As a lover of the guitar, I’m always under improvement. It’s a never-ending journey of leveling up, cutting away things I don’t need and refining what I feel truly sounds like me. In the beginning of learning the instrument, there’s no way I could play what I can now. It takes dedicated and strategic practice to become good at anything and ‘good’ is both defined by you and by your band mates as a musician. That’s what an artist does. We practice, we learn, we create, and we define what is good enough to let other people enjoy our work.
That’s right. Good isn’t just defined by you. You can feel that you are good at the level you’re at but ultimately, you must be good-enough to play with good musicians. You need to be a good-enough athlete to play with other athletes. It’s a prerequisite to most anything you’re going to do with other people. You’re not necessary in a competition — it really depends on what you want for yourself and at what level you want to play, but ultimately, if you want to play with other people, you will need to have a level of competence that’s accessible to who you’re playing with and that’s a product of practice.
I’m certain the idea of practice is common across all disciplines. You even need to practice meditation, which you might think doesn’t involve a lot of things to do. Even dissolving yourself in a sensory deprivation tank takes practice and its effects usually get better every time — when you get it right.
Competitive athletes are always looking to improve their skill. Relationship partners who are connected to their cause of loving each other are constantly involved in some growth process to learn how to relate to each other better. Chefs are always learning how to be more efficient and effective at astonishing their customers. Hunters, doctors, lawyers, politicians… I’ve thought about this for a while and I haven’t found one area of life where we aren’t somehow trying to be better. Heck even EVOLUTION is a process of becoming better to adapt to the forever changing environment you are in.
How does one become better without having an awareness that something about themselves could be better? Is this self-judgment or just self-awareness? Can who you are be better? I asked this question to my network and received many answers. One of them stuck out to me:
“No. But I can become more aware of how magnificent who I am already is.”
Here’s the thing. Isn’t becoming more aware of how magnificent you already are, a form of you becoming better by being more aware of how magnificent you already are? This idea that you cannot become better is a mainstay of the new-age-personal-development and spiritual movement and community and it’s one of the greatest challenges to an individual’s personal growth when they believe that it’s true. It’s sold under the assumption that just by engaging in a total and complete self-acceptance and appreciation that all your problems will magically disappear. Which I guess is true… because it’s easy to ignore what’s really wrong with your life when you’re addicted to appreciating and accepting your level of suffering…
“Yes! It’s true that I cannot become better than who I already am!”
Right… Let’s look at when and where and how this breaks down when you apply it, fundamentally.
Example 1: My leg was just blown off by a land mine. I’m bleeding out. But, of course, I’m perfect as I am so I should just remind myself of how magnificent I already am and do nothing…
Example 2: I shoot drugs every day and I don’t know it yet, but tomorrow I’m going to overdose and die while living on the street but I’m carrying a backpack of self-help books so I’m ok, right? Yeah, that’s right, I’m perfect as I am, and I can’t be better.
Example 3: It’s my heart and soul’s calling to play in a rock and roll band but I totally suck right now at playing guitar. So, according to my spiritual wisdom I picked up from some psycho, I should just keep looking at how magnificent I already am forget about practicing and well, yeah, forget about that dream I have that’s my innate purpose anyway. That’ll never work because I’d have to BE BETTER at playing guitar to play with other people who are also BETTER.
Example 4: Because my Dad was an alcoholic and my Mom beat me I’m now emotionally wounded and acting these emotional scars out as an adult by drinking and beating my kid. But hey, I’m perfect already right, so it’s OK that I broke my kids arm twice this year. Yeah, I’m magnificent and can’t be any better.
Example 5: I have a curable illness and if I just went under the knife for five minutes, I’d be able to live another 20 years and ensure I’m there for my family. But, yeah, I can’t be better so fuck it. Death’s calling.
Oh, and on that note…
Example 6: I just jumped out of an airplane and my parachute is fucked. I guess it wasn’t packed correctly because hey, I don’t practice getting better at packing because I’m fundamentally perfect, always, and magnificent and can’t possible learn anything new because I’m already the best. That said, I could untangle it in about 20 seconds and I’ve got the time but hey… fuck it. I’m just going to appreciate that I’m magnificent right now and can’t be better than my current situation…
Am I exaggerating the point? Yes, of course, but my point is this. When you stress-test spiritual sayings, they often break down when the shit hits the fan and that’s important to know because how well are these parables if they can’t or don’t apply in the worst of situations and only apply in the best of situations?
Can who you are be better?
In my judging opinion… TOTALLY. Can I be better? TOTALLY. Do I hope and wish and pray that some of you reading this call me out so that I can become better at what I do? Absolutely. That’s called community. It’s called caring. It’s called respecting ourselves and each other enough to see a challenge for what it is and help each other solve it AND it’s helping each other appreciate what we have already and built upon it.
Practice makes something closer to perfection that’s determined by you and the community if what you do involved other people. That’s the point. You are a perfect representation of all the choices, people and environments you’ve ever been interacted with. That doesn’t mean at all that your present form of perfection is meant to continue tomorrow.
Maybe you aren’t good enough for what tomorrow has to bring. That’s amazing! Because it’s going to help you grow and become better at something new which is what enables you to look at yourself, through evidence, and say that you are magnificent.
You are meant to progress, and the enjoyment of your life is because of that process. Selling your potential short just because you’re blinding yourself to that potential by following some spiritual parable that some jerk made up to enable you to mentally masturbate about how awesome you already are (and avoid all forms of improvement) is really a bad sale.
Invest in yourself. Appreciate what you’ve already accomplished and set yourself on to the next phase of your strategy. Can who you are be better? Yes. You can even become better at appreciating how much better you become.
What about you? Are you holding yourself back by resisting the necessary upgrades to your person or your life because of some spiritual parable you’ve bought into? I’d love to know but mostly, I’d love you to know so that you too can change for the better.
Let me know what you discover.
Stephan Gardner is a visionary thought leader, personal coach and master of psychological redesign. His clients include bay street executives in Toronto, Canada, business owners, celebrities, musicians, financial executives, wellness practitioners, real estate brokers, authors, entrepreneurs, parents and students. A decade-long career as a producer in national television news, interviewing world leaders in professional achievement, Stephan developed his unique coaching style with training through The Demartini Institute with Dr. John Demartini. Stephan helps people solve emotional challenges, transform uninspired behaviors and open your mind to your greater potential.
Image courtesy of xusenru.