I have a number of wonderful student assistants at work. One of them was wishing the other day that we could do everything perfectly the first time—write bug-free code or a literary masterpiece in one pass—because life would be better that way.
I replied that it would be better if better meant getting more things done. He was surprised that I might think it meant something else. I said I used to agree with him but had recently begun to change my mind. He asked why, and I told him I thought getting older had done it.
He said, “Wow, age does that to people?”
It appears to have done it to me, but I wish it had done more complete job. I don’t believe accomplishment is the be all and end all, but I still measure my life and myself as if it were.
My unit of measurement is almost always tasks accomplished. I did a good job of the day if I got a lot done.
This produces a problem with benchmarking: what is a lot? What is enough? I know people who are far more efficient task completers than I am, so who do I reasonably include in the group to whom I compare myself?
Or maybe getting things done isn’t really my strong point; maybe I should measure myself on how loving or patient I was. So what is the rubric for loving? How do I score five out of five on that test?
Measurement is good for making cookies, but it’s not so great for making spiritual health—at least not at this time in my life. I end up in exactly the same state of mind whether I’m judging myself on the getting-stuff-done criteria or the loving criteria.
And I don’t want to be in a state of mind; I want to be in a state of heart. I’m not sure what that means yet, but it must include some fundamentally more spacious approach to self and others than judgment. It probably means no longer asking myself, “How do I do that?” because it probably has nothing to do with doing.