“Most people die with their music still locked up inside them.” - Benjamin Disraeli
I used to be intimidated by yoga classes.
I took my first class in college, and for the next 15 years or so, I would pop into a class here or there. Maybe I would go once a year, or perhaps a couple of times a month. I never made a commitment to a teacher, a studio or a practice. I certainly didn’t consider myself a “yogini.”
The truth was, I sucked at it.
Often, it was painful physically, and my mind could never let go and be still.
“I’m not flexible enough.”
“My torso is way too short for this pose.”
“Who in their right mind would even attempt this pose?”
These thoughts often distracted me.
I pretty much assumed that everyone else in class were former acrobats, professional dancers or had been practicing since they slid out of the womb. I was never going to be great at it, so why bother trying?
But then, something happened about four years ago. I joined a yoga studio and found an instructor that I really gelled with. I came to understand her rhythm and style. I felt like I was being challenge but not pushed past my edge. Her classes refreshed and rejuvenated me. I committed to going regularly and gave up trying to be the best pretzel in the room.
That’s when I discovered that what truly mattered was that I enjoyed the experience of movement, and I honored my own personal edge.
In our quest for perfection, we get so caught up in being better than our neighbor that often we lose the joy in the experience.
Even when there is no one to please but ourselves.
As Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi points out in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, the term “amateur” has a negative, even derogatory, connotation. "It is often defined as someone not up to par, a person not to be taken very seriously, one whose performance falls short of professional standards. But originally, amateur is derived from the Latin verb amare ‘to love’ and referred to a person who loved what he was doing.”
Back then, being an amateur poet was admirable, because it meant you were improving your quality of life by toying with creating beauty. Being an amateur has nothing to do with “achieving” and everything to do with loving what you are doing, regardless if it meets someone else’s standards.
What are you putting off doing, because you think you will never achieve perfection at it? What joy are you cutting off from your life, because you are afraid of being judged? How can you find more play in your life?
In order to truly experience Flow -- that sweet spot of joyful engagement -- we need to give up perfectionism, and do what ignites us. To get into the Flow, select an activity, and follow these four steps:
1 - Set challenging but achievable goals.
2 - Trust your ability to adapt and grow.
3 - Concentrate on the activity (and turn off your inner critic).
4 - Feel the joyfulness of the experience.
Here is your challenge: Take that first step. Write the first chapter of that novel that is suspended inside of you. Resume the ballet lessons you gave up years ago.
Dust off that instrument. Pick up those paint brushes. Let your intuition be your guide.
Tap into that well of creativity. Trust me, it's still there. And it's profoundly deep.
Perhaps you will stumble upon a new passion and a renewed love affair with life. And, we can all use some more love, can't we?
Now, it's your turn. In the comments section, tell me what steps you will take to get into the flow of your life. Have you overcome your obsession with perfection? What activities do you enjoy simply for the pleasure of doing?