Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On Resisting the Impulse For "Good Enough"

It took me a long time to title this post accurately for what I'm thinking about. Lately, work has been insanely busy. There are more meetings than I can keep straight on my calendar, more social functions that bring me to campus in the evening hours, and it seems like I gain new responsibilities each week. In addition, I've been trying to put in extra effort to help cook and stay on top of dishes and laundry, as Brendan has been hit with stomach flu, a fractured finger, and two days of jury duty all in a nine day period (on top of his own ever-growing list of tasks related to coordinating two creative writing contests in one semester).

 Staying busy is really a good thing; I'm sure of that. And I know that everything is entrusted to me for a reason: because I can do it, but there's also a nasty side effect that can creep in when work gets crazy, and that's the impulse to settle for "good enough" instead of reaching for something better.

Today was honestly a very long day of resisting that impulse, and checking in with myself constantly to reach for better.

Early in the day, an email announced that all sorts of treats were in the work room. I've promised myself I would keep my eating healthy, but those chocolate brownies looked good. I knew that consuming one right before three hours of tutoring was a bad idea though. I'd get a sugar crash and be less effective if I did that, so I stuck to the healthy Amy's lunch I had packed instead, and later I snacked on an apple and some almonds.

I tutored some students today that needed a lot of help. Instead of letting myself get stressed out by how much repetition was involved, I really relaxed into the sessions. If helping the student with a page and a half of writing took an hour of my time, so be it. I reminded myself to let myself just enjoy doing. A lot of times, we make lengthy tasks tedious when they really don't have to be. Reach for not just doing it, but doing it in a way that makes people happy; it feels so much better to give people not just the basic "job well done," but to put your energy into making them feel better. Seize opportunities to help those around you: whether you assist with a task, instill confidence, or provide moral support, being a positive force is better than just being there. I know I appreciate when someone does that for me.

When my car wouldn't start and the key was literally stuck in my ignition, I felt a bit panicked, and I couldn't reach anyone in my family on the phone. Before I gave in and used one of my AAA calls, I googled the problem, and after fifteen minutes, I solved it on my own (Brendan arrived just as I had started the car, making the text I had sent him appear crazy). Now I know some new things about my car and what it means to lock my steering wheel. If I had just called AAA, I probably wouldn't have learned.

When my yoga buddy, Kristen, texted me that an injury was keeping her out of class for the night, my "good enough" impulse said why not skip it too? But, I knew if I did that, I would feel awful. I had to push myself a bit to go, but it was one of the best classes ever, and it really improved my mood.

After yoga and dinner of leftovers (I'm so thankful for no one has to cook nights), I could have just settled into scanning Facebook, but my friend Corley posted this:

Point taken. I got off of Facebook and spent an hour or so revising my writing (thanks, Corley). I also traded in time I normally waste on the internet before yoga for reading, and it was much more satisfying, though a bit more mental energy was required.

At the end of the day, I treated myself to a warm bath and a glass of wine.

Today was just one day, and surely, some days I'll just do "good enough," and that's okay sometimes. But it's also good to realize that we can find energy where we don't think we have it, and we can choose to go beyond good enough in the choices we make. We can choose to take care of ourselves so that we are better able to care for others. We can choose to not let our impulse to stress take over. We can choose to fit in what we love, instead of just living the day as if it is all on an agenda that we don't control.

As my yoga teacher says: we have to give love to ourselves before we can give it away. That concept makes sense to me, and I hope it's something that makes sense to you as we all head into the end of our week.


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