Our quest for new achievement can cause us to take our gains for granted and miss the biggest achievement of all: showing up.
Trampoline Practice is the Breeding Ground for Wisdom
In my weekly trampoline practice, I’ve been working on front tucks: a front flip in a tucked position — a mid-air summersault. When I first took this skill out of safety lines two months ago, each attempt sent adrenaline flooding through my body.
The adrenaline rush was so powerful that it caused my body to shake, visibly.
Slowly, my body is starting to acclimate. Two weeks ago I started to be able to get a sense of how I’d land while rotating. That was a big deal.
After sticking the landing on 5 consecutive front tucks last week (the first time I stuck the landing on more than 2 consecutive attempts), today I landed 5 out of 8 on my feet. On the surface, it may look like I did “worse” — after all, 5 of 8 isn’t as good as 5 of 5.
Numbers don’t lie, right?
Of course, numbers never tell the full story.
Getting Comfortable With Discomfort
Today I didn’t have as much adrenaline flowing. My coach observed that my body wasn’t shaking as much after each attempt. At least on the outside. I still need a few moments to center myself after each attempt.
This is great because it means my body is acclimating to the front tucks. There’s not as much fear in doing them.
Note, I said not as much fear. There is still fear, but it’s more of a focused “I am aware of the potential for injury if I don’t execute this skill well, so I need to center myself and focus on what I’m doing” fear.
I’m working with my fear and building my self-trust muscles. This is a great thing.
The flip side of less adrenaline flowing is that when I do stick the landing on my feet it’s not as big of an “event” as it was even a few weeks ago. Especially after sticking 5 in a row last week, sticking the landing is starting to feel like less of a surprise and more like, “yes, this is what my body knows how to do.”
It feels like less of a “big achievement.”
When The Shine Wears Off
Two months ago, landing on my feet was a big deal. I was surprised when it happened. Now, I can tell while I’m still rotating whether it’s going to be a “good one.” This is progress.
At the same time, when I land on my ass, I feel a little disappointed. When I stick the landing, I immediately consider how to make the entire trick and landing even better.
Keep your legs tighter. Point your toes. Bounce higher. Breathe.
(You’d be surprised how often I find myself not breathing while doing risky tricks on trampoline and flying trapeze.)
Of course, a commitment to constant improvement is essential for growth. But if we derive meaning only from the big thrill of accomplishment, life becomes a relentless pursuit of the next thing and then the next thing, without appreciating the life that’s right here.
How Long Does The Achievement High Last?
Studies show that the high from even the biggest achievements wears off after a few months.
Today marked two months since I first took my front tucks out of lines. I’m not even entirely over the fear of it yet, and already landing on my feet threatens to become “yes, this is what it feels like. No big deal.”
And that’s where I stop to remind myself:
This is not “no big deal.” This is a very big deal.
The big deal is not that I stuck the landing on my feet. The accomplishment is my willingness to get off the ground. To do the work. To persist.
It’s not like I’m a teenager training for the Olympics. I am in my 40s. And I have no gymnastics background. To learn this skill as an adult and get comfortable with it is a big. f*cking. deal.
Getting Out of the Achievement Chase
For most of my life, I was a victim of my belief that any day without a big accomplishment was a waste, that any goal not met was a failure. The meaning of life was only in metrics and milestones, results and rewards.
That’s a recipe for a life of frustration and misery if you have a big vision. If you don’t, it’s a recipe for a life of safety and complacency.
Either way, not much meaning or fulfillment.
My Daily Practice: Celebrating My Wins
Almost four years ago, I began a new practice that I designed to get me out of the chase for the next big achievement. Each day, I write down my wins from the day. And when I say “wins” I mean the smallest of wins, like choosing to get out of bed (not everybody does) or choosing to exercise.
Each night, no matter what I “achieved” or “accomplished,” I find my success in what I chose to do during the day. I don’t take these choices for granted.
Since I started this practice on January 1, 2014, I haven’t missed a day (do not call it a habit).
One of the many things I’ve learned from this practice is that the big wins are in the little wins. Life’s meaning is found not in the big achievements and milestones, but in the the small things we do each day that lead us to those big events.
I reached the milestone achievement of taking my front tuck out of safety lines only because I showed up for practice every week. When I stick the landing on my front tucks, it’s only because I show up consistently with the willingness to go for it, even if it means getting knocked on my ass in every attempt, as it did when I first started.
In a war with gravity, you’re going to get knocked down.
The win is in showing up.
Today I had less adrenaline pumping through me. I’m starting to sense where I am in the air so I can learn from each attempt and continue to improve. And even as the good ones become less of a surprise, I don’t take them for granted. When my mind — my inner critic — tries to tell me it’s no big deal, or it’s “expected,” I remind her that it’s still a big deal.
I celebrate myself for showing up and taking the leap.
Ultimately, that’s the biggest win of all.
Find the thrill in showing up. Don’t take your effort for granted. Celebrate your wins,
even especially the “small” ones.
What is an example of a small win you can celebrate today?