Overcoming Perfectionism

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I was working on this blog post a couple of weeks ago, with the hope of publishing it before leaving to attend the Austin Songwriter’s Group Songwriting Symposium (awesome conference, by the way!).

As my ‘Things-To-Do-Before-The-Conference’ list grew longer, and the time frame to complete said list grew shorter, I began to feel the stress that comes with realizing there is absolutely no way to complete a three-page list of To-Do’s in one day!

Fortunately, I was able to pause long enough to recognize the irony in the situation.

Here I was working on a post about overcoming perfectionism, yet I was trying to complete the post and a million other things, as thoroughly and dare I say, as ‘perfectly’ as possible. Only then, was I willing I give myself permission to relax into a creativity-filled weekend with other songwriters and musicians.

Very interesting indeed…

Taking note of that irony allowed me to adjust my expectations and prioritize my efforts. I understood that in that moment, taking care of the urgent and important items on the first page of my To-Do list, was probably more important than diving into the ‘Lofty Life Goal’ section on page three of the list.

I also accepted the fact that things didn’t have to be ‘perfect’ before I left for the conference.

Perfectionism, in psychology, is defined as a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.

In his book, “The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life,” Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., examines the difference between the Perfectionist, who rejects failure, and the Optimalist, who accepts it. He proposes viewing perfectionism and optimalism as lying on a continuum, rather than being distinct qualities that are entirely independent of each other.

“Perfectionists and Optimalists do not necessarily differ in their aspirations, in the goals they set for themselves,” writes Ben-Shahar. “Both can demonstrate the same levels of ambition, the same intense desire to achieve their goals. The difference lies in the ways each approaches the process of achieving goals.”

“For the Perfectionist, failure has no role in the journey toward the peak of the mountain; the ideal path toward her goals is the shortest, most direct path—a straight line. Anything that impedes her progress toward the ultimate goal is viewed as an unwelcome obstacle, a hurdle in her path.”

“For the Optimalist, failure is an inevitable part of the journey, of getting from where she is to where she wants to be. She views the optimal journey not as a straight line but as something more like an irregular upward spiral—while the general direction is toward her objective, she knows that there will be numerous deviations along the way.”

“The Perfectionist likes to think that his path to success can be, and will be, failure free, a straight line. But this does not correspond to reality…”

I could not agree with that description more! Without a doubt, the Optimalist viewpoint is a much more growth-minded, forgiving and achievable approach to attaining goals and to living life.

As a recovering perfectionist, I work hard to recognize and ward off all-or-nothing thinking—the type of thinking that tells you, “If I can’t do this perfectly right now, I should probably put it off until I can.”

When perfection is your aim, you strive to avoid mistakes at all costs. The idea of embracing mistakes as a part of the learning process, as a necessary step on the road to success, feels foreign.

For me, perfectionism has also proven to be the breeding ground for procrastination and the enemy of creativity (not good when you’re on the way to a Songwriter’s Conference)! ☺

Thankfully, I’ve come to realize that baby steps are better than no steps, and that progress always trumps perfection. Most importantly, I’m grateful to have learned these lessons just in time to teach them to my children!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

On Being Content

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Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. – Philippians 4:11 (NKJV).

After deciding to live life more mindfully and authentically, the next step was determining exactly what I needed in order to be content.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines contentment as a state of happiness and satisfaction. Its definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus is ease of mind: satisfaction. Both sound good to me!

But contentment is not just trying to be happy or avoiding feeling sad. Contentment is a decision that evokes an attitude. It involves focusing on inner satisfaction regardless of changing external circumstances.

For me, contentment begins with gratitude—being aware of all of the ways in which I’ve been blessed—and ends with using my unique traits, qualities, experiences and insights, in order to live on purpose and be a blessing to others.

It involves making time for soul-renewing endeavors in a way that works with my temperament (introvert that I am), and keeping my needs and the needs of my family, in mind.

