SkyBox Guest Blog by Claire Parker
I don’t think it’s something new that many of us hold ourselves to achievable high expectations. If you’re somebody with a bit of drive and a bit of pride, you want to do well. I especially don’t buy into the idea that this is a recent phenomena caused by social media and a desire to compete with others. I think the tendency to accept nothing less than perfection is a product of thousand little messages we hear right from the beginning, telling us that we must always do our best. The reality, however, is that can develop into perfectionism, which is actually counter-productive to progress.
I wholeheartedly believe that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.
That might sound ridiculous, and it might not sound like a lesson I should have spent 30 out of my 31 years learning, but bear with me. Before I decided that this sentiment was going to be my (seemingly anti-motivational) mantra, every time I strived toward a goal, I would invariably encounter a hurdle that stopped me in my tracks. The obstacle would get in the way of what I considered to be success: giving it 100%, perfection, ‘achieving my full potential’. Each time, I would throw the whole ambition out the window because, in my mind, if I couldn’t ‘do it well’ – I had already failed.
There were exercise regimes I gave up on because I missed two sessions in a row, healthy eating kicks I abandoned because I had a single biscuit with my afternoon coffee, ambitions at work I never pursued because I wasn’t satisfied with every single aspect of my performance yet. I kept finding myself disappointed and unfulfilled because life, and little imperfections, kept getting in the way of my plans.
I was pretty miserable, to be honest.
I can’t say there was a particular moment that spurred a change but, at the start of 2018, I decided I had to do something different. This time, I would just keep coming back to whatever challenge I set myself. If I fell off the bandwagon, I wouldn’t beat myself up about it – I’d just get back on it again. Simple. Weirdly, cutting myself some slack turned out to be the best thing for being productive in working toward my goals.
One of the first ways I noticed the impact of this change was when I signed up to a beginner’s workshop at SkyBox. I had done ‘boxercise’ classes before and vaguely enjoyed them, so when the next wave of motivation for becoming more active arrived, boxing was the first thing that popped into my mind. The new mindset meant that I turned up to my first lesson prepared to 1) be bad at it, 2) get unreasonably sweaty and 3) basically look like an idiot.
For once, I wasn’t interested in ‘doing it well’.
My only goal was to keep coming back.
Without all the pressure of my own sky high expectations, I did keep coming back. And I improved! The awesome people I had met at SkyBox, including coaches Teegan and Adrian, encouraged me. They pointed out my progress. They showed me how to get better. They celebrated my growth and cheered me on. That little bit of success sparked something and, before I knew it, I was training 4 – 5 times a week, eating well so I had the energy to get the most out of each class and sleeping better than I had in…ever. It was also the first time I had truly enjoyed a form of exercise because I didn’t get down on myself for not being good at it from word go! I just focused on building my skills, and my health was better than it had been in a long time; weight was falling off me.
I was less stressed too, not just because of the exercise but because I’d stopped thinking that it was necessary to give 100% and be at my best for EVERYTHING. I had been pushing myself to the point of being burnt out and not actually being able to do ANYTHING well. It had been exhausting. Just doing what I could, being prepared to suck at something and giving myself a break once in a while had seen me make progress in my boxing, and I was applying it in all areas of my life.
This isn’t to say I have miraculously done a 180 and changed my whole life in one easy step. In fact, the point of this whole piece of writing is say the opposite. When it came to maintaining my dedication to boxing, I had SO. MANY. SETBACKS. Two weeks in, I managed to injure my sacroiliac joint getting out of bed (yep, at 30 years of age). I couldn’t comfortably bear weight and move for weeks. There were a whole lot of busy periods when I had to take hours of work home with me every day. My sleep schedule would periodically go haywire (who can possibly be bad at sleeping? Me, apparently). Sometimes, all these things built up and I’d be too tired or too anxious to face going to a boxing class. On top of that, nearly every day, I had some kind of complaint about my latest difficulty with food. Again and again, healthy eating approaches had to be revised and overhauled as my nutrition needs changed with my training schedule, and I encountered problem after problem with food intolerance. It felt impossible to keep on track.
When everything got on top of me, there was one or two… okay maybe quite a few times, I’d just eat an entire packet of biscuits in a day and nothing else. I can’t say it made for the best energy source before a boxing class, but my new approach meant I was still going to cut myself some slack and count my wins. I had eaten (badly) and I had trained (badly), and doing it badly is better than not doing it at all. That’s how new habits are formed – by being prepared to turn up and put in the effort, even when you aren’t certain you can do it well.
That’s why I found myself signing up to fight in a Charity Boxing event by the end of 2018. It was something I knew was worth doing; just stepping in that ring would give me a huge sense of satisfaction and achievement. It didn’t matter if I did it well – I was just going to do it. Getting fight ready and putting myself on the line in front of that huge crowd was definitely the biggest challenge I’ve ever set for myself. I grew so much from that experience and I would never have had that opportunity if I was still focused on doing only the things I knew I could do well. Nobody learns when they’re in their comfort zone. If you’re wondering whether I won, you’ve kind of missed the point. And the footage is available on Facebook if you really have to know!
The point is, there were plenty of times I could have just thrown in the towel. I could have just said that, because I couldn’t always do this well, it wasn’t worth doing. I could have put off developing a more healthy lifestyle until I had more time, wasn’t injured and had my diet issues under control. But that isn’t realistic. For all the effort I put in, there will still be times I’m not operating at 100%, perfectly, to my full potential. Nobody is at their best for every minute of every single day!
I used to get so frustrated and feel so disheartened when I struggled on those off days, or when my health prevented me from training and my fitness declined. That was when the team at SkyBox would give me a much needed reality check. Sure, I might be disappointed that I hadn’t improved my time on a particular warm-up activity, but it wasn’t that long ago that I would have dismissed the prospect of doing non-stop sets of sit-ups, squats and push-ups (on my toes!) AT ALL, let alone as a casual warm-up before the real workout begins. A total loss of 20kgs and three dress sizes definitely suggests that I’m much better at this exercise and diet thing than I used to be.
All those times I just turned up, despite the food issues, problems sleeping, having to buy new gym clothes because I didn’t have time to go home – they had all made a difference. Every day, life will throw another spanner in the works and you can only do so much in the given circumstances. You might even have to do it badly.
But if something is worth doing, you’ll make a hell of a lot more progress doing it badly than not doing it at all.