When I was younger I spent time with friends in the evening and on weekends in a gym. We worked out hard with weights. I attempted to “beef up.” I was rather skinny as a kid. It was a great past time as well as a social event. Eventually, I took up jogging and participating in 10K races in and around my home. During the warmer months, I went fishing and hiking with the guys on weekends, which eventually gave way to golf. From my teenage years, I had always practiced meditation on and off. Mostly off to be honest, but as I got older that too has become more important to me.
I have often said we would be better off if we would “stop trying to be perfect,” and instead, work on “perfecting our process!” For professional athletes (though perhaps referred to slightly differently), perfecting your process is a practice or routine that when implemented, prepares the athlete for high-level competition. It refers to how they train, exercise, eats, sleeps, gets support, prepares mentally, etc. If you are not an athlete, “perfecting your process” is still a discipline, a collection of activities or rituals that you practice, that, similarly, prepares you for high-level performance. This is true for our personal and our professional lives.
Perfecting our process involves discovering a few enjoyable or interesting activities that we can practice regularly, making into a discipline. Okay, I’ve said that. Many of us run, work out, meditate, visualize, give ourselves pep talks, work with coaches. All these activities are aimed at putting us into the most amenable state of mind possible, our personal “flow zone.” This might also be called “mind management.” In a few other words, it’s seeding our subconscious.
Whether your personal competition refers to corporate communications, relations with extended family members, kids, spouse, dates or work-related colleagues, a regular training session with your Psychologist or coach might just help you to focus your attention on your most applicable strengths and remind you where your weakness need to be avoided. You can call this a strategy session, a counseling session, training or simply preparation, but the upshot is your personal process gets improved. Personally, I enjoy the process of meditation as it provides me with the opportunity to pay attention to the quality of my mind, and normally calms and assists me to focus, but running still contributes, as does the reading, writing a little, golf, etc.
Stop trying to be perfect! You may succeed from time to time, even often, but it may also give you anxiety, ulcers and you will not really be performing at your best anyway. Take a lesson from sports psychology. A professional athlete trains hard but also gives herself recovery time. It’s mandatory unless you want to burn out or don’t care about really getting the best out of yourself. Pat Perez, a longtime PGA golf professional, personified this concept by winning the 2016 OHL Classic at Mayakoba on the Mexican Riviera. Pat said that a shoulder surgery had “forced” him to take a break that he would not have taken otherwise. Because of the break, you might say that Pat’s subconscious had been tuned up. He was fresh, eager, hungry and that added to his already strong golf acumen. The rest is history.
If you have a deep desire to excel, love what you do, maintain a degree of ambition, or a strong work ethic, you may also have a tendency to push yourself too much. Pushing is great, but mandatory recovery time only makes sense, to adequately prepare your mind and emotions to achieve at your very best. My advice to athletes is to find a rhythm of push and rest, push and rest, push and rest. My advice to anyone else who wants to perform at their best is to also find a rhythm for yourself. A process that prepares you to meet the challenges of your life. That’s the general look and feel of “perfecting your process.”
The specific mechanics of “perfecting your process” is unique, for each individual will have a different competitive focus. Strengths and weaknesses are unique for each one of us. To be clear, I am still referring to a “process” that you engage in, a ritual practice or discipline. One that focuses on continuously trying to be aware of yourself (your mind or emotional energy) and your own habits. When you’re feeling charged up emotionally it is time to push yourself and your efforts, just like Pat Perez did. When you have been pushing yourself for the day or for any extended period, there comes a point when it’s time to give yourself a moment to recover and rejuvenate yourself.
To illustrate, say I know that I have a tendency to anger easily, curse, insult or generally push others away. It eventually comes to my attention that these automatic responses have been in my way of developing into a better leader, and I have a great desire to improve my leadership abilities and to more effectively influence others. “Perfecting my process” means, in this situation, that I need to change or do something different, right?
So, my process begins when I become aware of my weakness, and should continue by cultivating a greater awareness of my related strengths, which I can use to replace my weakness. My process should continue to include a way to continuously cultivate a greater detailed awareness of my weakness’ “trigger points,” which are normally stress-related. This greater detail will help me to refine my efforts.
I’m not always angry. But I should be aware of those specific situations that do tend to anger me. Then moving forward, strategizing about how to best perfect my approach allows me to focus more on letting my strengths show and avoiding those times and situations that otherwise demonstrate my weakness. This is often accomplished through rest and recovery. Refine my strategy. Consider or analyze, and refine again. Since we do not ever reach perfection, we find ourselves in a continuous “process of refinement” that I like to call “perfecting our process.”
Anytime we can become more aware of the details of how we tend to behave (as in the examples above), we have an opportunity to be able to stop, and redirect our energy onto something more positive or more productive. Say I catch myself starting to feel angry. I begin a quiet little meditation, and voila!
As a result, I may look and feel more credible to others, those whom I may want to influence. The best part is, I start to feel great, confident, happy, well-adjusted, and to have even more very functional relationships. That is an example of “perfecting your process,” and remember, it all started when I was younger, spending time with friends in the gym, jogging, fishing, and hiking, which eventually gave way to golf. Perhaps more important than anything was that I had always practiced meditation.
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