I'm not aiming for perfect, just better.
That thought rang around my head as I stood in the shower this morning.
It incapsulated so much of my mindset, the philosophy of how I look to approach every area of my life; the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical.
Ultimately, perfectionism is a trap.
It's a trap I can all too easily fall into, with my penchant for overthinking and working out all the details so I don't take a wrong turn or make a costly mistake.
It's the shadow me, the one who, left to his own devices, would consume not just me, but those around me too.
But the shadow me isn't all wrong.
It's got the outline right, at least.
It understands we need to head in the right direction.
It understands we need to make progress.
It just hasn't quite grasped the realities of our existence, and the practicalities of daily life.
And it can sure be overbearing, if left unchecked.
"Why haven't you built your own successful startup yet? All those people who used to be stood by your side are now miles ahead of you, what were you doing?"
"Why haven't you got abs yet? You've been on this earth over 30 years, and you're still carrying around a rubber dingy made of fat around your anterior?"
"Why aren't you married with kids yet? All your mates got married ages ago, most of them have literally started re-populating the earth, and you're sat in your bedroom on a saturday morning writing a blog post to your six twitter friends?"
Gosh, that all came out a little too easily.
My perfectionist, shadow self can certainly be brutal at times.
But that perfectionist, shadow self, is a part of me I've come to not simply withstand, but embrace.
I know he can be quite blunt at times, and sadly that bluntness can take the wheel.
But deep down he's just expressing the core, carnal frustrations of life.
He's just trying to do me right.
He's a blunt instrument but the notes he plays can make a beautiful song with the right composer.
And this morning, whilst showering, as with all the best "aha!" moments, the self-understanding I've been background processing for years generated a new result.
Ding went the machine, and out came a print in a monospaced typeface:
I'm not aiming for perfect, just better.
Gosh, isn't that simple.
Probably so simple that it's not so remarkable for you.
But for me, those words hit home whilst I was in a glass cage of falling water.
They're an output of a machine that has been whirring for years.
Who am I, and how can I best approach the only thing I can approach at all, today, and this very moment?
Thankfully I've had a few years on this planet, and in doing so have at least learnt a few elementary principles.
Rotating incessantly around a big ball of fire has a habit of teaching you some perspective, if you let it.
Today is all I can influence, but today isn't all there is.
That perspective helps take the edge off of what could become a horrible taskmaster.
"Be better, BETTER, BEeTtTTERrR!"
If you're hearing that voice in my words, I've painted the wrong picture.
See it's not about my shadow self wielding a metaphorical stick in its pursuit of enslaving me to an endless life of never feeling quite good enough.
It's about the quiet voice of my whole self, offering the metaphorical carrot, encouraging me to take another step in the right direction.
And at times that step will be away from "work", away from "progress", and towards rest.
At times that step will be to give up on something I dreamt about, but realised isn't the path for me anymore.
At times that step will be in forgiveness for myself, for others, for God.
It won't always be obvious what better looks like.
It's not simply doing more, bigger, longer, louder.
But deep down I'll know, I'll know that I'm doing my best, with the data I have here and now.
That ultimately I'm taking steps in the right direction, and trusting the journey to work it all out.
Because ultimately that's all you can do, pick your head up, look around, and make the best choice you can at the time.
Sure, it won't satisfy the perfectionist within you.
You won't have the body you think you should.
You won't have the relationships you think you should.
You won't have the business you think you should.
But you'll be showing up, putting in the reps, and making progress over time.
And as you step back, and zoom out, maybe even your shadow self will turn to you and say:
"Yeah, that does look better."