Practice not Perfect

Contributed by Jody McVittie

In this time of New Year’s resolutions, many of us look for improvement, to make our selves, our lives or the lives of those around us better in some way.  Great idea. The challenge is that it often leads us to noticing what we (or our children) are not: where we are flawed or somehow don’t measure up.qthomasbower heart

It’s great to have goals and to reach for things – but in our culture we often do that from a place of not being “good enough.” Daily we are given the message that we are not thin enough, fit enough, happy enough, rich enough or smart enough with all sorts of media messages about how to get thinner, fitter or happier or how we can buy more things so we can have the experience of “enough.”

Is there another way to approach the New Year without slipping into the trap of “not enoughness?”  Michael Moore, in a recent blog post, wrote about how he started the practice of walking. He started with curiosity: to walk and to experience walking. He did not do it to get something, to lose weight or get more exercise. He just began the practice of walking. Months later he is still walking … and enjoying the process.

What kind of practices could you begin in your family? What might bring you joy, even if it isn’t perfect? What could you begin together with an attitude of lightness, curiosity or play? Think: easy, fun, doable. Here are some ideas and we’d love it if you shared yours with us.

  • Start an appreciation wall. Using post it notes or paper and tape, write or draw appreciations for people in your family. Be specific and avoid judgment words like good/better/best. You can use the back of a door, a window or the refrigerator.

  • Write short love notes to your children. One sentence is enough. “Thinking of you.” “Your smile makes me smile.” Stash them in their lunch box or coat pocket.

  • Add more walking. Park further from the store, walk to school, take a walk outside to notice nature and living things.

Some words on practice. 

•            Practice often feels awkward.  It gets easier and more fun as you go along. Life coaches say that it takes doing something 21 days in a row before your brain can begin to establish it as a practice.

•            Brain scientists tell us when we are starting something new the brain uses more energy and that sometimes the pain centers in our brain are activated. It can hurt to learn until some of those new neurons finish growing.

•            Our children often expect things to come easily. (We help them develop that belief by doing things for them.) Starting a new challenge as a family and noticing that it gets easier with practice is a great life lesson.


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Photo credit: qthomasbower