how to be a little less perfect

They must be aligned PERFECTLY!!!

Are you a perfectionist?

If not a perfectionist, I am pretty darn close. I grew up needing the nice perfect 100% in red atop my test. A 98% meant failure. I needed to be named the very top student, not one of a group of the top 15. It’s paralyzing. It’s exhausting. It sucks.

Who knows why I grew up that way. My assumption is that I felt it necessary in order to feel worthy, or in an effort to feel loved. Certainly I was trying to live up to my parent’s expectations. If I made the very highest grade then clearly I could not have done better. Anything less and just as clearly a little more effort or smarts on my part would have led to the better result.

Elizabeth Scott, MS, in her article “Perfectionist Traits: Do These Sound Familiar,” from VeryWellMind.com, which you can read at: https://www.verywellmind.com/signs-you-may-be-a-perfectionist-3145233, gives some hints on how to tell if you are a high achiever (awesome!) or a perfectionist (not so great). Do you focus on your mistakes and imperfections, or on lessons learned and the fun you had along the way? Is “almost perfect” a failure? Does a goal pull you toward it because it sounds so alluring, or does fear push you towards it because you’re afraid you won’t reach it and must? Do you tend to wallow in self-criticism and disappointment if you fail to reach your aim, or bounce back and on to the next objective? Are your goals so high as to be unrealistic? Can you enjoy the steps along the way, or is it only finally meeting the goal that will satisfy you?

If the rather miserable sounding situation described for perfectionists above wasn’t enough to convince you to change your ways, then perhaps this will do the trick — Scott says that perfectionists generally achieve less and stress more than high achievers. This is in part because procrastination is a huge part of perfectionism. Fear of failure often means you fail to try at all.

From “Breaking the Perfectionism–Procrastination Infinite Loop” by Denise R. Jacobs (link below)



There’s a great article on breaking the perfectionism/procrastination cycle you can read here: https://webstandardssherpa.com/reviews/breaking-the-perfectionism-procrastination-infinite-loop.html

And, for another take on the issue, check out Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza’s book, “Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action.” In it, they point out that “doing nothing” — finding time to sit in silence and solitude, to slow down and let go of the need to know, to treat yourself to some time to simply be — can counteract the busy, stressful, go-go-go feeling so frequently found in perfectionists. Perfectionists have a flawless version of ourselves that never allow us to accept failure, so that even when a goal is reached we cannot be fully satisfied.

As someone who has grown up as a perfectionist, with my self-worth accompanied by impossibly high standards, I’ve also been driven by the inner voice drilled into me as a child by a mother who often warned me not to be “a lazy-ass” if she caught me not completing to her satisfaction some chore I’d been assigned, or completing my homework quickly enough, or if for any reason I was “wasting” time. I’ve always felt as if I am never working hard enough. As a single mother of two, I worked full time as a senior associate and then Of Counsel trying to make Partner at one of the largest law firms in the world and refused to hire a nanny or any help because then I’d spend even more time at work. It’s hard to remember much about those years, because feeling as if it would be selfish and lazy and undeserved to spend a hot minute taking a breath or a nap or a day to relax meant missing out on many beautiful moments of life, especially rested and mindful moments with my children when they were small. I may have been around as much as possible, but my mind was often elsewhere or simply too exhausted to be fully present with them. But I didn’t know any better. The thought of slowing down simply didn’t seem a viable option.

So, among the other advice on overcoming perfectionism, the authors urge you to consider spending some time in silence and solitude, to listen to the small still voice in your heart — the one that often cannot be heard over the loud chattering the inner critic in your mind. Stop listening to the doing voice for a moment and simply be. And maybe you’ll find a better way of being than being perfect. Maybe how you are and who you are is good enough, even if it isn’t the absolute best you could be. In fact, I’m sure of it. Be you, in all your messy, less-than-perfect, sometimes lazy, glory. Thank you inner critic for all of his or her hard work on your behalf, and give them a well-deserved vacation. Hey, go crazy and take one yourself, even if it’s just 30 undisturbed minutes in a hot bathtub with bubbles and the refreshment of your choice, a long walk in nature, or the luxury of a nap. Enjoy this one wild and precious life you’ve been given, even if neither it — nor you–is perfect.


Kindling Courage,

and Finding a Path of Plentitude at One With Your Life’s Desire

I am learning to find ease in risk … the safety and security that have seduced me for so much of my life are slowing losing their attraction. I’m 61 years old — if not now, when? I once served on a panel asked to describe a lesson learned from taking a big risk. Each of us agreed that, whether the risky venture had turned out to be successful or not, we were glad we had taken the leap. The question we asked ourselves, then, was if we all were glad we had taken the risk, if it always enhanced our life in some way — why do we nonetheless continue to fear it?

Do you know John O’Donohue’s poem, “For a New Beginning”? It resonates with me, and to carry it in my heart I’ve worked this month to memorize it. I recited it from memory for the first time this morning, in perfect conditions, as I sat on a sandy, mostly empty beach and watched the dawn create the new beginning of this day. I hope it encourages you to kindle your courage enough to step out into that new beginning that’s been quietly whispering, patient yet persistent, waiting for you to leave behind what no longer serves you and step onto a new path, to live at one with your life’s desire.

For a New Beginning
John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.


Do I Have Something to Say?

I learned to speak when I was very young. And I also learned there were rules on what I could and could not say, if I wanted to be good, if I did not want to get in trouble. I learned I was not to brag, or “back-talk” (otherwise known as saying what I felt if it differed from what I was supposed to feel or what my parents wanted to hear).

