggled with being a perfectionist. I’ve missed out on countless opportunities, projects and experiences because I wanted to get them exactly right and was afraid that I wouldn’t. Over the years I’ve slowly learned that this isn’t the way forward. Not only that but failure isn’t nearly as bad as we make it out to be in our heads.
Though Catalog lays out the case for embracing failure. Not only is failure a natural part of life–making trying to avoid it pointless–it’s a vital part of the learning process.
Failure means you accept you are imperfect and are willing to learn, to grow, to thrive.
You shouldn’t feel like your failures were wastes of time because you learned something along the journey. Maybe those lessons didn’t help you succeed this time around, but they could be the key the next time. Remember, whenever you put yourself out there, you are becoming stronger. You are constantly growing. You are consistently evolving. You should trust that you are headed in the right direction. If you want to see success, you just have to keep going.
There’s no shortage of advice on the internet on how to work more. On how to optimise, discipline and sacrifice your way to a better more productive you. And this isn’t necessarily a bad idea. It’s natural and healthy to want to live up to our potential after all.
But it’s very easy for this healthy desire to find meaning our work to turn into a failure to find meaning in the rest of our lives. It can easily become destructive to our relationships, our health, and our state of mind.
It’s up to each of us to find the right balance of course, but for those struggling at the latter end of the spectrum, maybe it’s time to think about working less. This doesn’t have to mean abandoning your goals, but simply restructuring how you go about achieving them and rethinking where they fit in your overall priorities. Leo Babauta from Zen Habits has some thoughts:
Working less would mean reducing the number of things we do — which would mean focusing on higher priority tasks.
If you could only work 1 hour today, what would you spend that hour doing? What would you do with the rest of the things on your list?
When we ask ourselves these questions, it might become clear that there are some key items we could spend more of our attention on, and many other tasks we could let go of somehow.
Then, after we’ve reduced the number of things, we can practice being more fully in those things.
Then call it a day — a victorious day, where we got the important things done.
There’s an old saying that goes: “We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” As children we haven’t had time to develop habits. Everything we do is a learning process. Every situation is new and difficult and requires our active attention.
Over time however, we figure out how to deal with some of those situations in a way that resolves them; or at least frees us from the anxiety of thinking strenuously about them. If we continue to rely on these strategies they eventually become automated and lo and behold; a habit is formed.
Whether or not this is a good thing depends on the nature of those habits, and in the video above, What I’ve Learned explores how habits are formed and the benefits of learning how to direct the formation of new ones consciously:
Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, analysed two groups of kids struggling with their grades. One group was taught that every time they push out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neutrons in their brain would form new, stronger connections, and over time they would get smarter.
The kids who were not taught this growth mindset lesson continued to show declining grades, but those who were taught this lesson showed a sharp rebound in their grades. Carol says this kind of improvement has been shown with thousands and thousands of kids, especially with struggling students.
One I adopted this kind of growth mindset towards building habits, habit building started to actually feel fun. As Carol puts it, I used to be gripped in the tyranny of now, and not able to appreciate the power of “yet”.
Habits, whether good or bad, have an enormous impact on the course our life takes. Perhaps more than any other factor they govern our health, our career, even our sense of self-worth and the quality of our relationships. Our habits make us. So we do well to choose them wisely.
It’s tempting to think of attention as the ability to place your focus in one place. And while this isn’t wrong, it’s often overlooked that the main task of attention is keeping your focus away from all the things that might act as distractions. It’s like trying to follow a single conversation in a noisy room; you can try to focus on the conversation, but you can also move to a quieter room. Here’s Art Of Manliness on the subject:
Attention is more than just focusing on completing a task. We use our attention to shape and frame life’s big picture as well. You can tell what a man truly values by observing what he pays attention to the most. And as countless spiritual teachers have warned, what a man pays attention to ends up molding his soul and character.
Your focus truly is your reality. For that reason, attention mastery must begin at the most macro level, with directing your attention away from that which distracts from your life’s purpose and towards what’s really important.