Yesterday while on a walk through the downtown core of a city, my attention was drawn to all of the scaffolding, cranes, trucks and construction happening everywhere that I looked.
My initial judgment was about how much of an eyesore the construction was, and how much better the streets and buildings will look once the construction is completed.
Memories of New York City surfaced in my mind, specifically the neverending sights and sounds of construction on every street. I remember that the building next to my apartment had scaffolding that I naively believed would disappear one day. I was wrong, as years later, I disappeared from the city before the scaffolding did.
As I continued to reflect on the endless construction in cities yesterday on my walk, I realized that it will never end. There will always be something to build, fix, repair and renovate.
The construction is a metaphor for life.
Everything, and everyone, is a work in progress.
I am a work in progress. I will often forget that and expect to have it all figured out. Be it business, health, relationships, and even spirituality.
Our culture, including the structure of schools, the desires and fears of parents, the need for job security, and the use of social media, do not leave a lot of space to be a work in progress. Our culture expects us to be a functioning, contributing, productive, knowledgeable, skilled, talented, healthy, caring and present human being.
When I remember that I am not all of those things, but only a work in progress, I become more tolerant, more understanding, more loving and more compassionate towards myself.
Only once I see myself as a work in progress do I begin to see that those around me are also a work in progress.
When I remember that other people are also a work in progress like me, I become more tolerant, more understanding, more loving and more compassionate towards others.
It can be easy to be fooled into thinking that ‘once this is done, then I’ll be good’. Once I achieve yet another business milestone, or change my body in a desirable way, or incorporate a new habit into my lifestyle, then I will feel done.
My reality has been that there will always be some desire, some need, or some want, that I will be working to fulfill. Today it is this, tomorrow it is that, and the day after it will be something else.
The fact that I am a continual work in progress, and will always be, is what gives life to my life. If I felt that I was figuratively done in life, I would be literally done with life.
There is a space between feeling done and feeling never done. This space is what I now call being a work in progress.
With this understanding and mindset, I can move through life feeling more hopeful, encouraged and inspired. The lesson is to limit the moments when I feel discouraged and hopeless, which will arise from feeling or fearing that I will never ever be done.
This space of work in progress is where the magic and beauty of life occurs. Staying in this space is the difficult part and maintaining a bigger picture perspective can help.
When I reflect about the world around me, and the influences on me, be it government, education, healthcare, economy, transportation, culture, and more, I must remind myself that it is all a work in progress.
The moment that I expect everything, or everyone, to be in a state of perfection, I will be disappointed. If I find myself complaining about other people, or systems, or structures, I have to remind myself that it is all a work in progress. This helps take the edge off in those moments when I feel frustrated or agitated.
And when I cannot remember that I, you and they, are all a work in progress, I am best to take a deep breath. To relax my jaw, drop my shoulders, and feel my feet on the ground. This helps me feel a bit more grounded, a bit more centered, and a lot more present, when I need it most.
I am a work in progress.
You are a work in progress.
The world that we share is a work in progress.
Knowing this lifts and inspires me. Not because I believe for a moment that the future will be better than the present. It is because in seeing us all as a work in progress, I have just accepted reality as it is, not as I wish it to be. And this is the key to happiness. To see me, you and all of it, as it is, and nothing else.
Now when I walk past any form of construction, I will use it as a reminder that like the building in front of me, I too am a work in progress.