As Eleanor Roosevelt pointed out, “Happiness is not a goal… it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” And perhaps Dale Carnegie said it best: “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”

Enjoy your weekend!

In Pursuit of An Authentic Life

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On my quest to discover ways to live my life more authentically—to use my God-given gifts and talents more wisely, and to incorporate my passions and the desires of my heart more seamlessly into the fabric of my everyday life—I came across the book, Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self by Sarah Ban Breathnach.

On the page titled Our Authentic Lives, just before the first chapter, was the following quote:

“I have a sense of these buried lives striving to come out through me to express themselves.” – Marge Piercy

Two thoughts came to mind as I read that quote: “Wow, that is perfectly worded,” and “Me too!”

While engaging in the hustle and bustle that is life—handling family obligations and other commitments (church, organizations, activities, extended family, friends, etc.)—I noticed that the things I enjoyed doing and felt passionately about (music, dance and writing) were repeatedly relegated to the bottom of my “To Do” list (and sometimes, didn’t even make the list).

What was worse, I was the one responsible for putting them there!

Somewhere along the way, I deemed my passions to be “something I’d like to get to,” instead of priorities, hobbies rather than necessities that feed my spirit.

That mistake is easy to make when you’re living life in a mindless fashion—racing and rushing about, busy doing instead of being.

I knew I needed to find the time for the things I enjoyed, but part of the problem was the wording of that intention: “find the time…”

Time can be elusive, and “trying to find time” proved to be an exercise in futility.

Making the time for the things I love, and making them a priority, however… that was altogether different. With that slight shift in perception and intention, I had a much better chance of realizing my goals.

Having a plan of action was the first step, but forming that plan—thinking about what I really wanted and needed—required me to stop chasing behind my life and to start asking myself the important questions.

Do I really need to do all that I’m currently doing? If not, it was time to let go of those optional things that weighed me down without replenishing me.

If they were required, who could help me with this? Could my husband and children do more to help? (Answer: always). And could I be less of a control-freak to allow them to help in their own way? (Answer: sometimes).  :)

These questions led to family discussions and managed expectations overall. They led to the acknowledgement that self-care is essential, and that working together as a family to ensure that each member’s individual needs are met, is vital.

Making time for the activities I enjoy (in essence, making time for myself), required me to examine my commitments and adjust our schedule, with the goal of improving my quality of life and that of my family.

Through this process of slowing down and restructuring, I’ve realized just how important my interests and passions are to my sense of well-being.

And with this newfound clarity, the understanding that actually doing what’s been placed in my heart, allows me to fulfill God’s purpose for my life, through being my authentic self.

Wishing the same for you in this New Year!

Quote Of The Day – Margaret Young

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I came across this quote today:

“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” – Margaret Young

I wholeheartedly agree. Enjoy your day!

Raising Them Up

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To say it’s been a while since my last blog post would be an extreme understatement! But as I continue to bask in the warmth of motherhood after my amazing Mother’s Day yesterday, I wanted to reflect on the actual job of motherhood: raising our children.

It’s truly amazing to see the growth and development of our kids! We do our best as mothers to teach and guide our children; to instill values in them and to help them become the people they’re destined to be.

We provide wisdom. We teach them the value of being respectful, honest and kind. We help them to understand the importance of resilience, determination and hard work. We encourage them to do their very best in all things, while also reminding them not to sweat the small stuff.

For mothers, life can be hectic. We’re often so focused on getting our kids where they need to go, and making sure they have what they need (as well as making sure they know the difference between what they actually NEED and what they WANT), that we may forget to simply enjoy the time we spend with them.

All it takes is one glance at a picture from years gone by, when your kids were younger (and you were thinner), to realize how fast time passes! Enjoying the special, as well as the ordinary, everyday moments, is key.

Motherhood is wonderful all of the time (and frustrating some of the time), and it’s a job I feel blessed to have!

