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Embrace the Gap: Why You Shouldn’t Compare Your Ideal Life to Reality

By February 24, 2022Self-Improvement
Reading Time: 2 minutes
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Let’s talk a little more about your ideal life and your actual life. It’s an important idea because, like I said on Tuesday, they’re both “real” in some sense. Neither one is 100% true, and neither is 100% false.

Your ideal life is unattainable. Not because you can’t have what you want, but if you got it, you’d very likely find a higher idea. It’s just our nature. And your actual life is full of real circumstances, but is also likely skewed by your opinion and interpretations of it. It’s probably a whole lot better than you’ll sometimes let yourself believe.

They both, however, represent something real. That which you strive for and the background which you strive against. Where you can get yourself into trouble is where you compare the two as a method of determining how your life going. Using the gap between them to prove to yourself that things aren’t going well, is almost always a losing proposition. I’ll tell you why.

When life is going well, by your estimation, you rarely compare it to anything. When you are fulfilled, you don’t spend time wondering how it could be because you’re happy the way it is. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to strive for anything, you’re just not comparing. When you do compare, is when you’ve decided things aren’t going well. And from that vantage point, your actual life will never make the cut against your ideal one.

There will always be some gap. Always, always, always. A gap is a good thing. If you don’t have a slightly uncomfortable one, I’d create one. But create one that empowers you to stretch, not one that makes you cringe in fear or despair. Use gaps as a way of declaring what’s possible.

The gap between ideal and actual is not something to fear. Without a gap you would start to shrink. There’s no such thing as “maintaining.” Even if you are on a “maintenance” program, you’re growing because you’re fighting the shrink. Time off from things is fine, but you know the feeling of getting back to it. We have a word for it. We often call it “rusty.” It’s not bad, but you can always tell when your capacity has been reduced.

Embrace the gap. Acknowledge your ideals. Just make sure you acknowledge your actuals as their equal. Your actual is as much your real life as your ideal. Your actual is the one you’re with every day, you’d do really well to make good friends with it.

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Michael Stanwyck
Michael Stanwyck is the co-founder of The Whole Life Challenge, an idea that developed during his seven years as a coach and gym manager at CrossFit Los Angeles.

He graduated from UCLA with a BA in philosophy as well as a degree from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, and feels food is one of the most important parts of a life - it can nourish, heal, and bring people together.

Michael believes health and well-being are as much a state of mind as they are a state of the body, and when it comes to fitness, food, and life in general, he thinks slow is much better than fast (most of the time). Stopping regularly to examine things is the surest way to put down roots and grow.

He knows he will never be done with his own work, and believes the best thing you can do for your well-being starts with loving and working from what you’ve got right now.