Some days, I feel like Gabby Douglas in this picture. I bet you can relate. Most of us struggle to stay focused on something: exercising, eating right, meditating, whatever. We try like hell to walk the line and stay balanced with family, work, and life. But the truth is that we all stumble at some point. We fall off the beam. It’s human nature.
My personal goal is to stay centered, but the spontaneous nature of day to day life doesn’t make this easy. Countless times a day, I fall off the beam.
So, when I read in Martha Beck’s book, Steering by Starlight, that her plan for life is “I exist in perpetual response to whatever is present” – I thought: okay, I can do that.
When we lose it (focus, centeredness, patience, etc.) we tend to beat ourselves up about it. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we are a failure, that we’ll never been able to do it (whatever it is) no matter how hard we try. This doesn’t produce great results and just makes us feel bad about ourselves. Punishment is not a great motivator, but reasonable goal-setting and encouragement is.
So change the goal. Stay in perpetual response. Make the goal not to stay on the beam, but to simply get back up on the beam whenever you fall off. That’s the important thing after all, isn’t it? It’s a practice. Keep returning to your goal, and eventually you will stay on the beam longer and longer before you fall.
Anyone who thinks they won’t fall is suffering from perfectionism. Everyone falls. But not everyone sticks with it and gets back on. Practicing this will make you a success every time, no matter how many times you do it.
Look at Gabby Douglas. How many times do you think she fell off the beam? This girl won a gold medal in the team and the individual all-around gymnastics competition during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. She was the first American gymnast to ever win both in the same Olympics.
But you know what? She is also the first all-around champion to not medal in an individual event since women’s gymnastics was added to the Olympics in 1952. Douglas finished eighth in uneven bars, and seventh in balance beam.
That’s right, she wasn’t perfect. But she gave an outstanding performance all-around, and what could be a better metaphor for staying on track in life?
You’re not going to stick every landing. You’re going to lose your grip, no matter how much you chalk your hands, especially during difficult transitions. No matter how beautifully you choreograph your life, there will be times when you slip up, when you have to adjust your balance to stay within boundaries.
The important thing is that you get back up, dust yourself off, and hop back up on the beam.
Stay in perpetual response and you are a guaranteed winner.