We experience everything incrementally. We collect things, memories, years, experiences, money, feelings.. We don’t usually notice the daily changes but little by little they accumulate and all of a sudden, the changes are hard to miss; after some time, we can reflect and notice how everything has changed - our memories don’t have the same power over us, we’re older, we’re more worldly and wise, we have more or less money, our feelings about a place or person have resulted in uprooting and moving to a foreign land. Or how my niece is over one month old now when I swear she was just born a week ago and the 12month lease on my city slicker apartment is about to expire in two weeks - hard to believe it’s been ‘home’ for that long. Or how eating clean for 1 day doesn’t get us the shredded physique, but two weeks of daily clean eating will see you more toned.. As my pāpā Aristotle would say,
“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”
Humour me and yourself for a moment by equating excellence with: self-mastery, self-love, success, self-improvement and the like. Play with it and start painting the picture in your mind that excellence is a process; applied and repeated consistently in our thoughts, feelings and actions... This may be a little hard to see clearly, because our environment conditions us to believe that if you haven’t figured out your sole purpose/what your passion is and executing on it by yesterday, you’ve missed the boat. You’re a failure, you’re no good, you’ve wasted everyones time and you have no hope in trying to catch up. This weeks take on environment: fostering process.
In the first post of the environment kaupapa (topic) I touched briefly about how this environment we live in has become fixated on instant everything, ie. online streaming of our favourite shows the ‘same day as the US’, fast food, immediate results, 5min abs, getting (money) rich quick... We're conditioned to wanna get to the end, to arrive at our divine destination already, never mind this "process" or "growing" nonsense, we’re chasing perfection - which is subjective and may or may not exist.
“Practice makes improvement, not perfect..”
- Les Brown
Imma just leave that there to sink in.. When you're ready, take this whakaaro (concept) and combine it to the one earlier about a habit of self-improvement = excellence, and tell me that picture in your mind isn't starting to become crystal. No matter what you do, who you are, where you're from; there's one thing we all commonly practice every day (there's probably more than one but just go with it); life. We practice life every day. Sometimes the improvements are easy to see and we're loving it, wishing our 'positive' improvement would never end. While other times, it feels like we're actually getting worse at it (life), we don't think we're cut out for it and maybe it's time to tap out.
It's the narrative to the story that is perpetuated by our environment; the media, the schooling systems, our friends and families (unwanted) opinions, celebrity endorsements and more which makes for a very results focused and valued system. Results are important, always, but life is more than 'before and after' - the 'and' counts too! If results and getting to the destination were the only value - the musicians who played fastest would be the best; the shortest books, top sellers. Hooh, there'd be no point to watching or playing sport because the end is all that matters right? Kei te hē, wrong. It matters, let's not dismiss that, but so does the process leading up to it. Let's take a trip down memory lane...
Growing up, I wanted to do so many things; be a pro athlete, become a chef, be a Psychologist, be a teacher.. none of them felt like my purpose but they seemed like something fun to do. As I neared the end of high school, the pressure to make a decision on my future pathway became so intense! My family are full of educators who did the university thing so I felt inclined to follow suit. I ended up going to uni to study Psych and after two years, I still wasn't fully into the course and wanted money; so I put a hold on studies, joined the full-time work force and started building my travel fund. Hand on heart, I didn't have the slightest clue how important process or knowing myself was back then, but it's clear that I didn't know what I wanted other than to make more money vs make (more) student loan. Ooh and I copped it; the comments about adding to the Māori statistics of university drop outs, being told I'd never get a 'real' job without a degree on my cv, the external pressure to 'just go back and finish it, you've only got one year left' (of something I wasn't passionate about). I've been stubborn from an early age, what a treat, but by this age I was able to exercise that stubbornness more freely. I was being encouraged to conform but it just didn't make sense to me; why would I commit to heading down a path I had no desire to stay on? eg. I don't know what I want to do but I don't wanna do that. A big chunk of my decisions are based on what's left when I've deduced from what I don't want to do; "I don't want to do/be x, y, z.. that leaves 23 options to try." It's like starting with a big slab of wood and carving away the parts that aren't “Hana” to reveal who I am at my core, on the inside.
A friend of mine has a blog (check it out, it's the goods x 1000) and in one post, he mentions how some tikanga (customs) are making us unhealthy as Māori; how we must consume what is served for us from the wharekai (eating house), regardless of whether it's diabetes on a plate or good nutritious kai and not let it go to waste. It's a sensitive kaupapa because the ringawera (kitchen crew, chefs) have put in a great effort to provide us with sustenance, it would be rude to turn our nose up and not eat the kai provided, right? Where then do we draw the line of taking our own well being and health into consideration? The conscious choices we need to make about the kai we feed our bodies are the same conscious choices we need to make about the environments we create in our hinengaro (mind), wairua (spirit/soul) and our ngākau (heart).
Two years ago one of my older cousins and I got to talking and she asked how life was, what I was up to, what my plans were for the year, to which I replied “I don’t know.” Unlike many others whom I’d had this conversation with, she applauded me. “How old are you?” -23. “Oh you’re only young! You’ve got so much time to figure all that out.. It took me til my 30s? You’ll be fine..” This kōrero occurred during the indifference, lost phase I open up about in this post, so to hear that it was ok to not know what I was doing, or that I wasn’t yet being ‘who I’m supposed to be’ at 23, was very reassuring.
“The biggest mistake you can make in your 20s is thinking that you should have your life together”
Some people have their lives together, they're smashing their goals, pursuing their passions and doing their thing - you're all superstars and I am in awe of you. But so many don't! And that's ok, it's natural. This is all our first shot at it (life), and we think we're so precious we can't make mistakes or have all the answers? Or have the audacity to tell someone else how to live theirs.. tahia tō ake marae, sweep the dust from your own marae before casting judgement on others. So commit to the process of excellence; to improving at life little by little, to knowing yourself as best you can, to taking care of your wellbeing in ways that you need. Get to know your processes and how you can make them better and tailored specifically to you. We experience everything incrementally, so small steps and little by little is all we have when you think about it. All the 'big' moments in our lives were made only big by the small efforts, the small changes and improvements that accumulated over time - much like how we are the culmination of thousands of years of whakapapa (genealogy) and process. We didn't just wake up like this (amazing and capable of greatness), we're the latest development of our whakapapa and like whakapapa, remember that you are process; practicing every day, to be better, to learn, to appreciate, to love, to be grateful, to live, to be you.