Perfect the Journey, Not the Pose
Water bottle – check.
Athletic clothing – check.
Yoga mat – check.
Feeling good and excited for my first class, I walked into the yoga studio. The instructor greeted me and invited me to choose a space in the room that I was comfortable with (of course, I chose the back of the room). With only a handful of students, the class began. I was focusing on my breathing and feeling great! I was beginning to feel the stressors of the day fall away. As the instructor guided us into the third pose, I began to look around the room. Despite my athletic and military background, I quickly noticed that what I was doing didn’t look like everyone else. Yes, they were definitely doing yoga…not sure if there’s a name for what I was doing. The poses of the other students mirrored the instructor. The fluidity and grace of their movements were amazing.
What occurred next can only be compared to watching a tall stack of Jenga blocks slowly tumbling down. The stillness of my mind was ousted by insecurity and feelings of failure. My peaceful breathing was replaced by the sound of my increasing heart rate. I was disappointed that I couldn’t keep up with everyone else. I tried to do exactly what the yogi instructed, but I knew I would never get it right. Before long, I was no longer focused on the students or the instructor. I was staring at the clock and trying to figure out how I could exit the yoga studio without causing any further embarrassment.
Too much time and energy is spent on perfection. We want the perfect job. We want the perfect relationship. We want to be perfect parents. We want to project the image that our lives are perfect. Yet, there is a problem with perfection. Perfection does not account for the journey. Perfection limits learning, problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. At some point, perfection becomes unproductive.
In his article, Ron Ashkenas identified two causes of unproductive quests for perfection: fear of failing and anxiety about taking action. When either fear or anxiety take over, we find ourselves not making much progress and causing more mistakes. In yoga, as with most things in life, we are more likely to be successful if we slow down and remain focused on the journey and experience. Yoga is not about perfecting the lotus pose, hero pose, or downward-facing dog. Yoga is a practice of awareness, focus, insight, learning, finding alignment, personal transformation, and embody. If practicing yoga yields any of these results, there is a wonderful journey awaiting you. Avoid the diminishing returns that are associated with pursuing perfection by carving your own path, placing purpose above precision.