Process not Perfection

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Is done really better than perfect? Maybe in marketing or bed-making, but perfect sounds like a good idea when engaging in say, heart surgery or packing a parachute. Habits, though? Where do they fit in? I’m siding with done. To any degree.

I’m two weeks into my made up Three for Three system. I’m counting the “dones” because there is no perfect here. This is life. It’s more about mastery than perfection. And it’s all 100% subjective.

There is a quote from Swami Kripalu that I have always marveled at and I’m on a constant quest to embed it into every judgmental cell of my being: “Self-observation without judgment is the highest form of spiritual practice.” And how.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Eliminating things is way easier than adding in new practices. At least the things I chose to let go of. It took absolutely no effort to deny alcohol. I mean aside from thinking somewhere on the periphery while preparing dinner that first night how lovely a glass of wine would be while chopping veggies, there has really been no thought of wine or alcohol of any kind.

While I was making my list of positive changes I wanted to adopt this year, there were other food items that I wanted to eliminate or greatly reduce: meat, dairy, gluten and sugar. I secretly bundled two of those into the curriculum of month one of “Project Me” and, like their buddy alcohol, they have not been missed. No meat or gluten for 14 days. Check.

BUT, if I do have meat and/or gluten, I have already given myself permission to let it go and not be judgmental. Alcohol is the focus. That was the one thing I promised myself.

I also want to clarify the reason I am doing this. To myself as much as anyone. I have identified those 5 foods as working against me. Or perhaps it is my affinity for them that becomes detrimental. Alcohol invites me to stay up too late and cozy up to lethargy. Meat has become more of a compassion issue over the years, but I also know too much of it too often promotes prolonged couch sitting. Gluten is glue to my digestive system. Nuff said. Dairy is inflammatory to everyone and I am everyone. Sugar is my best friend. I love sugar. I have let her go before and plan to move to another state to avoid her enticements if I have to to say bye-bye again. But not yet.

I always have these five frenemies in the back of my mind. I am hyper aware of each teaspoon of sugar that goes into my coffee and of how much butter I am using on my gluten-free toast. I have let go of cheese for the most part and don’t miss it. But just knowing this is the direction in which I’d like to go, keeps me from overindulging and seems to be working in my favor.

Plus, I have made no promises to let go of any of these things forever. Or maybe I will. But there is no pressure to label myself anything or any pride involved in being something-free. In fact, I would like to be the type of person that becomes so attuned to the needs of their own body that they eat and nourish it with exactly what and how much it requires.

Can you imagine? Not succumbing to peer pressure, advertising or non-supportive habits? Sounds kinda magical.

The side effect of eliminating all of these things, slowly and mindfully, is to create space and clarity. Clean energy to be used for higher pursuits. Give myself and my body the best opportunity to digest and thrive, thereby clearing my mind and sparking the moldering embers of creativity. To give myself every opportunity to be shiny.

Weight loss could also be a side benefit, but it’s not the driver. I haven’t weighed myself at all. I know I need to lighten up, lose weight and reduce inflammation and I believe that will happen naturally. I want to be my ideal size, but I’ve actually grown quite fond of my curves and thickness over the years. I like being huggable and grounded. But, if the universe decides my best body mass is 120 pounds I’m down with that too. I’ll adjust.

Now, for the moment of truth: The adding in of helpful habits. (Big sign, eye roll.)

The morning practice and daily writing? More difficult. For me it’s about structure and time. If I get up early enough these things will flow with much less effort. (That’s my belief.) The holidays and company have given me many convenient excuses not to do this. But honestly, even when I get up at 5:00 AM I manage to somehow fill the time with other things.

But I’m not giving up. Quitting would not serve me. These two practices are still tugging at me.

Let’s start with the morning practice. In my mind it was to be about an hour and include meditation, breath work and yoga. In reality, on my best days, it turned into 15 minutes of all of that. However, I am reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear and one of the methods to skillfully adopt a habit is to commit 2 minutes to it daily. In the case of my little routine that would look like sitting on my mat for 2 minutes. Maybe eyes closed and breathing. Maybe looking around my backyard. The habit is rolling out my mat and sitting down however I spend that time is irrelevant. In theory this mat sitting will evolve into the hour I had envisioned. Maybe two minutes at a time. Better than avoidance.

