Permission to Underachieve

by elizabethbrantley

What if I your teachers told  you to work at 90 %? What if you boss told you today you are to “underachieve”? What if everything you touched and did was enough, not perfect, but enough? What would life be like if we lived in the 90 percent range, instead of constantly striving for 100%?

I believe we each need a time, a space and a place to underachieve. While this seems contrary to American psychology, or successful mindsets, it may be the key that unlocks our success, our presence and our ability to enjoy Life here and now.

There are two practices that I work at 90% with, and I am adding more as time goes on. This practice of shooting low in these certain areas has allowed me to fail. It gives me permission to accept this moment and all I can do it in, instead of wanting more and scolding myself for not being better. In yoga, every time I get on the mat, I consciously give myself permission to underachieve. My standard for a good practice is to breathe. What happens then when I truly believe I am successful if I spend the hour and a half breathing? I am happy! I am in the present moment. Suddenly, too, I can hear my internal dialogue. This permission I have given myself shuts down the voice that pushes me for “more”. It shuts down the urge to compare myself to others and their standards. The space then in my mind and body is filled with discussion about what I feel like doing. This is freedom! My intention then is to listen internally to what I want, what my internal guide is saying, and not some standard that has been imposed (by me or society) that I must reach to then feel accomplished.

The second task I consciously allow myself to fail is cooking. Just like above, my goal is not to fail, but to accept a dish that doesn’t taste good. It is to welcome whatever the outcome may be! My purpose it is to joyfully seek my creativity in each dish, not to be a gourmet and perfect chef. There have been times when I cooked something that smelled so bad we had to leave the house (we never even got close enough to tasting it). That didn’t stop me the next night from trying something new. It only added a story and now some knowledge that fish sauce isn’t something I care to use.

What could be something in your life that you approach with permission to underachieve? Could it be art? Self study?  Writing? Talking on the phone? Ab work? Can you cultivate a space that you come to daily that asks you to leave behind your need to be perfect? Can you find a space where if it was graded getting a 90% is better than a 100%? Can we welcome this gentleness a little bit into our day. Can it be enough that you are simply showing up to do that task? Can that be your new standard? I find it when I come to this place of acceptance that then I naturally move into the flow of the task and my Divine self-expression effortlessly. I have released the need to produce perfection, and allow me to express me.

We are loved not because we are perfect. We are loved because of endearing imperfections. As much as he might complain or get frustrated, I know Drew really does think it is cute how I load the dishwater without any order or precision. That is part of who I am. It is not to say it won’t change, that I won’t get better, since we are all growing. But for now it’s my quirk and this is lovable.

This is a small example, but its good to start with this practice. Can we love these not perfect, not high standard aspects of our own lives? Can we create the space in our mind, heart and day for Life to come in and fill that 10% difference between our working at 90%  and the 100% that would make it perfect? Can we accept that where we are right now is good enough and exactly what is needed? Can we master underachievement and find peace in the moment?

(p.s.- So often our language reflects our society. Underachieve isn’t even a word in the dictionary in this program! What a revolutionary idea we have here!)