“As you begin to take action toward the fulfillment of your goals and dreams, you must realize that not every action will be perfect. Not every action will produce the desired result. Not every action will work. Making mistakes, getting it almost right, and experimenting to see what happens are all part of the process of eventually getting it right.” - Jack Canfield
So often as we learn, we strive for excellence or even perfection. While this is a lofty goal, the reality is that perfection is also an unattainable goal, a moving target, an elusive subject. And having studied Pilates for 20 years, I feel I have just enough insight on the never-ending learning process that is The Method to speak a few words about it.
Though not in every situation, in movement I am a bit of a perfectionist. This, I feel, is directly related to my upbringing in classical ballet. The standards are unforgiving and the process is grueling. And no matter how well you did that movement, dance, performance, it was a fleeting moment in time, lost forever, and besides – you could always do it better. And so every day you start again, with higher standards and expectations.
And this was the mind-set I came to Pilates with as a student. There was never a justifiable excuse to perform an exercise less than perfect. But like so many things in life, I soon began to realize that perfection wasn’t really in my repertoire, and if that was the only measure of success then I was failing.
It wasn’t until I became a teacher and began to work with many different types of people with many many different bodies that I began to see the true worth in the practice. It isn’t a quest for perfection. There is no judgement, except what comes from yourself. And the practice is not to please or benefit anyone other than yourself. This is important. When I came to the understanding that my pleasure and feeling of wellbeing in doing something healthy and healing for my body was the reward, as opposed to an impossible finish line of perfection, I finally learned patience and compassion for myself. I seemed to have it for everyone else, but never for myself. And the more I had for myself, the more insight and patience I had with others.
I’m fond of saying, “Today is a new and exciting day,” because if you come to practice Pilates for 7 days, you will have 7 distinctly different experiences. We can never know what today holds for us in the use of our body until we rise and begin. And coming to the mat or reformer with curiosity and expectation rather than the dread of failing is really a much healthier and enjoyable experience.