To simplify our lives, we tend to characterize or judge many things by “yes or no”, “this or that”, or “either or” as examples. Generalizations spoken with confidence during each day of our lives. Using one of only two extremely opposite possibilities to characterize a lot of what we see and experience each day.
When looking at our own day, all of us say that we either “had a good day” or “a bad one”. I’ve done this many times throughout my life. We get depressed when things don’t go well in our day. And then create stories as to why we were the victim.
What is more interesting to think about is what we miss
when we only use good or bad as our descriptors.
It’s that our performance during our day is always uneven. We are often misled when we finish something thinking that it means we did it well.
I was reminded of this the other night, while leading a group meeting of about fifty people that lasted two and a half hours, I came out of the meeting feeling pretty good at what was accomplished. In a review with a small group of my colleagues after the meeting, they pointed things out that could have been better. Why they even said that there were some things I did wrong.
But I thought I did good? (My pesky ego begins to appear to protect me. They did say that overall they thought the meeting went well. But they said it first before their other critical feedback. After what I heard, did they really mean it went well?)
My self-evaluation was based on whether I did good. Only two possibilities. As you see, this was not the case. I felt disappointed that I didn’t see what, in hindsight, they said I did wrong or could have done better. What others thought was important, I didn’t. Things they felt were important, I never considered. After hearing their feedback, I agree with them. There were some things I could have handled differently.
Life is fluid. It ebbs and flows. And we forget that.
Moment by moment throughout our day. At all times, we either are at our best or we are not. Sometimes the challenge before us matches our level of skill or experience and sometimes it does not. We sometimes answer questions briefly (never explaining ourselves) and other times we answer thoughtfully with nuance. Never taking the time to see if we were understood or not.
Distractions in our day, that keep us from focusing deeply, can contribute to our uneven performances as well. Or even simply being tired, hungry, angry, worried or restless can strengthen our uneven performances.
While we think of one issue to address within a larger challenge, we may miss the importance of considering a different perspective that may lead us to a different next step and a different outcome. Even though we are the constant between, what could be, two very different outcomes.
Within the work we are doing right now, there are things we could be doing better. Always. This is even true of our relationships. Our performance in them, usually, is even more uneven.
Many talk about life as a journey. I, being one of them.
It is our uneven performances, each day and throughout our day,
that confirms how fragile life, relationships, and progress really is.
Humans are not railroad engines who are always blessed with a fixed direction and power to travel towards an outcome that’s certain. We are more like water in a river. Sometimes we can navigate the twists and bends before us. Other times we hit the shore. Missing the mark that we wanted to achieve.
CONSISTENCY OF EFFORT and CONTINUAL TRYING confirm why the long term means so much more than what we do in a day. It’s exactly because of our inconsistency that we need more than a day to get things right or make them better.