his week's guest author is Michael Lisagor, a longtime friend of the Charter, who's contributed to our newsletter on occasion. This piece on stretching ourselves really struck me, and I'm so pleased to share his words here with you.
With warm regards,
I remember when my brother ran his first full marathon. He was so proud of himself for having crossed the finish line until our father expressed disappointment that he hadn't come in first. His message that only the most perfect outcome is meaningful had a profound influence on both of us.
For much of my youth, I found myself reluctant to try new experiences in the fear that I would fail -- be less than perfect. Unfortunately, this self-sabotage meant missing out on opportunities for growth and enjoyment.
The concept of "good enough" is closely tied to accepting ourselves as we are in this present moment -- flaws and all. Accordingly, true happiness revolves around embracing the imperfect and fleeting nature of our existence.
Eventually, I was able to overcome my earlier reluctance to leave my comfort zone and my tendency to compare myself with others. Instead, my measure of "good enough" became whether I was willing to stretch regardless of the outcome. I continue to work on replacing harsh inner judgement with compassion for myself.
Buddhist scholar Daisaku Ikeda has said, "Your character is determined by how you challenge yourself, and how you wrestle with your problems, in a way that is unique to you. This is how character is polished and becomes diamond-like."
When my mind becomes tangled up in thoughts of inadequacy or self-doubt, I try to gently acknowledge these thoughts and let them go, refocusing my attention on the present moment where I can polish my life; in other words, do my human revolution.
Another helpful practice is speaking to myself with the same care and compassion that I would offer to a dear friend. So, when I catch myself engaging in severe self-criticism, I pause to imagine what I would say to someone who is struggling with similar feelings and then offer myself that same kindness and understanding.
Last year, I started joyfully playing jazz piano everyday (a re-discovered passion from my youth). This is another example of how my spiritual practice and therapy have allowed me to shed the misconceptions that had prevented me from accepting myself as "good enough" just the way I was as opposed to what I thought I should be.
Trying something new and not worrying about the result, has become a great formula for my own growth and happiness. This offers a powerful antidote to the relentless pursuit of perfection and external validation that often plagues modern society. And that's good enough for me!
* Adapted from My Fifty Years of Buddhist Practice.
Once upon a time, Mike Lisagor was an aerospace and IT engineer, and then an industry executive. Now, he spends his time writing essays and books, playing and singing in a local blues band, and creating graphic art from music and nature photos. He and his wife of 52 years live on an island in the Pacific Northwest. This message from Michael appears in our 05/04/2023 weekly newsletter. To sign up for our newsletter, scroll all the way down to the end of this page to get to the bottom menu; in the newsletter section, enter your email address and click on subscribe.