Friday, January 9, 2015

Healthy Striving

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.
~Maya Angelou

In my seventeen years of teaching, I have had partners and colleagues who have mentored me every step of the way. Many have become dear friends. One thing they all have in common is that they are constantly striving for professional excellence.

I recently finished an outstanding book that is making me consider the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism. In The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, BrenĂ© Brown says that healthy striving is self-focused, whereas perfectionism is other-focused. Healthy striving asks, “How can I improve?” Perfectionism asks, “What will others think?” She goes so far as to say that perfectionism hampers success.

And I think that perfectionism not only hampers success, but robs us of pleasure, because we can never measure up to impossible standards. However, if we are striving in a healthy way, there will be something inherently joyful in the journey, and we’ll discover that we like ourselves, like what we do, and indeed, even like how we do it. I think that may be the intangible characteristic so many of my friends and colleagues possess. They reflect often, celebrate success, and adjust as necessary. As I strive to improve in my own practice, I will look to yet another trait they model so proficiently, and endeavor to focus my efforts on this kind of healthy striving.