March 10, 2020 – Perfectionism and Grit
Something I’ve been thinking about this past week is Perfectionism and it’s opposite, Being Messy. As kids we’re usually open to being messy because it’s fun and that’s how we learn. But as we get older and are given expectations and rules, we begin to learn how to achieve ‘success’ by not breaking rules and by being ‘perfect’ – not Mmessy. Some of us are more stringent on this than others – these people are sometimes known as “perfectionists”. This tendency can move us far towards achieving goals, but it’s a good idea to be aware of it and stay on top of it and not let it start to control us because it can turn against us quickly. Here is something I read this weekend that resonated with me:
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. […] Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend.” – Anne Lamott, writer.
Perhaps a bit extreme, but I think we could replace ‘artist’ with ‘runner’ and find similar meaning.
Every once in a blue moon I perform a workout or race exactly as I’d planned. Most of the time though they veer wildly off plan and are very messy. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe I’m tired, maybe I didn’t plan for such a hilly course, maybe I went out too fast, maybe I bit off more than I could chew. Whatever the reason, I tell myself I have to be ok with that and open minded and ready to adapt to the “mess”. When we’re in the middle of a workout or run or race and not hitting our paces, we have to decide whether to call it quits or be ok with not being perfect.
I was thinking of this as I read Des Linden’s account of her US Olympic Marathon trials race the other weekend. Des was among the favourites predicted to make the team (top 3). She did not make the team. She missed it by one place, coming in fourth. However, she was one of the few favourites who actually finished the race. Many of the others, when they realized (or thought) they weren’t going to make the team, simply stopped. But Des was ok with not being perfect. She wasn’t having a good race but she kept fighting. And she actually started making up places near the end and was very close to catching third place to make the team.
“The one guarantee in the marathon is that it’s going to get hard. I don’t think I had a fantastic day or really closed down well or did anything special, I think I was just a person who didn’t quit, you know? Every time it got hard, it was like, no, keep chasing, because you never know. Other people either sandbagged it home or stepped off the course. A lot can change in the last three miles, you just have to commit to it.” – Des Linden, US Olympian
I love how she was able to keep working hard even though she knew it wasn’t her day. I’m sure she was very far off her ideal “perfect” race plan. But she was ok with messy, not perfect, where others let it get to them. And that very almost worked out for her.
So have goals. Have a plan. Know what “perfect” looks like for you. But be ok being messy and not perfect. In a lot of ways for many of us, that is even harder than being perfect.
For tomorrow, here is our plan – may we execute it perfectly or messily:
2 x 1 mile @ 10K pace w 2:30 rest
4 min rest
3-4 x 800 @ 4-5 sec faster w 2:00 rest
See you guys in the am!