There is a moment in every trip I’ve taken with my sons that is perfect. One was during a monsoon in New Orleans when we were huddled together under an overhang waiting for the squall to pass. The storm changed our plans for the day and the din of the rain and the wind made it impossible to talk, but being with them watching the oaks sway and the rainfall was somehow perfect.
I’m not writing this to laude my parenting skills (far from it!). However, these moments do make me wonder how many perfect moments are overlooked every day because they don’t look like we think they should. How much energy and angst do we invest in trying to steer the people and events in our lives a certain direction? Moreover, how do we whip ourselves for not performing to an arbitrary level? What about all of the wasted regret over what we didn’t do or say?
As addictive as guilt and regret can be, there is only one way out and that is forward. You are welcome to stay right where you are, but if you desire a different outcome, you have to do something you’ve never done. That may sound obvious, or terrifying, or confusing, and the time to start is now.
What’s the next right thing to do?
I love this question, which I am borrowing from Mathew Kelly, the author of many books including The Rhythm of Life. When I am stuck and unable to see any kind of perfection around me, asking this question can reveal the next step. Taking that next step is the practice, which can lead to perfection.
The next step can become a ritual you can rely on to take you where you want to go. Do you want to lose 20 pounds? You can’t do it in a day, but you can walk for 30 minutes every morning and not eat after 7pm at night.
Do you want to have more energy? You can establish a ritual of turning off the tv and taking a bath every night before bed, so you sleep better.
Do you wish to finish a half marathon? Today you may have to walk, but eventually you will run if you do the next right thing.
Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.
To me, being caught in the rain with my sons that day was a perfect moment. This is a perfect moment because I am able to write this for you (and me). You know the next right thing to do, and even if every moment isn’t perfect, the practice of moving forward will bring you a little closer to your perfection.