Until I started learning archery, I would have never called myself a perfectionist. I might have admitted "perfectionistic tendencies" at times or overachiever type moments but never full on perfectionism. I was wrong. Archery is showing me that darker perfection seeking side and is transforming (s-l-o-w-l-y) the way I think about life and learning. As it seems to happen with things like this, the universe jumped in and gave me a cue in the form of a book called, The Rise (Sarah Lewis). The subtitle is "Creativity, The Gift of Failure, and The Search for Mastery".
Not surprisingly, the first chapter of the book is entitled, Archer's Paradox. The author talks about how archery requires "a unique and sustained intensity" and that "living on a landscape where an infinitesimal difference in degree leads to a massive difference in outcome is what makes an archer an archer". It's true. Yesterday, I spent three hours at the range trying to work on my thumb placement. It has to be perfectly placed every time, held tight and also (somehow) be relaxed. What?! This leads to heart of the book, the idea of MASTERY.
"Mastery requires endurance. Mastery, a word we don't use often, is not the equivalent of what we might call its cognate- perfectionism- an inhuman aim motivated by a concern with how other view us. Mastery is also not the same as success- an event based victory based on a peak point, a punctuated moment in time. Mastery is not merely a commitment to a goal, but to a curved line, constant pursuit." (Sarah Lewis)
When I read that paragraph, I felt forever changed. Things started to fall like dominoes...so many of my life's most meaningful pursuits were exactly that- a curved line, a constant pursuit. Art, photography, drawing, writing, parenting, relationships, learning...all of these are the opposite of an "event based victory". Yet, in many ways I see myself chasing all of these down as if they can be a peak point. I'll publish my book and it'll be great and then ____. If I can get my kids settled in a good school where they're happy then ____. Don't even get me started on the fantasy I have created around what life would look like if my house could stay clean.