Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fighting Perfectionism

Ok - so I'm long overdue for a blog ... I've officially started (and stopped) at least 6 blog entries only to talk myself out of sending it out and making it public. I've had a case of the "it's not good enough's" lately - specifically pertaining to my writing. It's funny, I'm starting to understand a bit more about the world of a writer.... it's a bit like meditation. You just have to make a commitment do it no matter what - whether you feel like it or not. For me meditation is sometimes amazing and other times it just is .... blah. The point is that I have to take the action and do it everyday - no matter what. For me, I know that meditation is what grounds me - without it I'm a spinning top (even more of one than I can be WITH meditation). I certainly don't do it perfectly - sometimes my head is obsessed about something, other times I feel fidgety and want to get up and move around.... and then there is that occassional sit when it's absolutely peaceful and calming. It makes it ALL worth while. This is how I'm experiencing writing. I may write several pages - blogs, newsletters, pages to my book and they may be 'average' at best .... and then, there is that one blog entry that knocks it out of the ball park. Its not that that one entry took any more effort, in fact often times it happens that the best writing flows easily, effortlessly and quickly. However, it is because I've banked the other times of sitting, writing and practing..... very imperfectly practicing.

It's funny, I was JUST talking about perfection with a coaching client recently and what an extraordinarily high bar it is to hold for herself (or anyone else for that matter). I've personally struggled with the dis-ease of 'perfection-itis' myself for much of my life - wanting to be thin, beautiful, smart, organized, funny, financially successful - and always thinking that I 'should' be somewhere I wasn't. Over time and with ALOT of help (i.e. self-help books, faith, therapy, twelve-step work and a lot of support from friends) I've let go of having to be 'perfect' in many ways...... however, I am noticing it slipping into my writing. Perfectionism shows up in all sorts of sneaky ways as it's not as overt as it used to be. Where the voice of perfectionism used to say things like "that sounds dumb ... forget it", it now says things like "I've got other things I need to do or I need a break". I'm starting to clue in that that voice is just giving me some lame excuses and distractions so I don't have to sit with the discomfort of imperfect thinking, writing, self-expression. Writing is one place I have to sit down, focus and stay the course. It's very tempting to get up and clean the house, cook food, run errands, get on the phone, etc.... not as comfortable, but much more rewarding to sit, write, think, reflect and produce something that allows me to express myself.

I have a new commitment to you and myself - NO MATTER WHAT I will write twice a week - blog, newsletter or pages to my book no matter if it's great, lame, inspiring, generic, creative, flowing or choppy. It's about the practice - and as a great coach once said to me, "you get good at whatever you practice." I'd like to become great at writing..... so here's to practicing! And my challenge to you is to do that 'thing' that you've been putting off until you're in the 'right mood' or have the 'right thoughts' about .... and just go do it - however imperfect it is - just do it. Wouldn't it be a relief to give yourself permission to be imperfectly human? After all, that is what we are.

Here's to being imperfectly perfect!

Love to you,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Refueling for Success

Lately I've had a case of the "I don't w-a-n-n-a'-s". I haven't felt like putting on nice clothing, I have felt lazy about exerting my brain to think, create and write (hence, a delayed blog!) and I haven't wanted to apologize to my boyfriend, even when it was my fault. I'm not sure what to call this - laziness, apathy, disinterest or just a phase. Recently I was speaking to my coach about a recent vacation I took with my boyfriend to meet each others family. A BIG trip to say the least. Shortly after telling my coach about my vacation, I launched into my agenda for that day's call. After hearing me out, he paused as he always does.... then asked, "and, how are you?" It was at this moment that I realized I'd given myself NO time to even acknowledge how I was doing or process the experience I'd just had. I had returned from my vacation and launched right into the busy-ness of my life. I hadn't taken the time to digest my feelings and the significance of the trip I'd just taken. There were many components to this trip ..... seeing my uncle and cousin who are both struggling through chemo fighting their individual cancer battles, seeing the rest of my family who I only see once a year, bringing a new man home to meet everyone.... for the FIRST TIME EVER and meeting my boyfriend's family for the first time. Given that all this was still swirling around inside of me, all I could say in response to his question was that I felt numb. I had several thoughts and emotions about the experience I'd just had and I was putting them aside to do what I thought I 'should' be doing - working. Now, don't get me wrong, I love my work and feel fortunate to be able to do something that energizes me regularly however, I know today that work must come secondary to personal care or I am of no use to my clients.

