“Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens.” ~Epictetus
Performance reviews. Assessments. Evaluations. The dreaded annual review. Most of us have run into some kind of quality assurance technique while employed in the American workforce, or at least know someone who has.
Evaluations are a regular part of life at my place of employment and something that I am very used to by now. Typically I get good scores and the evaluation includes plenty of praise and positive acknowledgement, along with whatever constructive criticism is appropriate to the work that is being evaluated.
Usually I can look through the evaluation form, note what needs to be noted, and move on. I can accept feedback when needed, use it appropriately, and in turn notice the strengths of others and acknowledge them along the way. I do pretty well, really.
Most days, doing pretty well is enough. But sometimes I get the feeling that there is something missing. That I could still do better. That enough isn’t actually satisfactory. That if I’m not constantly evaluating how I’m doing and striving for something better, there’s something wrong. That in acknowledging others, my voice gets tired and there’s not much left for acknowledging myself.
Even though I can plainly see the strengths in others and even verbalize them regularly, I don’t always notice and acknowledge them in myself. I have a tendency to want acknowledgement but brush it off when it arrives.
I crave being recognized for doing well but hardly know how to react when that craving is satisfied.
When I receive feedback—even when it’s positive—my default reaction is usually set to “how could I do this better?” It’s easy to get stuck inside the idea that there’s always room for improvement, and then turn a blind eye to what has already been improved or what doesn’t need to be.
There is nothing wrong with striving to better one’s self, growing professionally, building skills, or figuring out how to be more effective at what we choose to spend our time doing. But I think that sometimes we spend all of our time figuring out how to better ourselves, how to grow professionally, how to build even better skills, or how to be even more effective.
We get so caught up in growing and getting better that we forget to honor the life we have right now.
I know I get caught up in our culture’s mantra of “more, better, faster” more often than I care to admit.
What if I could take my usually positive outlook and mold it into a way of being that sets my default to accepting wherever I am in my job, or my relationships, or my life situation? What if I could celebrate what is?
What if I could put the focus on the strengths and gifts that I have—like being able to see the good in a challenging situation, or finding the joy that hides under anxiety, or baking a really good loaf of bread, or always knowing where the keys are—and then accept whatever comes from that focus?
What if we all focused on what we already excel at, or what we have bettered already, instead of that thing we feel is a weakness that needs fixing?
Perhaps the intent to celebrate the perfection that we already are would allow us to evolve into a collective that is founded on acceptance and peace and less focused on longing.
Maybe accepting the perfection that lies beneath our struggles can help move us into a space beyond what we think is possible—a space that knows no limits and a space that is simply enough. Period.
Seeking to grow and building on knowledge and presence of being invites excellence by creating space for that excellence to exist and thrive. But perhaps we cannot expand without first truly seeing ourselves as complete.
It could be that the excellence I invite by way of acceptance is different from what I have been taught to strive for over the years. It could be that “living my strengths” means moving slower, or pushing forward less. It could mean resisting the urge to try to be something I’m not. It could mean listening to understand more and listening to respond less.
I think it also means stopping to notice the beauty of a pebble in the rain, or hearing the gentle rustle of leaves when the wind changes direction, or feeling the warmth of the sun after the fog lifts.
It means looking into the eyes of someone different and seeing truth reflected back.
It means accepting myself as whole and complete, and letting that acceptance grow into my own version of perfection.
I could say there is no such thing as a perfect life and that there is always room for improvement and growth. I think I’d be right.
I could say that every life is perfect if allowed to be. And I think I’d still be right.
Living through strengths is not easy. But living through our strengths sets us up to find our unique version of perfection. Accepting whatever that perfections looks like reminds us that we are enough.
Photo by Gregory Tonon