Pondering Perfect: 10 great quotes on perfectionism

  1. “To escape criticism – do nothing say nothing, be nothing.” (Elbert Hubbard, writer/philosopher)
  2. “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” (Confucius)
  3. “Once you accept the fact you’re not perfect, then you develop some confidence.”  (Rosalynn Carter, wife of former President Jimmy Carter)
  4. “No one is perfect – that’s why pencils have erasers.” (Unknown) Continue reading
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Practice Imperfection: Weekly Challenge No. 3

“They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you that practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their minds.”
–Winston Churchill

The search for perfection threatens to destroy in the movie "Black Swan."

The world around us sends mixed messages on the value of being perfect. It’s implied that if you don’t aim for perfection, you’re doomed to be mediocre.

For me, this week more than most, I’m inclined to believe in the destructive nature of expecting a perfection that doesn’t exist. It’s been a stressful week in the office. People are inadvertently tearing others down by focusing on microscopic, inconsequential details and expecting perfection on them. If they pulled back out of the weeds, they’d see the broader achievements of an overloaded, short-staffed crew who has miraculously maintained effectiveness in the face of various challenges.

Shadows of the Black Swan

Ironically, after having written this week’s main article for my blog about perfectionism (see “Forget Doing it Perfectly – Just Do It.”) and dealing with unrealistic perfectionism on a company-wide level, I unwittingly chose to go see a movie in which perfectionism was a central theme. The movie was Black Swan, with Natalie Portman. This dark, Continue reading

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Forget doing it perfectly – just do it.

Sometimes it's better to do something imperfectly than do nothing at all.

It would seem I keep learning the same lesson over and over again in my life. And here it is again, arising as a first key insight as part of this Getunstuckblog.com experiment: It’s better to do something well enough than to strive to do something perfectly and never do it at all.

Whether it’s trying a new sport, learning a musical instrument, taking a new position at work, painting a house, or writing a blog, forget doing it perfectly – just do it. If you’re a perfectionist at heart, I’d wager “good enough” will be fine.

Is there something that you’ve been putting off because timing isn’t quite right, or you are waiting until you have completed all the appropriate preparations? Are you someone who’s afraid to take a drawing class because you don’t already know how to draw? Do you have aspirations to write a Great American Novel but can’t get past the first chapter because it isn’t quite right? How much might this type of perfectionism contribute to being stuck in a rut?

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without,” Confucius said. Continue reading

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If I Had a Million Dollars… Would I Still be Stuck?

Money can't buy you love, class, nor get you unstuck.

Ever dream about wining the lottery as a way to get unstuck? I do. I daydream about paying off my mortgage, quitting my job, donating to my favorite nonprofits, living off interest and seeing the world. All of my problems would be solved, right?

Probably not. Money didn’t by happiness for many lottery winners (see “More Money, More Problems? Managing a Windfall“).  Nor did hitting it big solve problems for Ted Williams, the homeless man with the “golden voice” who had the world at his feet for a short time before relapsing into his prior traps (see “...From Rags to Riches to Dr. Phil in 10 Days“).

I also remind myself of a few amazing opportunities I’ve had to take extended breaks from “real life” to backpack travel in foreign countries. At first, the trips were great vacations, but eventually, I’d find myself feeling desirous of a more productive and meaningful purpose. The freedom was great, but to me, a fulfilling life is about more than that.

I still dream of winning the lottery and the financial freedom that could provide. However, as many lottery winners and the man with the golden voice have shown, being stuck is perhaps less about access to fortune and more about what we do with the fortunes we already have.

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Weekly Challenge No. 2: Getting Specific on Goals

This week’s challenge is based on the idea of getting clearer on desired goals and beginning with the end in mind (see related post: “Resolutions & Intentions: You gotta get more specific“).

Think about your 2011  New Year’s Resolutions, and see if you can’t take it a few layers further into specificity. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, it might look like this: Lose weight = lose a total of 20 pounds = losing 2 pounds per week through exercising 3 times a week and cutting out pastries.

