It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect

I am  a bit of a perfectionist.  I have been trying to think of a topic for this post for over a week now and didn’t feel like I had enough substance for any idea in particular.  So, what better than to talk about how my perfectionism gets in the way from time to time?  I was reminded of a very helpful activity the other day while reading a blog post by Heather Neal; the activity is called “Morning Pages”.  This is where you are supposed to write 3 pages of thoughts first thing every morning.  These are not supposed to be premeditated in any way, just stream of conscious as you are sitting and writing.  I had started doing morning pages a little over a year ago (I think that is what built up my confidence to start a blog in the first place), but had stopped just after I found out I was pregnant….not enough energy to think yet alone write during that first trimester lol.

Anyways, this activity started out extremely challenging for me.  I wanted to write inspirational ideas and use smooth language rather than choppy thoughts.  I would find that as soon as I sat down with pen and paper my brain would go blank.  How is it that I could have a million thoughts every second, to the point of not being able to track them all, to having absolutely nothing to write about?  I realized that it was my perfectionism that was blocking me.  I like things that are clean and organized, legible and clear, not spelled wrong, scratched out or written too fast to read.  To start working through this I had to write about how I didn’t know what to write about.  Once the pen slowly got put into motion, the flood gates of thoughts was open again.

I started to praise myself for scratching out words mid-sentence because a better one popped into my head, this was a more accurate portrayal of my thought process, it can change tone mid-thought sometimes.  I was letting the pages write themselves rather than dictate what could and could not be documented in ink.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, embracing the imperfections will give creativity room to grow.  With time and practice the overall end product will improve naturally.

So as hard as it is for me not to re-read this post over and over to fix wording and rearrange ideas, I am just going to hit “Publish” as is and hope it makes enough sense for any reader to follow. (okay, I’ll confess I did proof read it once)

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Learning to Follow

I love ballroom dancing.  It is just so elegant and beautiful. I have taken many lessons with my husband in the past (it is actually how we started dating), and through learning to dance, have learned a lot about myself as a person as well.  I tend to overanalyze everything and want to control my steps and back-lead my partner…I had to learn to wait for his signals and just follow his leads.  Once I learned how to turn my brain down while on the dance floor, the experience grew exponentially more enjoyable for my partner as well as myself.  It is so magical to be led up and down, left and right and just feel the music through my partners motions.  But letting go of control and waiting for the next move is a very hard thing to learn and even harder to be comfortable with.  It took a lot of time.  Eventually I grew to love the improv of ballroom dancing much more so than the choreographed routines.  With choreographed routines, if I miss a step, I stumble all over myself trying to fix it even if nobody else even noticed the mistake.  Not having a set routine takes this frustration out of the equation and opens the door to so many more possibilities.

I grew up in an environment that has always preached “be a leader, not a follower”.  So I worked hard at it: I worked hard to graduate with honors from a private engineering university;  I worked hard to excel at my job and climb the ladder of responsibility from team member to team lead to engineering manager;  I worked hard to build my own tutoring business when I moved internationally to be with my husband.  All of these stepping stones required extreme organization, structure and self control.  Then I became a mom…

I am now trying to learn how to follow again.  It’s like learning to ballroom dance all over again with my new partner.  When I can successfully follower her leads, my day is so much smoother than when I try to maintain control and stick to a structured schedule.  Just like ballroom dancing, the overall structure is extremely important (don’t forget to eat, nap or bath the baby), but improv between the lines is what gives each day life.  It is a very rewarding feeling to relinquish control and enjoy the moments one at a time.  With time and practice I shall learn to stop trying to choreograph my daily routine, but rather just dance through each day’s own unique rhythm.  Today may be slow and steady like a waltz, but tomorrow may be full of hustle and motion like a cha-cha.

Big News!

I’m back!

It’s been a full year since I have posted anything, and quite a lot has changed in that time.  I am now a mother!

Now more than ever, I have a lot of to learn, explore and accept about myself as every little thing can now also influence the growth and development of my beautiful baby girl.

Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed. ~Linda Wooten

My goal is not to be the “perfect” mom, because there really is no such thing…but perhaps I can achieve being a “good” mom more often than not.

What Do You Value?

“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself” – Henry David Thoreau

You can’t have it all.  There are too many things in this world to strive for, obtain and achieve, the sad truth that we all need to accept is that nobody can ever have it all.  Each of us needs to individually choose the things that are of the greatest value to us and make them the central driving forces of our daily decisions.

