We live in a culture dominated by performance. How often do you see an advertisement for performance gear, or a product guaranteed to enhance performance? We conduct yearly performance reviews, performance audits, and we rank teams based on performance. We compare our performance to that of others at the office, at home, and on social media. A bad day is one when our performance is off kilter or subpar in some way. The focus on performance is so fully integrated into our lives that we rarely question it. It is simply part of the air we breathe. “Of course we are pursuing excellence! What else would we be doing?” we snort derisively. We are akin to fish swimming in familiar waters, unaware of the greater freedom of birds. Although I would kind of like to abolish performance and recommend that we stage a collective coup, we all know it is unwise to throw babies out with bathwater and to swing from one extreme to the other. It is good to evaluate how well things are working and to challenge ourselves to reach our limits. It is right to offer our excellence to each other. (Except when we can’t. Except when what we offer is our humanity, a humble smile, a simple apology.) Performance has its place. But so does goofing off. So does daydreaming. So does the admission that we would like to sit out for a game or two. Next time you find yourself striving, driven, hungry for a win, and evaluating yourself and everyone else, catch yourself in the act and add the counterweight of a little levity. What if we took a few moments to gaze at the clouds and examine their performance? We might start laughing at ourselves. After a challenging day at the office it might be healthy to walk barefoot through the yard or create some sort of sculpture from your mashed potatoes. Challenge your kids to a game of Go Fish and the loser gets the biggest slice of cake. Let yourself off the hook just every once in a great while, enough to remind yourself that you are not in fact a fish on the line. Celebrate your freedom to accomplish and your freedom to play.
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