Even with this awareness, I noticed I felt a strong attachement to pushng forward and adhering to my agenda that I'd brought to the call with my coach. I recognized that the thought of letting go of work temporarily stirred up fear for me. I feared that if I did not stay engaged with my work and my continual push to grow and learn, I would lose 'it' ...... my mojo, gusto, interest and flow of clients. After expressing this to my coach and exploring the feelings behind this I came to realize that in fact I could not focus on my work in a productive, creative way until I dealt with what was in front of me - a combination of sadness, confusion and exhaustion. I had to trust that I would return to a place (hopefully sooner than later) of desire and clarity regarding my work. So, given that my energy was stuck I decided to take a leap of faith and focus on rest, exercise and connection both with myself and close, trusted friends. I also used (and still use, obviously) writing as a tool to move through the stuckness - very helpful! What I realized is that this was (and I know there will be many more) a time that I needed to focus on refueling my tank. I cannot (nor can you) give away what you do not have. Similarly a car cannot drive without gas in the tank.

What I know is that some days I am ON ... other days, my tank is lower and I need a little more r&r ... it's normal, it's human and it's OK. If you're having one of 'those' days or weeks ..... try something a little different. Rather than forcing yourself to 'push through', give yourself permission to 'refuel'. I'd bet you money you'll be glad you did and much more productive because of it in the long run!

Here's to more naps, massages, personal days and 'time-outs'!


P.S. And, in case your wondering, the self-care is paying off - I'm more productive, more focused and more energized as a result.

Monday, October 5, 2009

To my beloved uncle

If this were it, what would you do? If you were told you had a short time left, how would you spend your time? What would you do differently, if anything? I have asked clients these questions hundreds of times and have mildly thought about them myself..... although, I can't say that I've ever REALLY taken the questions completely serious. I think on some level I want to believe I'm immortal.

Having been with my family for the past week, I am witnessing my beloved uncle who has been a father figure to me my entire life, struggle through his nauseating and grueling chemo treatments, fighting for his life to get one more day with his family and friends. I don't see him these days but once a year because we live on opposite coasts, however, my family, particularly my uncle is very special to me given that I spent my summers here (in Pittsburgh, PA). Growing up with my uncle - laughing at his jokes, watching him adore his children and belt out his favorite country songs as we drove to his favorite fishing spots taught me to be more adventurous and of course, to love fishing! :) I will never forget those days ..... ever.

Holding these memories close and now facing the new reality of my uncles health is quite a shock to my system. I don't know that I've ever witnessed something this profound - seeing someone I love have the life sucked out of them. What was once easily taken for granted - a robust, charismatic, subtly hilarious man.... now, much thinner, quieter and deliberate in how he spends his energy .... since he has much less to expend.

What is hardest, I think, is knowing what to say and do. What I'd most like to do is to wave a magic wand and make it go away - for him, the physical pain and for myself and the rest of the family, the emotional pain and the changing reality of someone so dear to us exiting our lives.

At a family gathering last night where my uncle was present, I couldn't help but stare at him.... watching how his affect has so dramatically changed. He was almost expressionless while we watched an exciting football game (his favorite team). What normally would have elicited whooping and hollering from him, instead got a half smile through his pointed cheekbones and sunken jaw.

No one in my family really knows what to say or do. I kept thinking during the family event last night .....should we be telling him how much we love him or how sorry we are or how much he has meant to us? Or, do we carry on in our crazy, all-over-the-map, family ways? I am stumped. In this area, I feel a bit paralyzed ...... and very ineffective. I am powerless and very humbled by mortality. I'm also afraid to address the elephant in the room (which does not happen too often for me). However, this is a different breed of elephant ... at least to me.