It is so easy to get pulled in several different directions at the same time.  Do you want a successful and fulfilling career? Do you want to raise a family? Do you want to explore the world one country at a time?  All of these sound great to me, but I can’t have it all.

As it is Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, let’s use a holiday food analogy.  After eating a very big dinner, it is time to choose a dessert.  There are three different pies to choose from, but I am already feeling full.  I can choose one piece of pie (this would be wise if I had a favorite), or I can choose to take a small sample of each of the three pies.  With each choice, I am making a sacrifice.  If I go for one pie only, I sacrifice getting to taste the other two, but if I choose to sample all of them, I will get a smaller portion of each and won’t have the most of my favorite pie.

Life choices work the same way, if you try to balance multiple goals at the same time, you sacrifice getting the most out of one experience in order to have a variety of experiences. It’s all mathematical; we all have a limited amount of time and energy so we must carefully choose where our time and energy is best spent.  Which path will provide the most value?  This answer will be different for everybody as there is not one set definition of value.  There is not one specific way of measuring value.

I tend to feel envious of people who are experts in what they do.  These people made a choice to spend most of their time developing that one specific skill.  In doing so, they chose not to learn something else,/something new.  I envy their passion.  I feel like my passion is fake and doesn’t live up to theirs because it is not constant.  I am too fickle to spend all of my time on one activity or skill.  I am a cautious person and don’t like taking risks because I don’t want to close the door on other opportunities.  I want a small taste of each pie!

I am aware that I miss out on the long term benefits of making a risky choice….but I gain the value of getting to experience multiple options.

I value variety!!

What do you value?

Enjoying the Journey

Life is not fair. Those who do the best work aren’t always the one’s who get rewarded for their efforts.  Life is not built on a merit system like we are brought up to believe with our school system (work hard and you earn good grades).  We are all working so hard to reach a state of the “perfect” life situation, but the truth is that image you have in your mind of what the “perfect” life would be does not actually exist.  There are probably a million things that you have forgotten to factor into your personal fantasy.  And all those little pesky details are probably the best parts.  Besides, is living that easy-life really what you want? 

In my experience, the best things in life ALWAYS take work and effort.  The “easy life” is an oxymoron that tricks people into trying to be something that isn’t natural.  I am from a generation that has learned to “pursue your passions” and “find a way to do what you love for a living and you’ll be happy”.  But it just isn’t that simple.  Even if you find a carrier that encompasses everything you enjoy, once it becomes your means of paying the rent, you are bound to have days when you just don’t feel like doing it.

You can never escape the responsibilities of life. So rather than trying find something you love to do, wouldn’t it be more beneficial in the long run to learn to love the things you have to do?  If you learn to love the short walk to the curb once a week to take the trash out, it doesn’t feel like such a chore that you want put off until the last minute.

Life is not just a simple input-output machine.  I believe it is wrong to expect specific results/reactions to my efforts/actions.  The process of choosing and implementing my actions should be the reward itself.  They are not separate events.  Cooking dinner is not the effort required  for a reward of good food, but rather, cooking dinner is the action and the reward (getting to cook dinner).  This is then followed by eating dinner being the action (effort of eating) and reward (nourishing my body).

There is no difference between the action and the reward.  They are the same thing. Every moment is living an action/reward pair to be enjoyed to its fullest.  Doing good, hard work is reward in itself because you know you can do it.  Enjoy the journey and stop focusing on the destination (it may not even exist).

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Ernest Hemingway

Change = Growth

I believe that change is a very important aspect of life.  Going through constant changes is the only way to grow and develop as a person.

I enjoy new things, no matter how small and simple they may seem to others.  If i feel I am coasting through my day to day life without much inspiration, I look for a small change that can re-ignite a spark of inspiration and motivation.  It can be as simple as rearranging my bedroom or living room to get a new flow in the house.

I like change to a point that it might be categorized as an addiction.  Change is fun and exciting. So, as a caution to all you eccentrics out there, trying too many changes at one time though can become very overwhelming for you and for others around you.  It’s good to only make one change at a time, and be settled into that change before tackling another one.  Taking one small change at a time is a good way to build up self-control and learn to focus on the small things.

