Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Friday, 1 August 2014

Too good to be true?

Britta Huegel photographs Karl Lagerfeld's photo
Dear You,
in the comments on my last post "The Marvelous Toy - my Nike+ FuelBand" I said that I would to discuss Susan Scheid's comment - she writes

Now this is definitely a life lesson for all of us: "Now I lowered the goal for a third, reach it every time, am happy - and march on, thus reaching the former high goal of the past almost every time - but with the smug self-satisfaction of thinking: I hadn't to do this."

 and Suze's, who writes
After reading Susan's comment, I would like to add that a goal which does not evolve is a static thing which loses all relevance. We must reach for goals appropriate to the moment--dynamic, meaning-intense, real.

Ha - I was so proud to have found out my new life insight about happiness through knowing where to stop... and I still think it valid - in the context I put it.
See, Suze: I wrote that I outperform the absolute intersection of all Nike+ FuelBand users - all of them, being young or old, being amateurs or pros, international - by far. Why shall I highten my goal even more? As I wrote: when I reach my lower goal points, I am happy, not stressed - and march on, voluntarily. (Most of the time).
The same in weight training: I can push quite a lot of iron at the rowing machine - and many a man at the other machine besides me get a bit pale after a look at mine, because he draws less. Should I evolve that goal even more? Is my name Tamara Press (or, for the younger ones among you: Swetlana Podobedowa)?
No - I think: goals are good, goals are helpful - but they must not be infinite - because that would discourage me.
If a goal is too high, it will make me dispirited: if I compare myself to our great poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, I would not even losen the cap of my fountain pen to write a book. Of course I understand what you mean, Suze: one should not rest on one's laurels - right - but I think the way to hell is plastered with perfectionism. I know that you - of all people - didn't mean "more, more, more" - but in this direction lies the danger. When is good good enough? 
As I wrote: I thrive on praise. Maybe that's a fault - but one I learned to live with and do not even try to change - and I hope I can - as children, who have a very fine ear for it - distinguish between real praise and flattery.
And insight no. 2: it is worthwhile to praise yourself (you can do it silently): "That's good! Wow!"
I makes you glow! From the inside! 


  1. I feared my meaning might be unclear. I actually don't believe in the phrase 'resting on your laurels,' because once something has been accomplished, it is here to stay, and it is something we can always be proud of.

    What I meant was more along the lines of what I always tell my daughter, and this is nothing new. Don't compare yourself to others, compare yourself to yourself. And with this, we must be allowed to see and understand ourselves with the limitations and opportunities that are placed on us in the moment. This is dynamism. Sometimes the goals we can feel good about accomplishing will not 'compare' with Goethe or even ourselves at a different, perhaps more advantageous, point in our lives. My intent is to always encourage, always uplift, always cheer, never to diminish.

    And, my dear esteemed Britta, I'm sure you know that you have been from the beginning--and remain--an inspiration to me. Turning 40 this year proved to be an unexpected speed bump. The year has been one of tumult, change that was out of my sphere of influence and unexpected boon. This new decade has been inaugurated with at once greater self-doubt and greater inner tranquility than I have ever known. It has caused me to sometimes speak less and sometimes speak more. It has prompted a forgiving spirit (toward myself) but also a more deeply-motivated one. Twenties are gone, and with them the thirties. All I have now, is now. And, from this distance, I see you handle now with grace, strength, humor and zest. So whatever your goals may be today, Britta, I have a sense you will outstrip them with a mischievous wink one hand on that slender hip. ;)


    1. Dear Suze,
      I am impressed by your long comment, thank you so much - and yes: having the great luck to read your inspiring posts for now quite a long time I of course could think which way your comment was directed. "Comparing" - always the very sharp tool to hurt oneself or others - I agree with you. Very difficult in our society not to compare and judge. I am always convinced that we ourselves are our hardest critics.
      As to turning 40: that is a milestone. There will follow a few others :) To think how rigid I was on myself when I was 35 - or 40 --- (and I see it in my diaries) makes me smile (though I am a slow learner here - I'm still comparing (!) myself to the former me, and society/media 'help' and f'uel' us very much indeed). You write: "All I have is now" - true, but we/I think also about the future, too - and that is why I do sports, to defend my bones etc. Though I do try very much to follow your advice of not comparing, good for the soul. xx

    2. That is one of the things the '40' milestone has taught me: to think about the future with the desire to, where possible, avoid regret.