Insights on Achieving Work-Life Balance and Making Career Transitions

I’d like to thank Lady Charmaine Day for having me as a guest on her Christian talk show, Taboo Talk, on BlogTalkRadio today!
I truly had a wonderful time discussing work-life balance and career transitions.

The show aired live, but you can listen to it here, in case you missed it!

Listen to internet radio with Taboo Talk on BlogTalkRadio

Guest Appearance on Taboo Talk with Lady Charmaine Day on BlogTalkRadio

Tomorrow (Wednesday, May 15, 2013) from 2-3 p.m. eastern standard time, I’ll be a guest on Taboo Talk, a Christian talk show featuring ordained Pastor, Wife, Publisher, Author and Radio Host, Lady Charmaine Day.

The show, which is syndicated and appears on BlogTalkRadio, YouTube and Itunes, features insightful commentary from Lady Charmaine Day on a variety of topics. It airs live on BlogTalkRadio each Sunday and Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. EST.

On tomorrow’s show, we’ll discuss health and fitness tips, ways to balance home and work life, as well as advice for people who want to make a career transition in order to pursue their true passion.

I hope you’ll join us!

(Click the image below to link to the webpage):

Taboo Talk with Lady Charmaine Day

Eating Around Austin: Uchi

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I really enjoy eating great food, trying new restaurants and sampling a variety of cuisines! My family doesn’t always share the same diverse food palate or level of experimentation as I, so I have no qualms about going out on food adventures by myself.

This was the case during my recent outing to the Austin culinary hot spot, Uchi.

Uchi is a contemporary Japanese dining & sushi restaurant and Chef Tyson Cole, its James Beard Award-winning chef, does a wonderful job creating an amazingly inventive and mouth-watering menu.

The place is ALWAYS packed and it’s only open for dinner (5pm-10pm Sunday-Thursday and 5pm-11pm Friday-Saturday), so be prepared for a wait (it will be worth it!). Also, it’s not cheap… so, be prepared to leave with your wallet much lighter after your meal (also, well worth it!).

On this visit, I started with the Walu Walu (oak-grilled escolar with candied citrus, yuzupon and myoga), and it was amazing! I didn’t think to take a picture before chowing down, but it was beautifully plated as well.

Next, I sampled two of their vegetarian offerings: roasted golden beets with skyr yogurt, bitter greens and acacia honey; and the crispy brussels sprouts with lemon and chili… absolutely delicious!

The last thing I tried from the hot tasting menu was the foie nigiri (seared foie gras with quinoa and a sweet sauce). It was both savory and sweet, and almost could have been dessert, but… I wanted an actual dessert, so I ended my dining experience with the jizake creme caramel. This dessert had a serving of brown butter sorbet on one side of the plate, and creme caramel (flan) on the other, with a ginger simple sugar reduction poured over both!

Do I need to say more?!

Overall, the meal was one of the best I’ve had, the service was fantastic and the vibe of the restaurant is beyond cool!

If you have the chance to go to Uchi, run don’t walk… and you may have to beat me there, because I’ve officially made myself hungry for Uchi with this post!  :)

New Music: Flight

I made this song a while ago, while delving into the use of music software.

Once I finished the music and sat down to write lyrics, a funny thing happened… the song decided it wanted to be an instrumental recording.  :)

As I listened to the song, I enjoyed the music on its own and the lyrics were getting in the way so… I left well enough alone.

It’s inspired by my love of jazz and house music. Still needs a bit of mixing, but I hope you enjoy it. It’s called “Flight.”

Too Busy For Fun?

DrLanierWebCroppedPic-revHow abandoning my Saturday things-to-do list at my daughter’s urging, helped me to live in the moment and enjoy a perfect mommy-daughter afternoon adventure.

Saturday had arrived and I had my weekend chore list in hand, ready to engage and conquer, item by item.

I was on chore #3 (loading the dishwasher), when my daughter quietly came to me and asked if we could do something fun today.

