Many of you know I’m currently working on a book, and the subject is Potential. Defining it, Striving for it, Reaching it.
And it’s brought up a lot of questions for me. One of which is this: At what point does striving toward what we perceive to be our peak potential create more stress in our lives than it’s worth?
On one hand, we’re being told to rest, meditate, take time off, and avoid burnout, and on the other, we’re being encouraged to shoot for the stars, to achieve our wildest dreams.
I was relieved when I was listening to a re-released podcast episode with Brene Brown and Tim Ferriss and they brought up this very question.
Where is the line between Self-Acceptance, and Complacency? How do we go from “Meh, my life is just fine the way it is” to “I can achieve my wildest dreams” without completely losing ourselves in the process?
You know the one. Where we aim to get 1% better each day (or week, or month) coined by Darren Hardy, author of The Compound Effect, and doubled down upon by James Clear in his Atomic Habits.
Getting 1% better, or moving 1% closer to your goals each day allows you to enjoy your current life. Truly appreciate all that you already have, while pointing your nose in the right direction.
What does that look like in the wild?
Goal: Get 1% closer to being financially independent each day.
Reality: every day, spend a little less, make a little more, and learn a bit more about investing. Become more financially literate each day.
Goal: Get 1% closer to winning that audition each day
Reality: every day, work on excerpts, have lessons with members of that orchestra, study the sound of the orchestras, play mock auditions, work on your technique, learn and study scores, become a better sight-reader, and work on your craft.
Goal: To get 1% closer to fluency in a language every day.
Reality: Use duolingo, join a meet up group where you get together and speak a different language, travel, read literature, and watch TV shows in that language. Anything. But if you learn 3 new words a day, you’re doing great.
So this is the question I have been asking myself each day now. As I’m writing this book, I’m thinking more deeply about my own potential, and what it would look like to reach it. And if I were to point myself in that direction and make 1% progress each day, what would that look like? Sometimes it’s super easy and quantifiable.
Q: How many words need to be written per day to get 1% closer to my finished book?
Sometimes it’s not quite as quantifiable:
How do I become 1% better at gardening? I trust by doing it every day. I’m assuming my knowledge and experience are compounding themselves. I feel like I’ve done the same things in my gardens for years, and yet—they are better every season.
How do I get 1% better at my marriage? My friendships? my leadership skills? Are there metrics? # of times I compliment my husband? # of times I text my friends to check in and say hi?
It’s hard to say, but I suppose we need to look for the small mini-leaps and make as many of those as we can. And here are 3 small and subtle mindset shifts that I think can help us out along the way.
Instead of thinking: “I’m perfectly fine just as I am and I don’t need to change” you can think: “I am an ever-evolving human being. I accept myself for where I am at this moment, and appreciate who I will be tomorrow.”
I can be fully present while I am setting up the coffee machine before I go to bed at night. It is part of my routine of putting the house to rest at the end of the day. And…bonus…Future Kate has a hot pot of coffee waiting for her when she wakes up.
If you see yourself as someone who runs, you’re not thinking. I’m lazy, so I need to improve myself by running. You just run. It’s who you are. If you consider yourself a ‘lifelong learner’, then you’re not seeking out knowledge because you weren’t smart enough before, it’s just part of you. The side benefit of that subtle identity shift is that you are experiencing constant growth in a direction that aligns with your potential.
And it truly is both a subtle and profound shift in thinking. I think we all recognize the difference in the student who practices consistently, eager to try new things, improve their skills, and learn new repertoire, and the one who is only chasing after a goal–beating themselves up to be “good enough.” It’s the first one who finds success.
The one who was both accepting where they are, AND refusing to be complacent.
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1) some of this reminds me of something I read years ago re: how you see yourself. Are you a waiter who acts or are you an actor who waits tables? Are you a nanny who paints or are you an artist who does child care? We all have to pay the bills. Especially when we are in the learning phase, we might not yet be making money with our artistic talents yet “society” often defines us by our money-making work. Reframing how we see ourselves is part of which part or parts of ourselves we value.
2) re: hard-to-quantity-growth. In relationships, whether with plants or people, we aren’t always in control. We can’t tell the weather to give us rain or sun any more than we can foresee the moods or outside influences on other people. Perhaps then, our growth is in allowing ourselves a range of responses depending on what happens beyond our control.