Falling down to reach up higher

“The only thing that makes people great is their willingness to be ‘not great’ along the way.”

~Seth Godin


I’m a perfectionist.  Always have been.  I don’t know if gymnastics made me that way, or if it was my parents’ urging to always strive for my best in school, OR just an inherent trait… but I tend to seek out perfection in all I do.  I know there are plenty of you out there who have developed the same patterns in some or all aspects of life – so you know where I’m coming from.

And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with constant improvement and the quest for flawlessness, it can be quite debilitating to expect nothing but perfection from every endeavor.  It’s the mistakes you make that bring you closer to a more perfect result.  You’ve gotta make mistakes.  A lot of them, in fact!!

Case in point: my journey with snowboarding (I just returned from an epic week of boarding in South Lake Tahoe, so forgive me if I keep mentioning this topic for a little while) 🙂

The “flaw” of falling is something many beginning winter sport enthusiasts initially fear.  They see it as a negative thing that they want to avoid.  Yeah – because it sometimes hurts quite a bit – but also because it kinda connotates a lower level of mastery.  It can be seen as a sign of incompetence.

I’ve happily gotten past the frustrating falling stages and begun to master higher levels of this thrilling sport.  If I chose to, I could just stay at this level for the rest of my wintery vacation days.  But within my own winding journey, I’ve come to the realization that being an intermediate snowboarder who does mediocre skills perfectly gets quite boring.

I’ll never progress to the next level if I don’t try new things that scare me.  Ya know… the stuff that will definitely cause me to fall.  The things that slow me down and make me look like I don’t know what I’m doing.  The embarrassing mistakes.  The movements that show my lack of ‘greatness’ and mastery.

But, honestly, I’m okay with being the weaker one in my group.  It makes the learning environment pretty darn rich – coaches surrounding me in every direction!

I’ve learned that I have to fall A LOT if I want to continually improve.  Of course, I’m not stupid and reckless while I take those falls.  I’m realistic about my current abilities and I ask for advice often.  But I’m also willing to be that person that makes mistakes.  I’m willing to be the one that always comes back to the cabin with snow in every layer of her pants.  My ability to snowboard has grown by leaps and bounds in a short amount of time because of it.

Now, how can this help you along the lines of fitness and health?

Well, think about how perfection or fear of failing have been roadblocks for you in the past (or even in the present!).  Do you aim to be perfect with a new fitness routine and immediately give up as soon as you slide away from perfection?  Do you have lofty expectations when starting a new diet, yet you fall off course when you make a couple mistakes?  Do you quit prematurely because you feel incompetent that you aren’t immediately excelling at an activity/ program/ eating plan?

Just like Seth Godin (bestselling author of “Tribes”, “Linchpin”, “Purple Cow”, and plenty of other well-known books about marketing, leadership and change) proclaims, we have to travel through that period of being clumsy and awkward and inexperienced and ‘not great’ in order to head toward that higher level that we seek.  We HAVE to make mistakes along the way.  And those mistakes can NOT cause us to simply give up.  That’s the only way to get there – to that pedestal for which we strive.

In other words: the secret to success in the arena of fitness is realizing that mistakes aren’t fatal.  They are just opportunities for you to get back up and try again.

So, what do you say??  Are you willing to fall down lots of times in order to be great?

That illustrious blue ribbon is not far off!