Get Better, Work Better, Right Now

Businessman looking at calendar on tabletYou have an obligation to yourself. Put it on your calendar if that's what it takes.

By Bill Reeb

Whatever you decide you want to improve or accomplish takes effort. Relationships take effort. Your job takes effort. Having fun takes effort.

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Know that whatever is important to you could easily start to wither away if you don’t give it the right amount of attention.

Imagine that you are growing tomatoes. On a very regular and consistent basis, if you want ripe juicy tomatoes to eat, they need care – a little water, a little sun, a little nourishment, protection from insects or birds. Too much or too little water and they are dead. Too much or too little sun and they are dead. Too much or too little protection and they are ruined. If you want homegrown tomatoes, you have to be diligent about giving them the amount of care that is needed.

Whatever you are trying to achieve in your life requires the same dynamic as growing tomatoes. In martial arts training, when you come in to work out at the school, you need to be there in mind, body and spirit. We are not there for an aerobic workout; we are there to get better right then.

Just as with growing tomatoes, it is about putting the right amount of effort into your daily regimen. If you want to come in and train for two weeks, giving each workout a marginal effort, and then train at your maximum once every couple of weeks, that is an example of working worse, not better.

As overachievers, this is a critical area for us to monitor – putting in the time but not focusing the effort.

That kind of approach is similar to underwatering your tomatoes for 13 days and then flooding them on the 14th. Good things don’t come from this type of approach for either the tomatoes or for humans. So, we have to be accountable to ourselves and think, “It is up to me to take responsibility to always try to find ways to work better, to get better, right now. I need to be vigilant about adding the right amount of effort, not too little (as I won’t be pushing myself), but not too much (because I will hurt myself), so that I can sustain this focus over a long period of time.”

Included in this same theme is the idea that we have to “be included in our own calendars.” Recently,  coaching an overachiever friend, we had a discussion about things she wanted to do to improve her life. During those discussions, she talked about fulfilling her obligations at work, meeting the expectations of her kids, taking care of her aging mother and father, spending time with her husband and so on. As she finished her story,  she said, “As soon as I get all of that taken care of, I can focus on what is important to me.” The problem is ... that time will  never come!

I am not suggesting that you don’t have obligations to others. But I am emphatically reminding you that you also have an obligation to yourself. You need to treat “taking care of yourself” and “fulfilling your desires” as to-do items on your own life calendar and understand that they deserve some of your attention on a regular basis.

One more thought occurs to me as I discuss this topic. It is based on a phrase in John’s martial arts schools philosophy. As you do the work, be firm enough with yourself that you stay focused and push yourself to the edge every day to get better. But also be gentle enough that you realize that

  • we are not always at our best,
  • our lives are complicated and
  • giving it your best effort every day is not the same as being the best you can be every day.

So be gentle enough with yourself that you can get better and working better even when you are operating at a subpar performance level.

Self-assessment on working better

What are you doing to find ways to work better, get better right now?

Where in your life are you misallocating your resources – either overwatering or underwatering something that is important to you?

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