This one’s for all the perfectionists out there. By which I mean those of you who futz over things until they’re “just so.” And those of you who can get paralyzed come decision time because you want to make the “right” choice. Or who notice yourself rejecting a lot of what you hear from others because in your head, the crap they’re spewing doesn’t line up with what you know to be “true”.
(Hint: It’s easy to be a perfectionist and not know it. I never identified as a perfectionist – you should see how crazy I look when I leave the house sometimes! – yet I definitely spent years feeling the need to be right.)
I want to drop something on you that I hope will blow your mind. Maybe not right away, but let it sink in and see what kinds of tendrils it sprouts:
There are no mistakes.
Nope, not even one. Not even that one thing that immediately popped in your head when you read it. Everything, everything, that happens shows up to give us the opportunity to grow into the person we’re capable of being.
I know all about it, because I lived it. My first foray in to the corporate world, at the ripe old age of 22, consisted of working two jobs – I’d work from 6-8 am in a stock broker’s office, then go to my “dream” job (an editorial assistant position that only paid $7.50/hour) from 8:30 – 5. Later, I worked 50 hours a week at an Internet start-up while getting a master’s degree in educational technology and communications in the evenings. I worked hard, yo!
There is a definite thrill to going after what you want, and doing it in a big way.
We bought our house for the yard. It’s easily 2-1/2 times the size of the footprint of the house, with an enormous rhododendron, a gorgeous magnolia tree, ridiculously productive raspberry bushes, and an old stone wall running through it. We heart this yard!
And yet, it is clogged with weeds. I have filled three trash cans with the little suckers I’ve pulled out of the ground, and I’m not even half-way through the yard. And more weeds pop up every day.
I am a huge proponent of small steps that add up to big progress over time, so the weed-eliminating project is right up my alley. I’ve always suggested weeding as a form of mind-body practice, and man, am I reaping the benefits of that advice now! Funny how we teach what we need to learn. J
Here’s how my yard is like life – if you aren’t consistently taking steps to remove stuff you don’t want, whether they are thoughts, or tchotchkes, or habits, they are gonna completely overtake the landscape.
We spent Sunday afternoon at a birthday party for one of my daughter’s very best friends. When I asked Lillian what we should buy as a gift, she replied instantly, “A headband and a magic wand.” (For anyone who needs to buy for a 5-year-old girl, now you no longer have to wonder what to give as a gift.)
Lillian talks a lot about magic. I tell her she’s magic all the time—that she can make things that didn’t exist before, whether that’s a drawing of a unicorn, a corn plant, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or that when she smiles at someone or gives hugs, she makes that person happier than they were a minute ago.
“I’m a little bit magic, mommy, but unicorns and fairies are so magic.”
I tell her something is either magic or it’s not. And just the fact that you’re alive proves you are magic. Then we usually get into a detailed discussion about unicorns. But the seed is planted.
To which I say, woo hoo! Nothing better than being sprung for a few days to do exactly as you darn well please.
Before you go, I just want to give a shout-out to freedom. My wish for each one of you is that you experience freedom in the most important place on Earth. No, not America (although I do love and honor this country of ours and give thanks to everyone who has worked to create and sustain it). I’m talking about your own mind.
This one’s for all of you out there who, when you find yourself with a spare minute, immediately think, what can I get done before I have to do that next thing? I’m talking about sneaking in a quick magazine article while on the pot, making a call while you cook dinner, sending just two more emails before you leave to meet someone (which then makes you chronically 10 minutes late).
I know it comes from an honorable place – wanting to handle everything well, to pursue lots of important things, to not let the people who depend on you down. Yet there’s a dark side to a tendency to overdo, too. Like, keeping yourself so busy that you never get to the stuff you really want to do. Or, cramming in so much that you lose the ability to think clearly. Constantly scanning for what else needs doing, so you are perpetually distracted. Meaning you forget to listen when people are talking. You may even forget to pay attention when you’re driving, and bump into a telephone pole while you’re backing up. Or maybe have a more serious accident.
As someone who didn’t meet her husband until age 33, I experienced a lot of break ups. A couple of them tragic. A couple of them euphoric. Most of them accompanied by a lot of angst—is this the right thing to do? What if I don’t find anyone better?
I’ve also broken up with my fair share of jobs. Usually right after I started making a really decent living, because I was subconsciously committed to the idea that I didn’t like rich people, but that’s a subject for another post.
I’ve also been broken up with graciously, outright dumped, and unceremoniously laid off. So I know break-ups. I know how wrenching they can be, even the ones where it’s a total relief to be done. And so I’m feeling extra empathic lately for nearly all of my clients, as most of them are either contemplating or going through breakups of their own—husbands, family members, jobs.
There’s a phrase in the coaching world: “You spot it, you got it.” Meaning, if someone is doing something that’s bugging you, it likely means you also share that trait. And chances are, you don’t like that part of yourself very much.
Take, for example, a buttinsky mother-in-law (this example is not from my real life – my mother-in-law is a peach who also reads this newsletter!) who makes you want to claw someone’s eyeballs out each time she comments on how you parent your kids. Which is all. The. Time.
According to the “You spot it, you go it,” rationale, it points to your own inner micro-manager, who’s getting annoyed because someone else is playing its favorite role.
Ever found yourself standing in front of the fridge, definitely hungry, but with no idea what for? Eventually you shut the door and look in the pantry. Then move on to the cupboard. Then peer in the fruit bowl. Still nothing. So you stay hungry.
It’s a simple truth: you can’t fill a hunger you can’t name. It’s the same principle that I find myself saying again and again to my clients: You can’t change a habit you don’t know you have.
Which is why the first step – always – in changing old, annoying habits and patterns is awareness. Not fixing or getting harsh with yourself; simply seeing what’s there to be seen.
The amazing thing is that just noticing what’s going on in your head and thus, your life, starts the transformation process. (It doesn’t end there, generally, fyi.) It’s like the scientific principle that the very act of observing something changes the outcome. There’s magic in simple seeing.
I spent pretty much all of Mother’s Day in O’Hare airport. Well, 7 hours of it, anyway. Which gave me plenty of time to think about what it feels like when the universe’s timing doesn’t match up with your own desired pacing.
But first, let me back up a bit: My daughter Lil and I had traveled to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to be a guest teacher at the all-out fantastic Camp Makearoo – a retreat for folks who want to make more space for creativity in their lives. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to take Lil along to this family-friendly affair: Our retreat host, Toni McClellan, brought two of her boys and keynote speaker Meagan Francis brought her four-year-old daughter, Clara. It was a dream to blend work, family, and fun. The above is a picture of me, talking the Campers through a visualization while Lil cozied up in my lap. Bliss.