Have you been tuning into John Krasinski’s web series, Some Good News? If you haven’t, there are few things that I would recommend more as a source of joy and hope in these times of change. And if you have, then you likely understand and share the appreciation I have for it.
In the recent graduation themed episode, my appreciation expanded beyond the usual sentiments because it led me to some introspection that I feel compelled to share. Despite my own college graduation dating back 7 years now, the charges made to this year’s graduates spurred me on and challenged me to evaluate my own life.
Apart from the (what feels like) routine reminder for me to step out of my comfort zones and reject my fear of failure, the most significant words I heard came from Jon Stewart’s commencement conversation with a young grad. In response to the question “now what?” Jon pointed out that after graduation, you enter into a world where no one is grading you anymore. So his advice was:
“Stop completing things,
and start living them.”
These words struck a deep chord for me. Because I realized how much I have lived my life to be graded or measured. As an enneagram 1, I want to measure up. I want to meet and exceed standards. I like the satisfaction of completing things. In hindsight I think that played a big role in my success in school. But it wasn’t until I heard Jon’s words that I considered how I have been unconsciously seeking new standards to measure myself by ever since I received my diploma. I’ve bounced from one measurement to the next, creating confusion and overwhelm regarding how I’m supposed to be living my life. I’ve measured myself in my job status, my job type, my job performance, my fitness level, my weight, my appearance, my ability to achieve goals, my social life – just to name a few. And I can guess that if I asked a handful of people how they try to measure up, they may hold to a variety of other categories. There are so many ways that we could measure or grade ourselves. But there’s two significant problems when we do. One, it can lead us to a life of comparison, which sets us up for a constant cycle of pride and insecurity as we consider ourselves ahead or behind others (which can also be extremely detrimental to how we relate to others). And two, it leads us to find our worth and value as a person in how we measure up to constantly fluctuating, vague standards. Talk about an exhausting identity rollercoaster ride that leaves you feeling defeated or unsure of who you are by the end.
So what if we ditched the need to measure up? What if we silenced the pressure to meet the mark? I certainly don’t mean we should give up trying at things or challenging ourselves. What I mean is doing what Jon Stewart suggested – stop completing things, and start living them.
Stop treating life like we are working for a grade at the end of it. Stop doing things just to say we did them. Stop turning life into a task, because it’s so much more complex than finished products and checked boxes. And rather than struggle to figure out HOW to measure up, we can be freed up to believe that it’s not about measuring up at all. We’ve all been leveled at the foot of the cross. The work has already been finished.
So let’s get out there and go for it.
Stop completing things. Stop doing things just to check them off. Instead, enjoy them. Make the most of them. Fail at them, and try again at them. Find inspiration from them. Learn from them. Suck all the goodness you can out of them. Live them.
I hope that this resonates with at least someone, and I hope I’m at least making some kind of sense. I’m definitely still processing through this, because it’s challenging a way of thinking that I didn’t even fully realize I had. But in light of what this post is all about, I’m sharing the incompleteness. I don’t have it all figured out. In fact, everything I share on this blog I try to share not from the position of an expert, but from the perspective of a fellow traveler on this journey of life. So let’s all get out there and go for it. Together.
Until next time,