Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ideal Self

It would be a bold undertaking indeed, to be one's ideal self for even an hour, much less regularly. The idea keeps coming up in my mind. When I want a behavior change, rewards usually work pretty well. But most rewards that interest me are not ideal, often involving too much sugar or cash. Ideally, being one's best would be its own reward. I've yet to have that work, maybe I haven't held out long enough.

I could start by figuring out exactly what this individual would look like. I know she would be less self-involved and more altruistic. I also know that I'm much more interested in getting into Barbie doll physical condition, which is not likely to happen, and a waste of time to attempt. (But doing it wouldn't rule out altruism; it's not either/or.) Obviously, my first bold step would be for my operating systems to get a clear idea of what my Real Best would be. Or maybe this is just procrastination, and I should go straight to work at a soup kitchen this minute, without much more than a glance in a mirror, or any further nattering over self-improvement.

Do you feel you're living at your potential much or most of the time? What does that mean? How'd you get there?

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K.B. said...

When I worked as an actress, I had to work out about 4 hours a day to stay at working weight. It really sucked. Knowing that this is what I have to do to look like my "best", I generally settle for a level where I don't have to work out as much as in the old days, but I still feel attractive and comfy in my body.

That's about...oh, 30-40 pounds from where I am now. I'm going to try to lose 20 of that this year...

Debra W said...

Peggy, your brutal honesty really impresses me. I think that one of the first steps to self-awareness is admitting the characteristics that we find less than flattering about ourselves. Not necessarily to the point of tearing ourselves completely apart, but a good honest look with the balance of recognizing what is good, as well.

In answer to your question, no, I don't feel that I am living up to my potential much or most of the time, but I am trying. I guess that's part of the reason I asked you about your plan to "defuse the resistance" in your life. I'm not really sure what living at my potential would mean because I think that regardless of where I am, there is always more that I could be doing to improve. Therefore, I am not sure that it is possible to ever fully live at one's potential.

I have so much left to explore, as I have spent more than half of my life working at the job of parenting full-time. I do think that I have done that pretty well, but it didn't leave me a whole lot of time to explore MY potential as an individual. I was very busy encouraging the potential of others. During the next stage of my life which won't fully begin for another few years, I think that it will be time for me to work on the questions that you posed. Am I happy with the work that I have achieved as a full-time mom? Yes, for the most part, I think I have done a pretty great job with my girls. Was there more I could have done to live up to my potential? Sure there was, but I cannot take too much time to dwell on the things I might have done differently.

Great post, and very thought-provoking! And I am SO SORRY that I missed your birthday, but I can absolutely guarantee you that I will remember it from hereon out! January 7 is my second daughter, Rachel's birthday, too! I knew there was a reason that I like you so much! HAPPY, HAPPY belated BIRTHDAY, dear heart! You are truly a gift to this world.


Mike C said...

Loved the blog yesterday about altruism and seeking the best self.

If we aware beings (versus being simple alimentary canals with legs) then we're like bugs around a light. We keep trying for the light, perfection, with a persistence that is stunningly wonderful. When we don't reach it we back up, gather strength, and try again.

And you're right, the first objective is to figure out what your goal is. If it is something tangible, like a specific weight, then the process is simple: set the goal, break the goal into tasks, break the tasks into little bits, and then reward yourself for completion of each bit.

However, if the goal is intangible, such as to feel more altruistic then do these two things: give $1 to each homeless person you see at stopsigns and stoplights, and catch more people doing things right. The total money outlay at the end of the year won't really be that much. Catching people doing things right, and praising them, giving them a pat on the back, creates an "attitude of gratitude" in your world, and, on a day-to-day basis, that's about altruistic as it gets.

Back on the path.

Peggy Payne said...

What wonderful thoughtful responses!

And Welcome, MIKE C. I like your altruism approach of two kinds of practical, "rememberable" daily action: very different styles too. It is a pleasure to give heartfelt compliments; and so easy. On the give a dollar idea--I did something like that when the situation in Bosnia was driving me crazy in an unhealthy way (as if there's a healthy way.)I sent toiletries to an address that had requested them for the rape victims there. It was amazing how that relieved my agitation, probably helped me a lot more than it helped anyone there.

Debbie, as always, I so appreciate your message. It's obvious to me from following them on our blog that you've done great with your daughters.

K.B., I'm impressed by your goal for this year. I find food, weight, and body image a great challenge. I'm convinced you're going to arrive exactly where you want to. I'm also pretty sure I'm not, as a sixty year-old nonathlete, going to take the trouble to become Olympic Barbie. But that's no excuse not to do my daily dozen.

Peggy Payne said...

Also, K.B., the mere thought of daily four-hour workouts would drive me to a career change.

Mojo said...

I see the idea of "being the best I can be" as a little too vague for me to grasp. I can't get my head around the whole picture... it's just too big and too out of focus.

So instead, I simply try to make the right decision, do the right thing based on what's in front of me at the moment. It's not a "path to a better me", because a path suggests that there's an ultimate destination, the "best" me I can achieve. A point beyond which I can't improve. And I'm not convinced that such a point exists -- or even if I want to reach it.

I guess what I'm getting at is that this isn't a "progressive" journey, it's simply a random collection of opportunities that present all the time. So rather than A-to-B, it's A and B... and everything in between that finds itself in my path each day.

Which probably makes not even a little bit of sense to anyone else, but it works for me.

Peggy Payne said...

I think that's a great way to go about it. Probably "ideal." And it's how I operate for much of the time. And then I get to a point where I think: enough good decisions for today. Some overall goal or ideal might at that point inspire me.

K.B. said...

I don't think that would work for me, though I can see how it works for others. I'm a planner. I like to have several different plans for any given situation going any which way. And when I make decisions, I always have to have an overall goal in front of me to go to, the most over-arching being "do everything I want to do before I die", if that's not being too morbid. :) Otherwise, my decisions seem to be like scattershot -- they might help me hit my target, they might not.

I can always tell when I'm getting a little lost along the way. I have a lot of energy and I do a lot of things, regardless of goals and journeys, but sometimes when I lose sight of my goals in either a general way or a more issue related way, I notice that my energies are scattered and unfocused. I've spent certain periods of my life with my energies going in all directions at once, and so I end up going basically nowhere.

Goals for me!

Peggy Payne said...

Some of my goals are so large and long-term that it actually is frustrating to pay too much attention to them. I deal with these by what I want to get done in that direction today and this week.

I do like goals; for one thing, they allow list-making and list-checking-off.