Doing the undoable

I did a half ironwoman last weekend.

For those of you not in the know (and there's no reason why you should be), that's a 1.9km swim, followed by a 90km bike, topped off with a 21.1km run. 

I did this half ironwoman because I thought that I probably couldn't. Perhaps not the strongest grounds to sign up for something, but that is what happened.

When I made this decision in May last year, I was terrified by the prospect of swimming 50 metres, let alone 1,900 metres. A month before the race, the thought of open water swimming still failed to evoke even a trace of enthusiasm.

But on Saturday, I felt excited. I had my friends around me, the sun above me and my training behind me. 

It occurs to me that this often happens in life. We think that we can't do something until we can. The key thing is giving it a go, and seeing what happens. When we don't know, we seek outside advice. When we fall short, we know where to improve. When something doesn't quite fit, we try something else. 

It then occurs to me that many people (myself included) are rather attached to the idea of perfection. It is such a shiny thing; so pretty and polished. But my past experiences with perfection, usually in the work sphere, have often ended in devastation. Devastation on my part, for not living up to expectations I impose on myself that noone would (or at least noone should) ever impose on me.

Perfection leaves no room for 'giving it a go'. Perfection demands instant and seamless execution. 

In fact, perfection would demand that I only sign up for a half ironwoman when I know I can gain a podium finish, or at least a placing in the top 10. 

And so I can't help but conclude that perfection doesn't get you places. Perfection shuts you out from places you could otherwise go. For where will we find the room to grow if we don't give ourselves the room to fall short?

Instead of aiming for perfection, I opted for experimentation. The result was 6 hours and 27 minutes of pure joy. Not because my body was fresh (it wasn't), but because in those moments, I was doing something that I had originally dismissed as undoable. 

I'm soon moving into another era of experimentation. This time, I am experimenting with my mind instead of my body. I'm excited to see where the stretch of my imperfect thinking takes me.

Where could yours take you?

Anna Watson2 Comments