      I do mean it, with my heart, you are an inspiration.

    3. And you, Suze, are mine - you know that: I love your heartfelt feelings, your joie de vivre, your zest, creativity and your insights (among other things).

  2. I have nothing profound to add, except to say you made me remember my 12 year old granddaughter being issued such a bracelet as part of a fitness unit in school. She discovered early on she could ramp up the miles simply standing still and windmilling her arms. We gave her a lecture on "Truth", but the lure of the easy miles could not be overcome. However, when she turned hers in, it was in the lower quadrant; she did not win the prize she coveted, as her class mates were superior arm twirlers. My take away from this is you have set your own prize. Carry on. :-)

    1. Dear Joanne,
      thank you for the good tip of your granddaughter (I observed the sales girls at Nike doing the same :) - I try to write this with my left hand while whirling my right wrist through the air - haha: what a good result I will get! It reminds me of the old anecdote where a woman on a horse asked the aerobic teacher after a ride, how many calories she has burnt by now - and he answers: "Not you - the horse!"

  3. What I understood you to mean, Britta, had to do with setting a standard for oneself that could be met with a feeling of success, rather than of failure. This may be a little off point, but the conversation so far makes me think of the ideas behind Vygotsky's concept of the "zone of proximal development." I love this concept, which seems to me central to fostering successful learning, as opposed to engendering frustration and a sense of defeat.

    1. Dear Sue,
      yes, you got it the way I meant it, thank you! One can be easily discouraged by too high goals - and I think we see role models for that in the media for the modern women: great career, great mother, great lover, great home-maker, great author, great gardener - I could carry on... As in the case of your book tip about aging I will have a look at Vygotsky, whom I do not know - I am sure it will be worthwhile.

    2. Of course, what I know of Vygotsky all comes from my mate. It is a little off-point, but I think what struck me, particularly as I read the exchanges between you and Suze, is that Vygotsky's model changes the discussion in much the way both of you have indicated: moving the measure off comparisons with others and finding the best way forward for oneself. Here's a link to Mate's post on outdoor education in the context of Vygotsky:

    3. Dear Sue,
      thank you for the link to your mate's interesting post about outdoor activities and the 'comfort zone', which we need to leave to become more growing. "The teacher’s role is to act – in Vygotsky’s phrase – as the “loaned consciousness’," I appreciate that! Stepping out of the comfort zone is an important thing when one gets older - for me the expressions 'to get settled' or "stuck" are synonyms for 'old'. I found out a new way (for me) to leave that zone without a teacher (though in outdoor activities I would never do it without one!)
      I found out that a lot of Vygotskiy's books have been translated in the 1960s (in the former GDR), and will look at them. Already I found a defintion of "art" that will interest husband, I think (though I am always surprised that often he knows my new 'discoveries' already for a long time :)

  4. Dear Brigitta,
    I had already deduced that you are strong and beautiful, but I still like you very much. I admire intelligence most --Hercules was very strong but I doubt he could've got a mattress up a stairway. You could.

    1. Dear Geo.,
      thank you for offering me the solace of the 'but'! (Oh, I see a beautiful booktitle here: "The Solace of the But" - sounds like a winner to me).
      By the way: I am not Brunhilda :)
      I do all these exercises for body and brain because of my fear to become dependant on other people - I want to keep strong, agile and alert to high age (as far as I can influence that). Ah, and to keep my arms (as long as I can) away from becoming 'bingo wings' - so: I'll try the carrying of a mattress too (though I let me help - thank you!).

  5. Dear Britta,

    A really interesting post! I enjoyed very much reading comments by you and other bloggers as well.
    This post made me think about what goal I have to set for my photography. In my case I feel "Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another" is good at present. Photography is just my hobby. What if I were a pro photographer? I can imagine I must have frantically struggled in order to reach the unreachable star.

    1. Dear Sapphire,
      thank you - I often think that the comments are the really interesting thing, and I am so glad when people write them.
      Your photographs are so often real works of art (that's not just a compliment, I think I have an eye for real good ones). I don't know whether a pro will enjoy a great result as much as an 'amateur' (you are far more than that), - I know some people in that field and hear them lament that they often are not "free" - the client dictates in the end, and they can only try to convince him.