Ss: Striving, The Satisfaction of Setting Aside Striving Ambition and Achieving Success

During April, I will be blogging about how creative people can practice their craft every day and what rewards will come from the daily effort.

Ss: Striving
The Satisfaction of Setting Aside Striving Ambition and Achieving Success

Striving is just as elusive as perfectionism (see P) because as soon as you reach whatever nearly unobtainable goal you’ve set for yourself, you’ve already set the next unobtainable goal.

Daily effort outlasts striving ambition. You just can’t keep it up if you’re going to practice every day.

For example, I used to run a lot. As soon as I’d get in shape, I’d automatically make myself go further and faster. I had some Capitalistic idea of effort: bigger, better, faster, more. But then, I’d have a bad day and walk half my route. Eventually, I’d have another bad day. And then, without even noticing it, I’d quit. My subconscious seemed to think, well, if you’re not training for a marathon, why bother at all?

Then, I started experimenting with daily effort in writing and exercise. I committed to 40 minutes of exercise a day. That’s it. On the harder days, I could feel great about myself for getting out there and doing it, whether “it” was walking slowly for 40 minutes or a crisp sprint through the neighborhood.

The good days were the harder days. If I felt good, I’d think, okay, go further today. But that would have started up the old pattern — if I go 45 minutes today, 40 minutes tomorrow is failure. So, I’d remind myself, well, you’re going to be back out here again tomorrow and again the day after that and after that, so do you really need to push it today?

Why not be satisfied with meeting your goal today? And that was the turning point (see also L)—I could let myself feel satisfied. I did it, met my daily commitment. Pat on back (sometimes literally), and move on to the rest of life.

This kept things in balance. I could still serve in all my other roles in life rather than waiting for it all to stop so I could finally get to work as a writer or finally get in shape.

After months of daily effort, I could define “success” not as achievement or wealth or recognition, but as the simple accomplishment of meaningful tasks. Did I write today? Did I draw? Did I exercise? I am successful. All else that may or may not come from this is icing on a very nourishing cake.

The paradox, which you should read and then forget or you’ll sabotage yourself, is that as soon as you give up striving, you glide right into success. It’s not that you quit trying to improve, but you quit straining for some arbitrary finish line, and instead, focus in on the task at hand. This leaves you more energy to work, results in better work, and more of it accomplished over time, and therefore–success without you’re even thinking about it!

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4 Responses to Ss: Striving, The Satisfaction of Setting Aside Striving Ambition and Achieving Success

  1. Alex Hurst says:

    Another great point, and I can sympathize on the running thing. I know I should just focus on 40 minutes until it is easy, and then upgrade, but I’m so impatient that I always tack on an extra 5 minutes, or an extra .5km, and then end up straining myself, or getting too tired and remembering the next time is just going to be harder… so I stop. I have to love my sister’s determination. In a pre-med program, volunteering at youth areas four days a week, and still makes time to run for an hour every day. I need to refocus myself!

    • TRISTA says:

      I’ve been trying to find a story I was told about a monk who trained others to meditate. One of his students starts to strive and boasts that he meditates for 8 hours a day. The monk says, ‘but what if you achieve what you need with only two hours?’ …. something like that. I’m not sure how to find the story, but the point was that more is not always better, and in fact, less might achieve just what you need. (Besides, I think a lot of us are just too hard on ourselves. Your sister runs an hour a day, you teach yourself how to create code for apps! I’d have better luck, though not much, at running an hour a day!)

  2. Rose L. says:

    I keep striving to do it better and sometimes it keeps me constantly editing and never finished with anything. I think part of the problem is feedback from others. If I continually try to make everyone happy I am unhappy! Now I am trying to take feedback only from about 4 people and end up being happy with a poem.
    BTW, I am having a hard time keeping up with your posts! Whew!! I am playing catch up!

    • TRISTA says:

      You’re so kind to take time to read all of these, Rose!! I’ll be back to once-a-week after April. Phew! I relate to what you said about getting feedback and trying to please everyone. I’ve learned that I need to find the right time in my writing process to get feedback. Too early in the process, when my idea is not as solid as it should be, well-intentioned feedback can throw me off course and spin my essay into sixteen directions.

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