This must be a joke.
Yet there it sat occupying my In-Box. “Ridiculous,” I said to myself. Because of that sheer ridiculousness, I deleted the email thinking it too spam-ish.
“Hold on,” I thought. “Did that email actually say what I think it said in the subject line?”
I un-deleted the email and from the electronic dust bin just to be sure.
Yup; Outlook didn’t lie…
It read: “Do Everything Right in 2018”.
It gets worse, or “better” depending on one’s perspective.
The body of the email, sent by RALLY a wellness app promoted by United Healthcare and the State that I work for, boasted that the email offered my “Guide to Mastering 2018”.
Not even a month into the new year and my ability to “master” this thing called 2018 is boldly being questioned. For the sake of argument, if I did have a “great 2017” why the hell would I be arrogant or greedy to want something better than great.
As of the 16th of the month my success at achieving better appears in considerable doubt if not teetering on the precipice of complete jeopardy. So much so that my healthcare insurer feels the need to intervene.
Thankfully, this guide promises assistance so that I might finally become The Master of My Destiny. Ok, not my entire destiny — that would be ridiculous. No, they’re only committing to 2018. Sensible, I suppose given my track record of f-ing things up. Which led me to wonder…
How long have they been watching me?
The message’s hyperlinks radiated potential as they glowed a magic blue just waiting for me to leap headfirst into “right-ness”. After all the journey to perfection begins with a single click of the trackpad.
Apparently what held me back in the old year was my inability to eat vegetables correctly.
Well, that certainly explains why 2017 sucked so badly.
Here I was blaming Tump for the veritable “shithole” that 2017 had become when in fact it was due to the fact that I don’t know the proper way to consume vegetable matter.
Turns out not only wasn’t I eating vegetables the right way, but I don’t know how to sleep. Also, I’m too busy to work out — Who isn’t? And I can’t sit still long enough to meditate right — Who can? Even the Dali Llama struggles, or so he says.
Really I’m glad they emailed me because I didn’t know that I was doing all these things wrong and how much this held me back. After all, nothing is less helpful than complete strangers pointing out your shortcomings.
All of which leads me to question:
Is “doing everything right” even possible? Are there actually people who get up every morning repeating the mantra let’s “do everything right”? A better question would be are they successfully doing everything right?
Our culture obsesses over self-improvement. We’ve come to a point where we’re obsessed with metrics and the overall question related to progress. I’ll certainly cop to be part of this problem. I got a FitBit watch for Christmas and have been combing over the data for the past month. And, I’ll also admit to toeing the line of being moderately obsessed with how steps, how many glasses of water, how many days of exercise and how many hours I’ve slept.
I have reasons for this though: my hope is to fully rehab my knee and run a marathon in 2018. That means training and training means tracking patterns and charting progress. However none of this defines me as a person, as a human being. It’s just data.
Still, our culture markets to our deficits. We receive more messages reminding us about what we’re not rather than reminders of what we are.
We are never good enough; we are constantly told to strive for better and hope for more. Is this a bad thing? Not always but it can be a trap. One of my favorite bloggers Mark Manson wrote a great article about this last summer entitled “What’s the Point of Self-improvement Anyway?” To quote Manson:
Think about it: The whole goal of improving your productivity is to reach the point where you never have to think about how to be more productive. The whole point of pursuing happiness is to reach the point where one no longer has to think about being happy… Self-improvement is therefore, in a weird way, ultimately self-defeating.
The question to ask in this case is: Will mastering 2018 make you happy in 2018? Or will attempting to master the new you in the new year just make you obsessive about becoming, well, better? Maybe it’s all about trying to improve — the journey and the process — and less about actually exerting control over those uncontrollable aspects of our lives.
Defining Better; Defining Mastery
The real question becomes not should we strive for “better” but how to define what “better” looks like. In the Jan/Feb 2018 Issue of Runners World magazine its an article titled “Yes, You are a Runner”.
The article is mostly photos of men and women, accompanied by blurbs in their own words. For the most part, these runners would be people you’d encounter on the road or the trail and you’d think they have no business running.
Most of them, on the outside, do not have what one might consider a “runner’s physique”. All of them love to run but at one point were held back by a mantra a self-doubt which keeps them from lacing up their shoes and heading out. They thought things such as: I’m not healthy enough to run, I don’t run a lot, I’m too heavy to run, I don’t look like a runner, I don’t want to race.
One day each of them pushed the self-doubt aside and said, “Screw it; I am a runner.”
Thank you RALLY, but no.
The health insurer people at RALLY mean well, I’m sure they do. Yes, they have their reasons for wanting me to be healthier and that’s fine. What’s not fine is defining “right” for me or anyone else.
So, RALLY, I am all set. I have no interest in mastering 2018.
I have no interest in pressuring myself to do everything right. In fact I fully expect to do quite a few things wrong in 2018 and I’m ok with that.
I’m fine with not taking 10,000 steps every day, or drinking 64 ounces of water a day, or sleeping 8 hours every night, or eating beets the right way.
I have to come back to Mark Manson on this one: “The only way to truly achieve one’s potential, to become fully fulfilled, or to become “self-actualized” … is to, at some point, stop trying to be all of those things.” This seems like a delicate point so often overlooked.
At any rate, if you’re not making mistakes then your not human. I want to be human, and I’d really like to be more human in 2018 rather than become a master of it.