One of the yoga studios where I practice sponsors a program twice a year called “31 in 31.” Each January and May, students at the studio are presented with the challenge of completing 31 classes in 31 days. There is a financial benefit to rising to the challenge; if you manage to do all 31 practices in the allotted time your per class cost is a little over $4 per class – well below the going $17 drop in rate. I’m not sure if there are punitive costs if you don’t actually do 31 classes in 31 days, but like most programs of this sort, that’s not the point. The point (I think) is to dig a little deeper into your spiritual and physical reserves to find a personal greatness (or at least a personal better-ness) lurking beneath the surface.
Listening to the teacher referring to the “31” program toward the end of my practice the other day, I had an urge to sign up for the next session. I have been feeling lately that I’m not pushing myself hard enough and that I have been indulging in the desire to rest or modify or just plain slack off too often. I thought that a “31 in 31” challenge might be just the sort of thing to shake off my malaise and return my physical and mental self to it’s former perceived glory. And as quickly as I considered doing 31 classes in 31 days, I dismissed the idea as setting unrealistic goals and putting too much pressure on myself to arrive at some undefined destination that would have no bearing on my self worth and would take away from more important things like family and friends and work.
For some reason, however, I couldn’t shake thinking about the “31 in 31” program and its appeal to something in my psyche. Spending several hours (OK, days, actually…) turning it over in my mind, I realized that my “ex” relationships all had a common denominator of making me feel that I had to push harder, dig deeper, be better, and somehow by default, create a more meaningful and substantial existence. I never felt like it was OK to be where I was – either physically or emotionally – and that may have explained why I was always so damn exhausted.
Recently two friends told me – separately – that I am emotionally softer and more open than when they first met me. Digesting what I took to be a compliment, I thought to myself that with the emotional softening has come a softening of my once rock hard abs and shoulders. I don’t seem to strive as much, I don’t exhaust myself trying to do my best today and better tomorrow. Some days good enough is good enough. My brow isn’t as furrowed with concentration and digging deep, trying to prove something to myself and the world. I laugh more and I don’t take myself quite so seriously.
There is a fine line between striving for your personal best and and being the best that you can be at a given point in time. If I did 31 classes in 31 days, what am I proving and to whom? I remember my father telling me that he would never trust a doctor or business man who bragged about his golf handicap, because if his handicap was that low he was must be spending too much time playing golf and not enough time in his chosen profession. I guess it’s the same with setting personal goals; if it makes you happy, if you can walk away knowing that you are a better person for setting and achieving your goal, then great. But when you become your goal, or when your goal defines who you are and how you live your life, maybe it’s time to back off a bit and think about what is really important to you and what really makes you happy.
I’m going to go pour myself a glass of wine and think about the months until the next “31 in 31” and see how I feel then.