Here are my own getting-more-specific 2011 goals for learning about blogging via Getunstuckblog.com: Continue reading

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Resolutions & Intentions: You gotta get more specific.

Call them resolutions, intentions, goals, prayers or wish-lists… no matter the label, there’s one truth I’ve learned about voicing your dreams and plans: You gotta get more specific.

Case in point: A couple of years ago, after fourteen seemingly perfect months of courtship with a seemingly perfect guy, I decided to test one of the New Age theories akin to “The Secret” and “The Power of Intention.” I put out an “intention” that I wanted a diamond ring on my finger within a calendar year.

A few months later, I won a diamond ring in a raffle. (True story.) I thought, well, that’s an interesting irony. I must need to be more specific. However, by that time, my Prince Charming had turned into a frog, so I changed my intention to: “Ok, Continue reading

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Idea File: Get Unstuck By… Starting Your Own Business

If you’re feeling stuck in your career or in a dead-end job, then perhaps creating your own opportunity is in order. The Wall Street Journal offers 10 good reasons to start your own business in 2011.

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Getting Unstuck: Weekly Challenge No. 1

The Five-to-One Challenge

I want to believe Mom’s coaching that “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” But unless you’ve got Teflon skin, it’s really not true.

Studies have repeatedly shown the strong impacts that just one criticism, loss or negative experience can have. In fact, it can take five compliments or positive experiences to outweigh a single negative one.* That’s why after my last, mostly glowing job review, I came out focusing on and feeling bad about the few negative points that I needed to work on, as opposed to hearing the compliments within the review.

This week’s challenge is about training ourselves out of that inherently self-deprecating focus – while defining for ourselves what it means to be “stuck” (see related blog post) – in two simple steps.

Step 1: Pick one thing you believe is keeping you stuck. A personal limitation… an obstacle to moving forward… a negative experience that has happened to you… something that feels as if it’s preventing your life from being more fulfilling.

Step 2: Over the course of the week, identify at least five positive things in yourself and your life that outweigh the negative and that may be able to help you circumvent that reason for being stuck. These might be innate talents, a good support network, community resources, technology available to you or unique qualities you have.

Be positive about it; get creative. Let me know how it goes, and I’ll do the same.

*Studies by Losada, 1999, and Gottman, 1994, as cited in: Positive Organizational Scholarship: Foundations of a New Discipline.

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Stumble on Something Yourself

If you keep on going, chances are you will stumble on something, perhaps when you least expect it, according to Charles F. Kettering, the successful American inventor and businessman. This week and in future weeks, I’ll draft challenges aimed at creating opportunities to stick it to stuck-ness by “stumbling on something” – or at the very least, to shift perspectives a little.

As I draw up and test these challenges myself, I’ll encourage blog readers and friends to try them right alongside me. If you choose to join in, I’d love to hear your new insights or struggles (or even tell me you thought it was a lame challenge and suggest something you think would be more enlightening — as I said, this is a work in progress). I recommend getting yourself a journal or creating a dedicated computer file to log these exercises; future challenges will build on past ones, and it also will be important to reflect back on your progress.

I’ll post challenges at the beginning of the week (Sundays or Mondays). The first challenge to come will be in keeping with my recent blog post theme of “Defining Stuck.” It will give you an opportunity to clarify why we feel stuck  – and how to start getting unstuck.  Look for “The Five to One Challenge” in the next post.

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Defining Stuck

“Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned at birth.” (Richard Bach, Illusions)

Getunstuckblog.com is a work in progress that will take shape throughout the year via trial and error. I’ve decided, however, that it would be impossible to engage in this year-long experiment and be able to judge whether it’s been successful unless I can define for myself specifically what it means to be “stuck.”

Is being “stuck” the result of a series of perceived dead-ends? Is it a lack of Continue reading

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