A few years ago, I had the opportunity to think long and hard about the advice that I was imparting to my children about life skills. Considering that they were still quite young, it was based mainly around school and other activities. Having witnessed two very different personalities go through the same process brought to light how the education system is not really geared up for all kinds of learners. Added to that is the very formidable method of grading that seems to make success more and more unachievable with each passing year. I remember as children, we could let off steam through sports or playing a musical instrument or just doing nothing. How many of us recall quiet passages of time during the day where we were left to our own devices? Today if a child plays football, then the question is does she play for the ‘A’ team; if he plays the piano, it’s all about what grade. What is truly frightening however, is how many things children have on their schedules each day and how little time they have to just be.
As I child I thought time moved so slowly, the afternoons stretched interminably. I thought that was a childhood thing but it stopped me in my tracks a while ago when my daughter remarked that she couldn’t believe how quickly time had passed. It was a red flag that led me to consider what had happened to change things this dramatically within one generation.
I began to realise that even at our conscious best as parents, we can, at times send mixed messages to our young ones. Our efforts to help them do their best can sometimes come across as doing the best. It is easy to get swept away in the madness as we try to equip them with skills to match the insane level of competition. Whether they are in school or beginning their lives as young adults, the message that they are continually at the receiving end of is a rather brutal one. Their best may not be good enough. Ever. Therefore they must strive relentlessly to prove not just their aptitude but their very sense of worth, in a world that is always judging them.
It is time to draw a clear distinction for them and for ourselves. To strive for excellence is good and necessary, we get to push our boundaries and discover our potential. Being excellent means bringing our best to whatever we take on. It is way of doing things till those things add up to define the life we have lived. But somewhere along the way we got lost. We stopped enjoying the journey and started focusing on the goal. Enter perfection. Perfection tries to deceive us by telling us that our best is not good enough, that it must prove itself better than everybody else’s best and the way to accomplish that is through endless struggle. In trying to attain the unattainable, we lose sight of not only why we are here but who we are.
Perfection operates from a place of lack and it feeds on our light. Excellence is a celebration that helps us shine our brightest.