How Small Changes Can Help:

  1. Self-Esteem Boost – when I was just out of school, I was thrown into this big world and had to find where I fit into it all.  This is a very daunting feeling for a shy and self-conscious individual like myself, especially being a young female going into a male dominated field (engineering).  I started to play around with my hair style and added some coloring to the tips of my hair.  Creating  a small change to my image helped me feel more confident of my individuality.  As mentioned in my last post, it is a very fine line between the desire to be noticed and the fear of being noticed.  Controlling my hairstyle was a way of telling myself that my life wasn’t completely out of control.  The small bonus was that it would almost always lead to compliments from people around me that noticed the change and gave my self-esteem that extra little boost to keep me moving forward.
  2. Teach yourself discipline – My mother is one of the most self-disciplined people I have ever met.  I have always admired how much she has done and how she keeps going despite those days when everything seems to be working against you.  During a recent conversation with her, I asked her how she does it; how does she stay so disciplined when it is so easy to give in and not take the trash out?  In response she told me about when she had the same problem.  When she was just married, she asked her mother-in-law how she managed to make her bed every day.  The answer was simply “I get out of bed, and I make the bed”.  My mother has made her bed almost every day since then. That’s as simple as it is.  Just do what you need to do.  Once you do it, you realize that it wasn’t really that much work, or that much time….why did you fight it in the first place? Adding one small change to your daily routine can make your days feel that much more worthwhile and fulfilling.  When you get out of bed, make the bed!!
  3. Re-ignite your creative spark – I am a very logic based individual and tend to forget that my creative sides needs nurturing as well.  Sometimes it takes the smallest of changes, like my brother getting married (i know, i know…that isn’t really that small…but still), can spark a little fire for me to want to try my hand at creativity and art to put together a wedding photo album for them.  Once I get rolling on one project, it builds and nurtures that side of me and grows a desire to do more and share it with others.  What a perfectly healthy feedback look of positive energy!
  4. Learn a new skill – Ever wanted to learn how to decorate a cake?  That’s what happened to me.  After our wedding, my husband made a comment to the effect that it’s funny how so many people stick to only one skill rather than branching out and trying new things on their own.  So I decided, on a very random day that I would make a cake and try my best to make it look pretty, not just taste good.  This one cake led to me brainstorming different flavors and decoration techniques over a course of several months.  I am by no means a professional, but I am good enough to arouse excitement in my friends when they learn I am making them a cake (or cupcakes)….and that is a good feeling to have!

So to sum it all up, my advice to anybody willing to listen is this: Take on the challenge of change and try something new!

Insecurity – My Best Friend

I have recently found myself in a situation that my insecurities swelled up and got in my way.  It was such a silly thing though: the radio station I listen to was giving away free tickets to a show in my area and I wanted to try to call in for a chance to win and take my husband on a date.  I just couldn’t bring myself to make the call.  What was I so afraid of?  The worst thing that could happen was absolutely nothing, my phone call wouldn’t go through in time and i wouldn’t get the tickets.  The best thing that could happen is that I would win.  What was my hesitation about then?  I believe I was actually more afraid of winning than not getting through at all.  I was more afraid of the best case scenario then the worst case scenario, so I hesitated long enough to ensure the worst case would happen. Silly right?

There are many people who are afraid of unknown social situations.  It is a constant battle that I have lived with in my life.  The desire to be admired vs the fear of the spotlight. There is a natural desire to be noticed and liked by others, yet the thought of having to handle a conversation or “keep your cool” when other people are watching is completely terrifying.  There are so many insecurities that I have had to overcome in my life, and several more to keep chipping away at as I go.  It helps to hear that other people go through the same feelings.  There are many times I have heard that I shouldn’t worry about how I appear in a social situation because everybody else is too busy worrying about their own appearances to notice anyways.  If this is such a common occurrence, it should not be hidden like it is a quality to be ashamed of.

Insecurities are like teenagers, you should embrace them for what they are rather than try to control them.  Embrace your insecurities and you will naturally flourish into the person you work so hard to be by pushing them aside. Laughing at my own mistakes is a quality that I would prefer over not making any mistakes at all.  Sharing this silly story of calling into the radio station is only one step for embracing my insecurities…and believe me, there are several more stories that I can share.  It’s a good feeling to know that I can look back and laugh at myself.

A good friend of mine sent me the following link that I can really relate to.  Enjoy! 5 Tips to Help You Recover From Perfectionism.