What I was and am most struck by through the pain I experienced in watching my uncle was watching his nieces - all four of them under the age of nine - crawl all over him as if nothing was different (and in their minds, nothing is different). They were calling his name ("Pap Pap") and professing their love for him. It was tender, wonderful and fearless. A true gift to watch. I was admiring their uninhibited love and expression towards my uncle - wanting desperately to do the same yet, felt afraid to do so and instead, in a very adult fashion, hugged my uncle countless times asking him how he was.

To my uncle and others who are reading this, whether you are given a timeline on how much longer you have the privilege to be here or not, the truth is we all only have an absolute time on earth. Please don't waste your time. Take in and give as much love as you possibly can because in the end it really is all we have - love. Money, travels, nice clothes, pretty homes, yachts, the fancy corner office, etc.... doesn't mean all that much in the end. Love on the other hand, means everything and is what stays with people.

To my beloved uncle: I love you. I honor you. I thank you. God bless you!

With love and gratitude,

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How good can you stand it?

How often do you let yourself dream? And, when you do, how big are you 'allowed' to imagine your life becoming? Do you hold yourself back from dreaming the 'seemingly impossible' by reminding yourself to be 'realistic'? What IS realistic anyways? I was recently coaching a client on her level of satisfaction with her job - we'd been down this road before and she decided that the best thing to do then was to stay put (she was convinced that this was her only choice EVEN with us exploring other possibilities). This time around she meekly said, "my company makes me feel like a loser." I asked her to explain what that meant.... she went on to say that she never felt enough. There was always more to do and she spent much of her time just trying to keep up. She also said she felt like she was easily replaceable which kept her trying even harder to prove herself.

I was curious about this notion that 'her company' made her feel bad about herself. I had a hunch that this 'feeling' she was experiencing was something that was old ...... a belief that was much deeper than what was happening within her company. When I probed a bit more she revealed that her mother used to get upset when she came home with a 99% instead of a 100% - it was made clear that she was 'missing the mark'. The lasting impact of the disappointment that was displayed to my client was and is that she will not ever be 'enough'.

This feeling of 'not-enoughism' clouds over every choice my client makes. When I ask her about her dreams she is barely able to tell me something she'd love to have, do or achieve without finishing the sentence with a reason why it's not possible, too hard, unrealistic or out of reach. There is usually a "BUT" at the end of the sentence with an excuse to follow. Now, I'm absolutely NOT knocking this client in any way for her way of thinking..... it has been ingrained in her from an early age that she wasn't enough which translates into a variation of "I don't deserve." If you're given a message enough times, you WILL begin to believe it - whether it comes from 'out there' or yourself.... it becomes true. And, in my clients case, it started 'out there' and is now an internal dialogue that prevents my client from letting herself take risks, boldly dream and give herself permission to have what she REALLY wants in her life.

Can you relate? I sure can. Dreaming BIG is not for sissies..... it requires consistent committment to dreaming, visualizing what you want and putting forth action to move you forward.... and, most imporant, believing that you are worthy to have your dreams come true! It's easy to get 'lazy' and accept whatever life sends your way - settling for mediocrity and accepting that this is as good as it will get..... believing that this is as much as you deserve. I ask .....why not dream of achieving the impossible? Why not dream of having that big, beautiful, spaceous kitchen you've always wanted? Ask yourself - who says you can't have it? Is it you or someone else? Who says you can't write a book, become a millionaire or meet the most incredible partner? If there is someone in your life who is telling you that you cannot have these things, then by all means, stop sharing your dreams with them! The ONLY difference between you and the person who has written the book, danced on stage, become the millionaire or married the person they'd always envisioned is that they were committed to their dream. They showed up and took the steps to achieve what they envisioned and SO CAN YOU!!

Remember, 'security' is an attachment to something temporary.... it's actually playing small, not big. People, places and things come and go ..... So, why stay with anything or any person that is not fulfilling one of your dreams or leading you to your next?

Dream the impossible ...... and then watch yourself achieve it.

Here's to a vivid imagination! :)