April 3, 1998

Setting the Bar

How do I measure success? Well, it depends. How high do I think I can jump today? Not too high. How come? Life happens.

I measure success by the little things. Did I get out of bed? There were dark days in my past when I could not answer that affirmatively. Did I shower? Did I shave? Of course I did! And yet there were times when those were great accomplishments.

Did I give a talk or workshop today? Did I do a big thing like that? No, but I was not scheduled to do it. Could I have done it? I am not sure but I think so. I could have done it but I would have paid a price. Thankfully, I did not have to test myself today.

So what did I do today? I did what had to be done. I got up, showered and shaved, made breakfast, met with my clients, sent a few letters, read a little, and wrote my ZIGZAGS. Yes, I did what had to be done. I did what I had agreed to do. Maybe I did not do it filled with joy and humor, but I did it.

The key to all of this is what I demand of myself. I know that these down times happen in my life and so I keep my commitments flexible. Some days I lower the bar, but there always is a bar, a level of performance and commitment which I demand of myself. The trick for me is to keep inching up that bar of performance over time by stretching what I do.

I read of one person who said that a successful day is whenever he wakes up above ground. I am jealous of that attitude, but it is not mine. That attitude denies the tension and paradox of daily life. It denies suffering and growth. It denies the significance of the push, the struggle and the victory.

The danger in viewing success as performance is that performance may become the only measure. A bigger question always runs through my day: How did I love today? If performance pushes me beyond the space in which I can be lovingly present, then it is not worth it. It is a false success, a false measure.

Down times present a challenge. Did I love myself today? Probably not. Did I love others? I hope so, but not as well as I could have.

It is then that I want to scream - Jim, didn’t you do what needed to be done?! Didn’t you get over the damn bar?! Enough already!!! Go to sleep.

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