I am pleasantly buzzing on a high but ruminating on the afterthought of my second ‘2.0 Toronto’ Master Workshop that happened this past Sunday, May 29th, at Misfitstudio. I am experiencing ambivalent sensations of happiness and helplessness, satisfaction and self-doubt, gratitude and discontent.
Why can’t I just bask in the enjoyment without any critical thoughts?
Why am I already thinking about the next 2.0 workshop?
Why is my brain not letting me feel 100% satisfied?
This ambivalent state of mind has always been a part of me. After each of my achievements, I am pleased with my efforts and performance, but that feeling never lingers for long…. “on to the next one” repeats and repeats.
Ironically though, to give this feeling some credit, it is responsible for all of my accolades and successes, and the rate at which I am currently achieving them. The feeling of never being quite fully satisfied pushes me to get better and better, to the point of mastery beyond my competition, and beyond expectation. Without this underlying perfectionism, this unrelenting yearning for mastery, I would not be writing this blog, nor would I have this unique ability to deeply self-reflect. Although I am grateful for this habit in my psyche, I can’t stop there. I am intrigued and curious about this phenomenon, and am excited to explore it with you.
To understand my ambivalent feelings, I did some research on the subject. To paraphrase clinical psychotherapist Joseph Burgo's article called "Ambivalence and the perfect answer", [to be ambivalent is to be in conflict with opposing feelings. It is a fear of choosing one feeling and renouncing all other feelings. Choosing a reality and living with its imperfections seems far less ideal compared to not choosing and living in the fantasy of what may come to pass], which may be a chance at perfection (aka waiting for the next best thing). Ambivalence leaves us at a crossroads, debilitating our ability to decide, take action, and move on. [Ambivalence seems to be the bi-product of two things: perfectionism and idealized expectations.]
As a product of a stereotypical asian upbringing, where the culture prides and plagues itself with overachievement, an unrelenting pursuit of perfection, a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ competitive attitude, and a ‘100% is still not good enough’ mindset, I realize that my inability to feel deep satisfaction from my successes can be deeply rooted from childhood. It is not my parent’s, or their parents’ doing, it is perhaps the expectation of the generation. It is a defining attribute that makes my generation as unique as it is. As much as it may be indebting now, it is an investment for years to come.
This optimistic awareness gives me hope. When we acknowledge our shortcomings, setbacks, and resistors, we become vulnerable to growth beyond measure. We break free from unreachable standards, the idealized pursuit of perfection, and thus enable divergent thinking, creative leadership, and begin to value imperfection and alternative standards of excellence.
I newly discovered two ancient art forms that honor imperfection. ‘Kintsugi’ is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Not only is imperfection accepted, it is honoured.
The ‘Deliberate Imperfection’ is when the Navajo deliberately weave and draw imperfections into their textiles and ceramics. They are called “spirit lines/paths” because it allows spirits to weave in and out of their art. If there is no deliberately imperfect spirit line, if the lines are perfectly enclosed, they believe the spirit will be trapped within the art, and therefore the spirit of the art will be lost for generations to come. These imperfections give these artists reason to therefore continue creating beautiful art.
As you may know from my work, I am a big Ted Talk fan. It is an integral part of my continuing education. These ‘ideas worth spreading’ have made me a better person. I seem to always find my answers with Ted Talks. After all, these talks are host to the brightest ideas and innovations of our time. So it is not surprising that my unsettling sensation of ambivalence has found its Kintsugi and Spirit Line. My unease is what Ted Talker Sarah Lewis calls “the near win”.
My ‘2.0 Toronto’ efforts have been met with much positive critical acclaim. You could say they are grassroots successes in the fitness community. These events raise money for charity, teach people how to move and eat, grow the holistic fitness community in Toronto, and help people develop a deeper sense of awareness and mindfulness. But as each event concludes, socially they are seen as successes, momentous occasions, a well-deserved stopping point. But to me, I see them as stepping stones, a constant pursuit, that urge to do more, that feeling of never feeling completely satisfied, where 100% never really is 100% ... a “near win”.
Sarah Lewis says that “success is hitting the bullseye, but mastery is knowing that it means nothing if you can’t hit it again and again.”
She inspires by explaining that “the near win” is the driving force that turns success into mastery.
But what does it take to stay encouraged? To not lose hope. To not get upset when things don’t go the way you want them. To not give up when there is still so much more to do.
With this investigation into ambivalence, I have come across many strategies that help with decision making, goal attainment, and preventing a loss of enthusiasm:
Set realistic goals and share them
Clearly define goals and prioritize them
Shrink the challenge into timely, attainable, and measurable checkpoints
Seek and follow the bright spots
Create daily rituals to actualize goals
Create daily routines to prevent stagnation
Implement healthy distraction activities to prevent negative rumination (dwelling)
Condition positive habits and behaviors to stay on course
In conclusion, my ambivalence, unease, or “near win” phenomenon seems to be a natural coping tactic I’ve had all this time, a gift if you will. I feel assured that I am now able to explain it. Beyond this closure, and to new beginnings, I am now completely aware of what I seek from curating these workshops and events.
I have a vision...
“I HAVE A DREAM!”
Sarah Lewis concludes elegantly with my new favorite quote: