Slaying the Perfection Dragon

Today while thinking about the New Year and preparing for bringing our intentions into reality, I was reminded of how important it is to clear out what no longer serves us. This may mean paper and computer files (have you noticed what clutter you are harboring?) or clothing that you haven’t worn in years. It may also be unhealthy habits, be they of thinking or behavior.

Then I came across a post that was originally posted in 2011, and I thought it was worthy of a re-run.  And so here it is.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the greatest enemy of good self esteem is perfectionism.  And it’s also the greatest enemy of your peace of mind.

It doesn’t take much rational thought to see why this is true.  What on earth can you see in your daily life that is perfect?  Certainly human beings, as much as we may love them, are never perfect.  And so neither are our relationships.  And any undertaking we make may be excellent, but never perfect.

Elaine told me that her mother admired tall, thin, blonde girls.  She was frequently pointing out one or another girl in Elaine’s class or on the streets of their town, telling Elaine how pretty that girl looked.  It wasn’t lost on Elaine that she was athletic, short and stocky with dark brown hair and brown eyes.  Quite different than the “perfect picture” that her mother lifted up as the ideal.  Clearly, Elaine was never going to make that team!

We get these ideal images from our parents, and also are inundated with them every time we open a magazine, turn on the television or watch a movie.  Our bodies, our clothing, our relationships, our jobs, cars and homes are all held up in comparison with perfection.  Even our children “should” be in the right sports, schools and activities in order to reach some mythical perfect standards.

For quite a few years I was an ardent fan of a famous Domestic Diva, and bought her magazines, cook books, and watched her television program when I could catch it.  I was smitten with the perfect pictures of food, crafts and rooms with their soothing, trademark colors.  As her queendom grew, so did the number of her homes (how many homes can one person live in?), the elegant meals and complicated deserts.  It occurred to me that these pictures of perfection were only made possible by the work of a gigantic cadre of minions who designed and executed the perfect gardens, recipes and craft projects.

A capable cook (if I do say so myself) I could slave over holiday meals or special deserts captured in the perfect pictures.  But what about setting the perfect table with handmade decorations?  Well, maybe if I started the month before (which I almost never did).  And then what about the perfect room that my guests would eat that meal in?  When it came down to it, I was pressed to have everything picked up and cleaned in time.  Alas, I am a woman without even one minion to do my bidding.

As I was falling out of love with the Diva, I started to cringe when I heard her use the word, “Perfect!” on the episode I was watching.  This was occurring at the same time I was becoming aware that I lived with the dragon Perfectionism myself.  And what a misery it is!

You may notice that whatever picture you have in your mind about the perfect body, clothes, job, spouse, meal, etc., that it makes a moving target.  There is nothing that escapes the beady eyes of your inner critic!  Listen to your inner voice if you don’t believe me.  Or listen to how you accept a compliment.  You may sweat over finding the perfect dress for that dinner party; spend hours getting yourself put together.  And when the first person compliments you, you say something like,

“Thanks but… (insert) I need to lose a few pounds, I was worried that it was too short or too long, I’m not sure it’s my color, or I’m afraid it makes my butt look too big.”

Picking out what doesn’t measure up to that picture of perfection is a great way to undermine self esteem.  Struggling to reach some impossible standard is guaranteed to lower your self confidence!

Instead of being the Perfect Mom, could you be a Good Enough Mom?  Meaning you can rear a child that is healthy, happy and grows up to be a contributing member of society.  Yes, s/he will be another imperfect human.  Instead of struggling to be the Perfect Cook/ Home Maker/ Professional What-ever/ Spouse, could you be Good Enough?

Knowing that you are a growing, developing, learning human who enjoys success and learns from failure (and yes, endures it because no one thinks it is fun!) you might loosen up enough to have fun, live in the moment, experiment (more fun), be curious and actually enjoy your life.  The pictures may inspire us, but leave it at that.  Use them for ideas, admire their beauty, and remember that that is all they do.

Most of all look for the beauty in your own rooms, or your own table in the meal that you serve.  Enjoy the charm, warmth and uniqueness of the relationships that are a part of your life.  And most of all, feel gratitude and appreciation for you…the lovable human being that you are.

A New Approach to A New Year

As December comes to a close, and another year looms ahead, my thoughts inevitably drift toward the goals that I met and didn’t meet. While I can claim progress to some areas that I vowed to improve last January, there are others that I have to say show few signs of my attentiveness or investment of time or energy.

And even though I go through the ritual of examining this at the end of every December, I have to confess that I am not fond of the sort of “Score Card” approach to living that this implies.

Certainly I think that goals are an important part of intentional living, or living on purpose…whatever you choose to call it.  We need to have an idea of what matters most to us, in other words, what we value. We need to be attending to our own growth and development, and in my view, the growth and health of our communities and the planet.

But the paradox to this also seems important: being present to the moment.  Learning to be mindful of what is going on within us and around us. Calm and accepting and aware.  How on earth can we do both?

Perhaps one key to it is to recognize ourselves as being creators in our own lives. You know, basically knowing that you can essentially have, be and do what you desire most. Of course the down side is accepting responsibility for what has manifested so far.  I’m not implying that we are not affected by who and what has come before us, nor am I saying that we can be at our best without the help and support of others and of Spirit.

Almost everyone I know has some thinking which I will call “default thinking;” a set of familiar if shop-worn and negative beliefs that we learned early on, and have not examined or outgrown. As we repeat this default thinking, our expectations, emotions, behaviors and consequences follow.  The cumulative effect of a lifetime of these patterns result in whatever our circumstances are.

So now that it’s the traditional time to “turn over a new leaf,” aka make New Year’s resolutions, it will be made as a wish that runs counter to the chatter of the Inner Critic who resides within most of us. You may resolve with all the fervor you can muster, however if that chatter doesn’t change, you are doomed to short-term results.

For instance you may resolve to stop smoking, but if you think of yourself as a smoker, visualize and imagine yourself smoking in your familiar haunts, while telling yourself not to do that, you are likely going to have short-term success at best. You are cruising for a relapse.

Or you may resolve to save more money or get out of debt, but if your focus is on the financial mistakes of your life, with all the attendant worry, guilt and fear that go with that, you are going to find making progress a hard road. If you think of yourself as a financial goof, then at the end of another year, you will likely be making the same resolution.

This is why some people think that there is no point in making resolutions. They see it as an exercise in futility. Discouraging to say the least. So what is the answer to this pattern of frustration and failure? How can you make lasting change? How can you create a life full of abundance of what you truly desire?

The keys to changing your life are in changing your habits: both habits of thinking and habits of behaving.

After all, negative thinking is nothing more than a habit. We repeat to ourselves those things we may have been told, or are afraid are true. And the mental images or pictures go with these “bad” words flash in our minds, reinforcing the “truth” of the beliefs. The emotions that match the images are aroused, making us feel certain that this really is true.

What if you were to choose what you really desire to believe about yourself?  What if you knew that you could tone down or stop the negative mind chatter, and instead talk to yourself in a positive and encouraging way?  What if your self-image was one of being powerful or loving or competent and not ugly or a failure or weak? Believe it or not, it is possible to make that shift.

There are a number of effective ways to change your self-image. For today let’s start with clarifying what you desire to believe about yourself. You can get out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of it. Fold it in half. On the left side, write a list of the qualities that you do NOT want to describe you.

For example, you might write: A financial failure; lonely and isolated; a smoker, someone who is undependable. Keep writing the list until you can’t think of anything else.

Open up the paper, and on the opposite side of the list you wrote, make a new list. Draw a line through the quality that you do NOT want, and in the new list, write its opposite, or the quality or image of what you DO want.

For instance, you may write:  A successful manager of my finances; a great friend with a happy social life; a healthy non-smoker; a dependable person who keeps my word to myself and others.

Use this second list as the beginning of affirmations you use every day. Write a desire statement using them and read them, focusing on the feelings that you will experience when you take full ownership of those qualities. It is important to feel the emotion or the words will seem hollow. What will it feel like when you are being dependable? Financially successful? Living smoke free? A friend with a great social life?

The success of this is not about the magic of the words, but rather about the consistent practice of affirming, imagining and feeling the emotions that you are evoking. The power of this is within you, and you must practice it until it becomes your new habit of thinking

The best analogy for this practice that I have ever read was from Pam Grout’s book E Squared, 9 Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality.  She writes that the processes of changing your bad thought habits are like training a puppy. When you find that you are repeating negative, hurtful or self-defeating thinking, you simply pick up the “puppy,” take him to his proper spot to pee, and praise him when he does.  Then when the puppy is beginning to go again in the wrong place (the bedroom slipper in your closet) you pick him up and take him to the correct place again. No hitting, no scolding. Just kind, patient and persistent correction.  Eventually the puppy gets it, and so will your mind.

For this and other methods, you may want to hire a coach. My services are available, and if you would like a complimentary session to determine whether coaching might be helpful to you, email me through the Contact Page button at the top of this page. At any rate, I hope you will be encouraged to pursue genuine life change if that is what you desire. You deserve to be happy, not only in the New Year, but throughout your life!

 

Taming the Mind

“You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”
~Albert Einstein~

That quote of Einstein’s has always rung a bell with me. It just makes sense that whatever my mindset was that led me to make certain choices would need to be changed if I wanted to make a different choice. Or, which is more to the point, to clean up a problem that the choice had created.

The problem is that HOW to change your mind to see your way clearly to a better solution isn’t often easy.  The real difficulty becomes apparent when the unconscious mind with its old (sometimes self-defeating or limiting beliefs) teams up with the emotions and creates a real uproar. Imagine a toddler screaming at the top of his lungs while you are trying to make a decision. He may be saying:

Don’t try to get that job! You don’t know enough!
You’d better not ask her/him out!  They won’t like you!
Don’t even try to quit smoking! You’ll never be able to stick it out!
People in our family have never been able to make much money!

Especially when it comes to making life changes, our emotions, particularly FEAR, gets into high gear. And when you consider that different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions, and in a way, “speak different languages,” it seems like a miracle when we pull off meeting our goals.

No matter how stuck in a rut we are, there is comfort in repeating the familiar patterns. In some ways part of our brain functions like any other animal brain. Your dog knows what it means when you reach for the tennis ball on the closet shelf.  He knows just where his food dish is, and where he sleeps and what time of day you come home.

Although you may hate your job, you know how to handle it. Or you may be unhappy in a relationship, but it’s familiar and you know how to negotiate it. And although you are afraid of the consequences of smoking, the thought of going through the discomfort of quitting keeps you lighting up.

The more engrained the limiting belief and the more potent your fear or anger, etc. the more difficult it is to use that part of your brain which is great at imagining a new outcome or solving the problem. Fortunately we all have that rational pre-frontal cortex…the creative, conscious mind. But we have to calm the amygdale, center of emotions, in order to change the limiting beliefs and get to new solutions.

Fortunately there is a method you can use to calm your emotions, change your limiting beliefs and access creative solutions that will serve you. I have been using EFT or tapping for a number of years, and teach it to my coaching and psychotherapy clients. EFT is a scientifically proven acupressure technique that is self administered. It’s simple to do and calms the emotions and reduces stress. In other words, it’s a great way to tame the mind!

Here are some times you may want to consider using tapping:

When feeling very angry or disappointed in someone’s behavior.
When feeling overwhelmed with a big job or something new.
When procrastinating with any task.
When preparing to make a speech or presentation or public performance.
When you are having trouble forgiving yourself or someone else.

You may access information about EFT by clicking on the “Tapping Solutions” widget in the right column on this blog. You may also want to download the free eBook on the website, or order the movie that is featured there. If coaching for EFT interests you, you may contact me through the page at the top of the blog.  I also recommend a  Tapping Into Ultimate Success by Jack Canfield and Pamela Brunner.

I hope you will be empowered in finding solutions to tame your mind and to reach whatever goals you have in your life.

 

 

 

 

Fear, the Frequent Companion

“I have accepted fear as a part of life – specifically the fear of change.
I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: Turn back!”
~ Erica Jong ~


This morning I was listening to Ellen talk about her frustrations in feeling “stuck” for the past few weeks. She is starting a new business, has completed the training required and has the credentials in hand that she needs. Although it is different than what she has been doing, it is closely enough related that she can make use of her old network of contacts. She has made a business plan, worked with a mentor, but now finds herself stopped in her tracks.

She not only isn’t taking action on her business plan, but she has been avoiding exercise, her journal or most other self care activities that she usually does. The worst part she said is that she can’t figure out what is stopping her. She then went on about ways in which she is afraid she can’t measure up to the “successful” people in the field who seem to be having miraculous night-and-day changes from their old lives.

Ah yes, those night and day fantasies. I recognize them!

Have you had those fantasies too? Sales copy is full of appeals to our imagining that we too can be delightfully (and forever) happy if we just buy the right designer bridal gown. Or that completing a course of study will land you in clover and you’ll be happily employed for a lifetime. Or that if you would just take off the extra 40 pounds you will find your soul mate…probably the next day. Or that buying the BMW (or Lexus or …fill in the blank) will convince your neighbors that you are Mr. or Ms.Success.

I’m sure at some point we have all “bought the Lexus” so to speak. I know I have. At least in theory. I have certainly embarked on some ventures that had me brimming with enthusiasm at first. But there is something about taking the first steps in that new venture that brought me up short. Did I really know what I was doing? I was of two minds about it. Sure I researched it; studied up on it; read about or talked with people who had gone before me. I even had some semblance of a plan. But did I feel ready?

And sure enough, soon I have one of those dreaded “awakened bolt upright” in bed (what IS it about 3:00 AM?!) that has me regretting that I took Ben and Jerry off my grocery list. Eating an apple for comfort just doesn’t cut it. But I digress.

Shortly after deciding to go into private practice, I awoke, heart pounding, from a dream in which I was driving my car from the back seat. I was headed to Kansas to visit my grandmother, and I couldn’t find the right direction. In fact the dream car was swerving all over the road. It didn’t take a lot of lengthy interpretation to see what that was about.

Was my confidence a shoddy cover up for what was really going on? Not really, but the effect of the dream was to awaken me to the fear that I felt about having less control over the outcome that I imagined (and was trying to convince myself of). And what if I was going in the wrong direction? Had I lost my ability to find my way back to Kansas (the values or what was important to me) or “home?”

The upshot of all this was that I did open my practice. And I also discovered that feeling fear was just a part of it. Every important change in life seems to be accompanied by fear. There is no getting around it. Life seems to have a way of showing us that despite our planning and machinations, that we really have control of very little. And maybe some fear serves a useful purpose. Sometimes we need a cautionary note to slow us down and think through a decision. To consider the possible consequences. On the other hand, we must avoid going to the extreme of treating the fear as if it is REAL. And by that I mean that fear is a feeling that we get when we are embarking into new territory, but the story we are telling ourselves that fuels the fear is not a FACT.

An excellent approach to clearing fear out of the way is to use EFT or meridian tapping. You can access one source for it by clicking on the widget in the right hand column of this blog.

One of the best books on the subject is one by Dr. Barbara Jeffers entitled, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. And that title sums it up, I think. Use the frequent companion of fear to explore the options, but don’t let it stop you. Taking action toward a life change you desire will certainly evoke fear, but moving along step by step will build your confidence and eventually conquer it.

 

Creating: Begin with the End in Mind

“Live out of your imagination, not your history.”
~Stephen Covey~

 

You may not consider yourself to be a creative person, but I assure you that you are.  The act of creating is something that we all do in living life.  Of course we may develop skills to a high level as inventors and entrepreneurs do.  And we may be in the tribe of writers, artists and interior decorators where creativity is very much on the front burner of awareness.

Many more of us live according to habits and beliefs that we have learned early on, and are unaware of how we are creating our lives. In other words, we may be unconscious of the creative process.  Too bad, because this leads to unnecessarily lost opportunities and dissatisfaction.

You may find that while you have fantasies or wishes for how you life could be, that for the most part you live your life looking in the rearview mirror.  We need to learn the lessons that our history presents, but history does not determine your future life.  Not if you wake up and pay attention.  And not if you are willing to learn something about creativity.

The first step to creating anything is to clearly envision the end result.  You have to know what you intend to have at the end of the process in order to get there.  I heard a writer interviewed the other day who said that she always begins her books by writing the end of the story. John Assaraf tells of his experience of cutting out a picture of a house with great architectural details that he admired and pasting it on a white poster board.  Years later he discovered the forgotten picture when he was packing to move his family into a new house.  Amazingly, the picture on the poster board was of the exact house he had bought and was moving into!

You do not have to have every detail in mind, or know how on earth you will get there.  But do take some time to tune into your imagination and create a mental picture of what you want. Use every sense that you can to make the impression as vivid as possible.  And most importantly, tune into the emotions that you will feel as you arrive at that destination that you created. For instance:

The taxi seemed to be taking forever to get from the airport to the book store where my first book signing was scheduled to take place. I didn’t have time to stop at the hotel as I had planned, so the store manager put my luggage in a locked store room until we were finished. I was nervous at first, but then amazed and excited to see the line of people holding copies of my new book and waiting to have them signed! I felt really proud of the bound book and beautiful book jacket. The line went clear out the door!  As I began I was overwhelmed with the enthusiastic comments and compliments of people who said they loved the book and hoped that I would write a sequel. Someone said that she thought it would make a great movie plot. After awhile the manager said that the local TV station had called to see if I would be willing to do an interview. Of course I said yes!  At the end of the day I was tired, but thrilled and excited to tell Jamie all about it when he and the kids called to see how my first book signing had gone. They sent a bouquet of roses to my room to help me celebrate.

The end result that you are picturing may be detailed and exact or general.  Either one will work in providing a jumping-off point. Some creators, such as Georgia O’Keeffe, are very clear about the details of the finished project (she considered it a waste of paint and canvas if she didn’t), and others have a more general outline in mind. Some just begin at a point and keep modifying the work as they go. As I said, either approach will work if you work it.

You may find it a challenge to discover and refine what exactly it is that you want.  If you have been a people pleaser, then you will need to learn to tune into your own inner voice rather than thinking about what others who are important to you might think or expect. Some public school graduates are well conditioned to think in terms of “right answers” or outcomes.  Not what will please us or meet our own unique preferences and needs.

Another technique for discovering your heart’s desires is to take a visual approach.  Go through a variety of magazines and clip out pictures that appeal to you.  Don’t sit and think about this and then look for pictures of a particular type or subject.  Just look and clip. Then get a piece of poster board and sort through them and see if they are related to any particular themes or to aspects of your life. Do they tell a story? Could you make up a story from them? Put a picture of yourself into the mix and see what happens. Give yourself time to revisit them the next day and the next. Then paste them onto the board and keep it in sight for several days.

See if you can make a list of desires or intentions from the board.  Ask yourself this question, “If I could have it right now, would I take it?” Pay attention to emotions that come up. Another question to answer would be, “Would I tell anyone that I want this? What would I expect if I did?”

Be brave; say what you are longing for. Can you admit this to yourself? You may feel vulnerable in discovering your longings, even to yourself.  But I can tell you; this is powerful stuff for creating your life.

Baby Steps Revisited

 “While it is true that without a vision the people perish,
it is doubly true that without action the people
and their vision perish, as well.”
~Johnetta Betsch Cole~

Recently I wrote a post, http://www.coach4lifechange.com/2012/08/clean-up-clean-out/ about my adventures in making my work space more functional and pleasant.  About a month has elapsed since then and I’m happy to report some satisfying progress.

The home office itself is cleared out except for one box that needs to go to the donation center. The desk is a marvel of order, especially considering that one of the tasks I undertook was a revamping of the book keeping system that I use, complete with a meeting with David, my very patient CPA. At least for the time being the outbox is clear and the inbox has a small stack of opened mail. I’m still leery of putting anything important in that “Pending” file in the front of the file drawer. I am all too familiar with the truth in the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

The closet in that room is full of stored items, and I must admit, needs a good turning out. Out of sight, out of mind kind of works for me there, at least for the short term, and with a good pair of closet doors.  It will be a good winter project.  I have noticed that as drawers, closets and other storage places get put in order according to the way that I use them, taking a couple of minutes to put things away is quick and easy. And the feng shui experts are correct in saying that it’s good for the general energy flow and sense of well being. I can focus much better when working in an orderly space.

After getting the financial data in order, I received some great advice.  And that is to set aside time every week…the same day of the week, to enter expenses, pay bills and check the balances.  Sounds like great  advice that I would do well to follow.  What could be the problem?

I am guessing that if someone were to advise me that eating half a pint of Ben and Jerry’s every day is the magic bullet to becoming a millionaire, I still would find myself “forgetting” to do it within a week’s time.  Doing a new task consistently is the bane of my existence!  And yet writing it in my schedule and taking on the challenge is something I am willing to do.

I have learned from experience that instead of just dreaming or just complaining about my dreams that have not come true, that there is no substitute for taking action. There’s nothing like baby steps. Unhappy about your life? Then do one thing different!  It may seem too small and simple to work, especially in the face of what seems like an overwhelming mess or long-standing beliefs and behaviors.

The secret that is not really a secret is that taking one small and consistent step in the right direction, will embolden and inspire you.  The challenge for me and maybe for you is being consistent.  No matter how smart an idea I have or what great instruction I have received, continuing to do it until it is a new habit.  Life happens, and I get pulled off course to take care of something that seems urgent (not always important though, I must say).  Before long I have fallen way behind and then awaken with a jolt as I realize that my mess has recurred.

But instead of complaining or whining about being a victim of circumstance, we need to climb right back up on the horse, so to speak, and proceed according to our dreams, goals and plans.  After some days and weeks of doing so, the new order will feel more comfortable and easy to live with.

What is Greater than Genius?

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed
in overalls and looks like work.”
~Thomas Edison~


This week the scientific world is celebrating the discovery of a sub-atomic particle that may be the key to the formation of stars, planets and eventually life after the Big Bang. Called the Higgs Boson, or god particle, many questions remain about the exact nature of this particle. When the news was announced in Switzerland, the audience of scientists applauded wildly.

Their excitement may be explained in part by the fact that it has taken the cooperation of thousands of scientists working over four decades to find the particle that is essential to seeing that there’s an invisible field that permeates the universe and gives mass to everything in it including stars and of course the atoms inside our bodies. This is a very big deal.

Now what I know about quantum physics you could put inside the eye and a gnat and it could still see.  But the thing that snagged my attention was the obvious joy and excitement expressed by what is usually a pretty staid and stoic group of human beings.  Scientists are cautious in their pronouncements about important discoveries.  Generally not prone to drama.

The other thing that struck me is that they have been looking for this sub-atomic particle for so long and that it has taken a huge army of people working steadily on the problems involved in finding it.  40 years!

It reminded me of Thomas Edison who worked doggedly on his invention of the electric light bulb. He and his associates worked on at least three thousand different theories to develop an efficient incandescent lamp. We admire his genius, but often overlook the years of work, trial and error that he required to finally succeed.  Most of his contemporaries had long since given up by that time.  He was quoted as saying, “”Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Does it sometimes seem to you that what you need to succeed is a unique and amazing idea?  Surely that would be the key to success, whether you want to invent something, meet a challenging goal, make a career change or start a new business.  It really is amazing when that figurative light bulb goes off in your mind.  But I think Edison and the quantum physicists would tell us that that is just a nanosecond of the story.

After the great idea, then it’s time to put on your overalls and get to work. And to expect to persevere in that work for a long time, if need be. Keeping focused on the target and then persevering despite setbacks and errors will get you to your goal eventually.  Those mistakes are essential to the process and must not deter you.

Can you imagine how many trials and errors Edison and the quantum physicists must have encountered?  And all of it provided feedback that enabled them to make the eventual changes that led to success possible.  Whatever achievement you are working on, find the support and inspiration you need to keep on your path. You can persevere and succeed.