Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential. – Winston Churchill
Recently I was approached by my colleague Shelley Butler who has taken on the challenge of feeding those in need a free lunch near our office every Friday. At first, I thought I could go ahead and help out, but when it came time to step up to the plate. I backed out; I was just not ready to put myself out there. I felt disappointed in myself. How elitist can I be? I cannot go out and hand a slice of pizza to someone in need? What was wrong with me? I had questioned whether each person receiving the lunch actually needed it. What if they wanted more from me? Couldn’t they get a job, get off the streets and feed themselves? I’ll admit, it is a selfish and heartless mindset. But it is how I felt and until I could break free from those awful thoughts, I could not put myself in the position to reach out my hand to help. I would be doing it for the wrong reasons.
Much to Shelley’s determination and persistence I had noticed that this initiative was growing bigger as each week passed. More people were giving her a hand and more and more hungry (and homeless) folks were lining up each Friday for lunch. I began to question if most of these people really needed it. Were they just becoming dependent on the hand that feeds? I felt awful. Here I am judging these people and I know nothing about them.
I finally had that enlightened moment. I was reading a book titled “Rising Strong” by Brené Brown. In that book there is a chapter that discusses the expectations that we place on others and how this reflects back on the expectations we have on ourselves. In that chapter there is a question that the author had asked various people from all walks of life. It’s a simple question, but when answered, it makes you think. Do you believe people are doing their best? Meaning, are people performing to the best of their abilities in the proverbial “game of life”? Are they putting their best effort forward? I had to reflect on this question and my answer was “no”. I do not believe these people are doing their best. There was my problem.
I have come to place expectations on others that I had put on myself. When I see someone who I perceive as struggling, I often believe that they can do better with their life. They can make better choices. But really, who the hell am I to place those kind of expectations on others? Who am I to define what is right and what is wrong in someone else’s life? Why should I believe that they are not doing the best they possibly can right now?
To understand where these “elitist” thoughts were coming from, I had to ask myself; am I doing the best I can? Quickly I answered with an emphatic NO! I am always questioning every choice, decision and move I make in life. I am never in full believe that I am putting 100% of my effort in anything that I do. Because of this, I am always living in constant anxiety. So in the midst of all of this perfectionism, it only makes sense that I also believe others are not doing their best. So I have identified my problem; now, how do I solve it?
I must stop chasing a perfect world. There is no perfect in life; life is very messy, life is dirty and life is relentless. We all have ups and we all have downs. I need to stop striving for perfection yet I cannot loose sight of my mission to take life to a different level of “best”. I must remind myself that the next level of my life does not require perfection, it requires determination and the belief that where I am today, is the best person I can be right now.
Just because I believe I can be better tomorrow, it does not diminish the importance of the effort I am putting forward right now. Believing in tomorrow requires hope. We cannot create hope by ourselves, that only comes from the generosity of others. I have been very fortunate to be given hope by those who know what it means to share it without reservation, Shelly Butler is one of those people. I must follow her example. By offering a free lunch to someone in need, it is a token of hope being offered and not a report card on life’s effort. I can tell you from experience, those folks in need are trying much harder at being their best than I have ever tried.
1,032 / 1,000 KMs walked | 46 / 50 blog posts | 17 / 10 books read