That still, small voice within is stuffed so far down — covered up with so many layers of protective coatings reapplied day after day and year after year that it’s hard even now, after a decade spent seeking my own truth, to hear my truest self.

Even when I want so badly to live authentically, to speak my truth, to give wings to my soul’s desires, to live boldly and bravely and honestly, to be raw and vulnerable and simply me, freed of a lifetime’s worth of society’s coatings, I find I don’t know how. I read a poem, do a meditation, hear an inspirational speaker, see an Instagram quote that speaks to me and truly believe that this is it — that now I understand, that now, finally, I will get started on living my best life. That I will use my time efficiently, that I will spend my days “in the flow.” That I will stop endlessly scrolling through twitter or keeping up with email or wondering where the time has gone when I look up and see my well-planned morning is now afternoon. But the next day ends up the same. I still feel the spark of that latest motivation taunting me — “see,” it says, “you’re still the same. You still haven’t figured out how to do life differently, more expansively, more truthfully. You’re still wasting your one wild and precious life.”

What DO I want to say? Is there really some voice inside that I’ve never been free or brave enough to let loose? No bullet journal or Todoist or other tool has so far managed to get me on track. Perhaps by rambling and searching and putting out into the universe what comes into my head in this blog I will find my way. I’d love to have you along for the ride.


We Chose Joy

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A little more than an hour’s winding, curvy drive from the San Diego Airport to the border town of Tecate, Mexico, we arrived at the Ranch on the last Saturday of March for the first-ever Gathering of Joy.  The goal?  To create connections and dive into discussions of how perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity can help us cultivate a life of Joy, no matter the circumstances.  Happiness is a great feeling — who doesn’t want to feel happy?  But it’s fleeting as well. This week was about not just being happy, or about how to remove all sorrow from your life, but about how you can have a deep abiding sense of Joy regardless of the circumstances.  A happiness that lasts, and that shines from within.

The Book of Joy

The Ranch offered us a beautiful setting in which to learn, blessing us with everything from sacred Mount Kuchumaa to abundant wildflowers blooming along the winding paths, creating a sense of peace that created an ideal environment in which to connect, build relationships, and learn.

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Magic was in the impromptu and unexpected moments sprinkled throughout the week, from being treated to an original Maya Fiennes song after hearing her story…

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to sharing a delicious dinner in a six-acre organic garden under the stars, with surprise performances from Opera Ambulante, inspiration through poetic entertainment from Gill Sotu, and music from Jake Shimabukuro…

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to being part of Damien’s once-in-a-lifetime experience courtesy of a man whose heart is at least as big as his incredible talent, at Jake’s Thursday night concert.

 

We made friends.  We ate a lot of vegetables.  We laughed and we cried.  We hiked and meditated and listened and learned.  We are eternally grateful to each of you for taking this week out of your busy lives to gather together to cultivate joy.

As Doug Abrams says in the close to the book our week was centered around:

“…we would be missing the main message of the Dalai Lama’s and the Archbishop’s teachings if we did not emphasize that the source of true joy, as evidenced all week long and in their lives, is in our relationships with other people. … Ultimately, joy is not something to learn, it is something to live.  And our greatest joy is lived in deep, loving, and generous relationships with others.”

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We’ll be premiering a video featuring some of the highlights of the week at a soon-to-be-, and you are all invited to attend.  Details are forthcoming.  If you are not able to make the meal, we’ll be adding the video to our website the next day, for all to enjoy.  And, as our plans evolve over the next few months for our next Gathering event,  we will be sure to share all of the details with you in hopes that we can continue learning to live our best lives, in relationship and with deep and profound JOY.


Replacing Work with Joy … from Rollerblading

Life is Short

Life is Short

Rollerblading along the Pacific Beach/Mission Beach boardwalk was my favorite thing when I found myself at 37 divorced, supporting an ex-husband and two small children by putting in long hours at an international law firm, in search of love … the sense of freedom it gave me was the best thing in my life besides my amazing, beautiful children, and every weekend they spent with their Dad I spent rollerblading along the Bay.

Flying Down The Boardwalk

Flying Down The Boardwalk

But I haven’t put on my rollerblades for way too many years.   And as much as I value the spiritual over the material, the way I spend the time God gave me in this life suggests the opposite.  I say I value relationship and service and Things That Really Matter but I spend most of the hours of my day on the things that decidedly do not.

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Then a Facebook friend posted this video from the New York Times about Slomo.

http://nyti.ms/1fhrzxm

Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve been to the Boardwalk that I don’t recall ever having seen him there, and boy have I missed out.  Slomo has it right.  The freedom and joy of his spirit shines through, as does his bravery, his not caring that instead of the respect the world showed him as a successful doctor he now has people talking about him, wondering if he is a crazy homeless man or just crazy.  He doesn’t care, because he is simply enjoying filling each day he has left with wonder and joy, spending it doing what he loves.

Here I sit, 10 minutes from the Boardwalk with my rollerblades packed up who-knows-where with no excuse for not putting them on other than knowing that (i) my feet will ache at first, (ii) I’m very out-of-shape, and (iii) I don’t see where I’ll find the time.  What I’d forgotten was not just how much fun it was to rollerblade at the Beach, but also how much rollerblading along the Bay enriched my life.

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Thank you, Slomo, for the reminder.  I know what I’ll be doing this weekend.