The writing has had a higher success rate. I have wondered more than once why I chose writing. I love to write. I hate to write. I love to think about writing and to have written, but the process sometimes feels arduous and the words won’t flow and who wants to read this drivel anyway when I’m bored with my own sentences. But bad writing is still writing. Good and better writing comes with consistency. And lots pages of bad writing. I have been able to meet my goal of 1000 words per day about 65% of the time.

As I consider my choices, and that voice of lethargy disguised as common sense that tries to talk me into other distractions, I am also fortifying my decisions by reading about habits, by reading about food, by writing about what I’m reading about. I believe that is called studying. And I do not have a specific goal in mind for any of it. No weight loss or book deal, no financial gain or gold stars.

The process is the struggle and the reward. To let it go is to fail. To skip days, fight against it and whine, but still do something, anything? That’s progress. Process not perfection.

 

Marketing Madness

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Sometimes the most curious thoughts cross my mind.

Everything from philosophical probings like “Why are we really here?” to the more distracting ruminations on political theater and nefarious marketers.

We’ll leave the life purpose question for later. Right now I want to address marketing.

Not all marketers or advertisers are bad. Advertising has a long and conflicted history. On the surface, businesses just want someone to buy their product or use their service. They believe fervently that their product – above all others – is going to be good and necessary for you.

But within the past 100 years, maybe longer, advertising has become increasingly clever and insidious.

Advertisers, marketers and public relations all pull from the same spin manual. Make it look good, make it not only seem necessary, but vital. You need this, it will make you a better person and everyone will want to be you. Ergo: you’re not good enough the way you are.

  • Did you know there is really no such thing as medical halitosis? It was created by advertisers so they could sell the cure. Mouth wash.
  • Did you know you don’t need soap to clean your laundry? It’s the agitation of the washing machine that does the work.
  • Did you know that our current understanding of what Santa Claus looks like is due in large part to the advertising geniuses at Coca-Cola? They did not create the images of the jolly fellow, but rather advertised it so ubiquitously that it is now the standard Santa.

We are assaulted a million times a day by branding and advertising. There are the obvious: billboards, magazines ads and flashing online annoyances. There are placemats, the backs of receipts and gas pumps. But there is also product placements in your favorite TV shows or movies, sometimes obvious like the giant red Folgers can in most Hallmark movies and some more subtle like the brands of cars people are driving.

In addition, companies pay pretty people to wear their clothes and post “candid” shots on Instagram and other forms of social media. You might follow them because their lifestyle looks awesome or they’re beautiful.

Everything we wear has a label, usually on the outside, making us walking billboards for such companies. And also so we can readily identify our socioeconomic tribe.

And now Facebook has us marketing to each other. Only some of your friends’ comments and posts come up in your feed, the ones you engage with the most. To see them more often you must visit them more often and comment on or like their posts. Businesses that have Facebook pages can no longer be found easily, they must reach out with paid advertising and even then the user must visit that page often enough to see the posts in their feed. This makes sense if it’s an actual business, but many of the “pages” are individuals who are making jewelry or soap or trying to get you to come to their play or yoga class.

We are under assault and the enemy is us.

Take your power back. Choose what you see. We can’t unsee billboards but we can not pick up a magazine or newspaper. We can unsubscribe from services that are little more than selling algorithms. We can recognize we need or want something organically, then seek out a solution. We can allow the thought of someone we haven’t heard from in a while to float into our awareness then reach out to that person. Actually ask them how they’re doing rather than just checking in on Facebook or worse, trolling their feed to satisfy your own curiosity. We’ve all done it.

This may sound angry, but anger is really fear. And I will admit I am afraid that we are losing connection with each other. Real face-to-face and voice-to-voice connection.  The art of conversation has been diminished to characters, empathy and compassion are being co-opted by a barrage of violent images to which we are becoming desensitized.

And we are lazy. We are having parties online now. (My eyes are rolling so far back in my head I may detach something.)

I am grateful for the internet, it’s hard to remember life before it. I am grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends through social media. And maybe it’s not really social media’s fault. Could they have predicted how we use this tool? Perhaps.

Choose how you will spend the precious commodity of time. How will you use up your life force?