Lately, I've been a bit discouraged and started exhibiting some detrimental, yet familiar, behavior: Staying up late, eating unhealthy foods, wasting time, etc. It's usually how I get when I'm up against a deadline or just have a whole bunch of stress piled up. Not helpful.
I have a nearly impossible cake topper to create that's due in less than four weeks. We're also hosting a family reunion in less than three weeks and there is a huge list of things to get done before that happens. Most of those things can't happen until we have money to do them. The others just take so much organization, work and "umph" that I just get exhausted thinking about them. So, I stop. I escape.
Well, yesterday when I rolled out of bed at 9:53am my eyes caught hold of a book on the bottom shelf of my bedside table that I haven't touched in months. It's a book by Marianne Williamson called, "A Return to Love". What I've read, so far, I absolutely love. My favorite quote from the book (only from what I've already read, that is) is this:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So, as always whenever I have read bits of the book, I began to be inspired to act. But, still, in my laziness, I sat down in front of YouTube and put in a search for Marianne Williamson. I spent another hour listening to one of her lectures about creativity and leadership. It seems the biggest message I ever hear from her is to become the best version of yourself, and that the only way to do that is to have charity. So, I got up. I decided to write down my thoughts, not only so I wouldn't forget them, but also so that they will be further ingrained in my head.
I was remembering a conversation I had with a friend the other day and she was telling me about her weight loss goals and her progress, so far. In the past three years she has lost over seventy pounds, but the most progress has been in the past six months. She had a goal to lose a certain number of pounds by a certain date and if she accomplished that, she would reward herself with a bike. Well, life happened and she got busy and distracted as the deadline came closer. A friend of hers (not me) convinced her that she was asking too much of herself and to set a more realistic goal by cutting her original goal in half. At the time that she was telling me this, I thought, "Yeah, well, you have to be realistic, right? It sounds much more doable. Great idea!"
But then, today as I thought back on that, the thought came to me: What if, instead of cutting the original goal in half, she doubled it? How much more weight would she lose? Now, of course she most likely wouldn't be able to meet that higher goal, but her progress just might be a lot greater if she were to try for it. There is the argument that consistently not meeting short term goals fosters discouragement, which can result in halting progression, altogether. But, I don't think it would, as long as one's consistent efforts foster greater progression towards a bigger goal.
When I was in college I had a very inspired art professor. I had him for Basic Design and again for Figure Drawing. His name is Osral Allred. At the beginning of the semester he told us that we needed to have thick skin to be in his class. He was right. At the beginning of class each day we had to put our completed assignments up on the board for all to see. Then he, along with the class, would critique each student's work. His grading system was 0-10 for each assignment. If you didn't do the assignment at all, of course you got a 0, but a 10 meant perfection! He said that in all his years of teaching art he had never given a 10 on any assignment. Oh, to be that first student to get a 10! It would have been the last, too, because I took Figure Drawing during his very last year before he retired. The healthy competition among my classmates kept us eager and alive! It showed in our work, too, because we weren't competing with each other. We were competing with ourselves. I never would have progressed as much as I did if I had not been reaching for that perfect 10. No, I never did get that 10, but I got a lot of 9's and even scored a 9.5 a couple of times. Could I have gotten a 10, though, if I had just worked harder? I don't know. But the more I progressed, the closer I came to knowing what Osral Allred's perception of perfection was.
I think that's why we are told to become perfect, even as Christ and Heavenly Father are perfect. Can we do it right now? No. But can we do it at all? Yes. We have more than just a semester to reach that goal, and the closer we get to that goal the more we understand what perfection really is, and the more attainable that goal becomes.
The image that comes to mind when I think of reaching that ultimate goal (becoming the best version of ourselves/realizing our potential) is that all too familiar image of trying to get to the top of an escalator that's going down. So many times when I make a little progress toward my goal, I celebrate and then stop progressing. It's as if I am on that escalator and I take one step upwards and stop. I don't stop, though, I just move backwards again. Can I reach the top of the escalator? Yes. How? By doing all I can right now. I don't have to run full-speed, I just have to consistently move upward faster than I was moving downward. It will be hard, but I can do it.
Can I become what Heavenly Father intends me to become? Yes. How? By doing all I can right now. One of my favorite quotes is this, "Man is at his best when reaching for something beyond his grasp." So my next step up that escalator is to figure out what short term goals I need to set right now that will keep me reaching and progressing. It will be hard, but far more rewarding than difficult when I glance back along the way and see how far I've come.