The Thursday Thesis - 11/7/2019
“...what would life be like if everything in it were perfect?” asked the weasel-faced bloke in the shiny trousers.
That was the moment he lost his credibility, and my mind wandered off in search of something less tedious amongst the stands and demonstrations at The Best You – an annual self-help event held in London.
You see, I don’t believe in the perfectible self or a perfectible life: there are no such things.
Nobody is perfect, and nobody I have ever met or heard of could possibly claim to have a perfect life.
And this is why I think self-help gurus are off the mark when they peddle the idea of having a perfect life and meeting the perfect person, having the perfect kids and the perfect whatever else you might hanker after.
Is self-help a cult which sells the illusions of perfection to its devotees?
No, because the guidance provided by the self-help movement and the weasel with the blow-dried hair sometimes works and turns lives around. At the same time, however, it hypes its promises and massively oversells the prospects of being better versions of ourselves.
What might be better, more honest – less scammy and tainted by the whiff of snake oil?
How about setting aside the idea of everything being perfect and facing up to reality instead?
Since perfection is a myth, maybe a more honest pitch would suggest becoming an interim, better version of ourselves instead: not The Best version – just better.
Not The Ideal Self – just the latest and best version, to date.
Just Better is an improvement, and that better you can be a springboard to the next, even better version of yourself, and that next version the springboard to the version which follows it...
Russian sports psychologists dismissed the Ideal Self as an uninspiring and unachievable illusion.
They urged their elite sportsmen and women to aim – not for a Perfect or Ideal Self – but to become better versions of themselves, over time.
The athletes were asked to visualise what they would be like if they were better than they currently
were, then to adopt the habits and behaviours of that better version – the “Target Self”.
The athletes were put through this process every few months by their coaches and sports psychologists, refining their Target Self from the new perspective of who they were becoming and recalibrating their Target Self upon their newly-acquired habits, behaviours and attributes which were the results of previous iterations of the process.
Behaviourally, this is like a ratchet which moves a person through self-change by degrees; relying upon the gradual attrition of obstacles and unhelpful behaviour by time and effort.
If The Weasel had asked everybody in the arena “What would a slightly better version of yourself look like in three months’ time look like?” he would have been asking a better, more actionable question than blathering on about your Perfect Life.
But he would have sold a lot less of his books, courses, immersive experiences and mastermind products.
The tragedy is that becoming a little better every three months is doable for almost everyone - but hardly anyone would listen to a speaker who suggested they should pursue that course of action, would they?
The fact is that people are beguiled by the myth of The Perfect Life and The Perfect You because it is so very sexy, and evolving yourself from who you are now - “Version 1.0”, so to speak – into Version 1.1, then to Version 1.3, and so on is deeply unsexy and will require a smidge of effort and self control.
Personally, I’ll take my chances with the upgrade of my Target Self Version to 1.1, and when I’ve completed the upgrade to Version 1.2 I can build Version 1.3, then figure out what Version 1.4 should look like.
The Target Self is never perfect, it is only the next upgrade and the next level of experiment – the next step along the path which goes on forever; always changing, twisting; surprising and delighting, with ups and downs to make it all more fun.
That sounds like a better way to spend our days than being Perfect, doesn’t it?
© Neil Cowmeadow 2019
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