Now the boys (my husband and son), were on an overnight father-son trip (an away-basketball game with the team)… so the fact that she was looking for a similar adventure on the home front was legitimate.

But in that moment, crossing things off my to-do list, felt like fun to me.

“Sure, what would you like to do?” I said. “I’m not sure,” she replied.

“Well, why don’t you write a list of things you’d like to do,” I answered.

To my surprise, she said, “I already have one.” I asked in disbelief, “You already have a what? A list?”

“Yes,” she answered, “I started it the last time you told me to make a list, then added things onto it, every time you were too busy.”

Yikes! “Every time you were too busy…”

Was I that busy, that my almost 10-year old daughter had to master the art of delayed gratification by keeping a list of things she’d love to do, whenever Mom finally had time?

Well, that was going to end today. After completing a few more chores, we set out on our adventure!

As we got closer to downtown Austin, however, my excitement turned into frustration, as we were met with traffic that only a big-time event could generate… in this case, SXSW (South by Southwest).

Now, I love Austin and it’s major events, especially the musically themed ones. But, as we drove through traffic at a snail’s pace, passing parking lot-by-lot, and garage-by-garage, with ‘LOT FULL’ signs out front—I could feel my frustration (and my daughter’s impatience) building.

It was definitely time for an attitude shift and change in perspective!
I suggested we focus on people watching, rather than the traffic.

Before long, we were lost in our observations—spotting quite a few people with pink hair and a few mohawks; some were stylishly attired, and others more casually dressed—all were very unique (and fun to watch). Finally, after finding a parking garage, we were on our way.

Our adventure started with a wonderful lunch at PF Changs where no electronics, only great conversation, was allowed at the table. Afterwards, we went to the Austin Children’s Museum where we enjoyed all of the exhibits (especially the Tinkerer’s Workshop and the Global City). We finished our mommy-daughter date at Le Café Crepe, with crepes to share (one with baked apples and cinnamon; and another with brie, pear, walnuts and honey)!

What lessons did I learn from this outing with my daughter?

1. Living in the moment is key.

If you’ve ever watched a child at play, you’ll notice that they are truly living in the moment. They explore, discover and play, without concern for what happened before and what will happen later. As adults, living in the moment requires revisiting that child-like sense in our approach to different tasks or situations.

When I was hanging out with my daughter, I wasn’t focused on what I needed to do when I got back home, or what I hadn’t completed before I left—I was just having fun… in the moment.

2. Spending quality time with our loved ones builds lasting memories.

Much has been written about the subject of “quality time.” So much so, that the very mention of the phrase may cause your eyes to roll upwards.

But, taking a break to enjoy the company of a loved one benefits all parties involved. The quality of that time (undistracted and undivided) matters much more than the quantity in most cases.

What my daughter enjoyed the most about our time spent together, was the fact that she had my complete attention. I looked at her as she spoke, and really listened as we talked during lunch. I held her hand as we walked through the streets of downtown Austin, navigating SXSW attendees and locals alike.

photo (1)I fully participated in the exhibits at the Children’s Museum—building a car in the Tinkerer’s Workshop, climbing into the wood block igloo with her, and even pretending to eat the plastic food she “prepared” for me at the diner in the Global City area.

The quality of our time spent together was more impactful than the quantity.

3. Allowing time for fun allows you to focus better and work more effectively.

There have been many studies that point to laughter as the best medicine; physical activity and social interaction improving our moods; and fun in the workplace (and in general), leading to better productivity overall.

Fun can inspire and motivate you. It produces a sense of well-being that can carry over into other areas of your life. That well-being allows creativity and inspiration to flow more easily and enables you to take on tasks (or obstacles) more energetically, and with a better attitude.

In allowing myself to take a break and have fun with my daughter, I was better able to focus on the things I had to do afterwards and I felt better doing them.

Try to make infusing fun into your day a priority. You’ll be glad you did!