Do you ever feel like you need to earn a gold star when starting something new? That even though you are new to it, that you should somehow be better than all the other new people? Is there an inner voice that is reminding you to go faster, be sharper, be more successful?

It’s easy to have high expectations of ourselves, and it isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s nice to feel like we are on an upward trajectory and to want to put more energy into that. Feeling like we are good at something, having others look up to us, and being impressive are not bad in their own right. The trick is not to constantly expect ourselves to be super great at everything we do. You do realize that it is perfectly okay to be great at some things and not so great at others, right?

This is similar to the perfectionism we dealt with in an earlier post, but really goes beyond that. I’m talking about having a personal paradigm of needing to be observed as good, rather than simply immersing ourselves in the activity. Being present rather than needing to check off a mental list of qualities.

Let me give you an example from my own life. Last week I mentioned that I had perhaps done too much and needed to rest. Well since that post, I have come to realize that I sometimes approach new activities or situations with a need to be exceptional right out of the gate. “Never done Aikido before? No problem. I’ll immediately ‘get’ it and be the star new student.” Again, being exceptional is a good thing, but turns sour when we rely on that for our sense of worth.

Perhaps we can reframe what we think of as exceptional. Maybe a new paradigm where being present, and enjoying what we are doing IS the epitome. We are not trained to do this! Business and lifestyle gurus tell us to produce more, stop wasting time, get efficient, be on top. But have you ever noticed that when you put the pressure on yourself long-term, that your production/efficiency/results suffer? Trying to be something that fills a list of “desirable qualities” is like eating an entire bag of chips. You’re filled up but you feel kind of yucky and you are still hungry and undernourished.

Try making your goal to not achieve too many goals. Ha ha! Run counter to popular advice. You don’t need more hours in the day, you need fewer and better things in the day. Start by being present and enjoying whatever it is that you are doing. Give it your attention, your focus, and enjoy the fact that you are here right now and able to do this thing. Sometimes simply showing up is the best that you can do. Wait, I take that back. If you REALLY show up that is always the best that you can do. Being present in any moment is always better than trying to accomplish some task that your mind (or someone else’s mind) made up. Maybe that isn’t the task that needs doing. Maybe you’ll discover what really needs to be done if you are present instead of running on super-fast autopilot.

For myself, when I go to Aikido this week I will no longer expect to perform at the level of people who’ve been training for years. I’ll go and be present, and learn what I can. I will be open. And maybe I’ll see that I don’t need gold stars to be exceptional. Will you join me? You are exceptional, and doing and being go hand in hand. Do what you enjoy, Do what you must, and whatever you Do, Be.