Category Archives: weekend wisdom

Weekend wisdom 9

I went through my email inbox this morning and I didn’t get a lot this week that I really want to remember so it’s a short post this week.

One thing I’ve been loving lately is James Clear’s new weekly 3-2-1 email, which offers three ideas, two quotes and one question. Two of the ideas he presented this week especially resonated with me for different reasons.

  • Idea 2: When making plans, think big. When making progress, think small.
  • Idea 3:  A simple strategy that will save you so many headaches: don’t care about winning trivial arguments. Did someone say something you don’t agree with? Smile, nod, and move on to more important things. Life is short. Learning to not care about having the last word will save you so much time.

Idea 3 reminds me of something I saw a few weeks back, I don’t remember where.

Before you argue with someone, ask yourself, is that person even mentally mature enough to grasp the concept of different perspectives? Because if not, there’s absolutely no point. (Amber Veal)

I listened to Asian Efficiency’s podcast with Mridu Parikh, which I found full of useful tips, some of which I knew about and others that were new to me.

Here are my takeaways from the podcast:

  1. Use the pomodoro timer not just for things you want to get done but also to set limits around distracting activities. If you’re going to do something distracting, set yourself a time limit and then stop and get back to work when the time’s up.
  2. To make your top three (or five or one) tasks stand out from everything else, put them on a sticky note somewhere that you’ll see it all day. These are your “gotta do’s” not your “wanna do’s”.
  3. If you struggle with making yourself do your work when you’ve blocked out time to do it (hello!), break it down into more manageable chunks. Don’t block out two hours to work on a report. Block out 30 minutes to do a specific task for the report: look up statistics, write the introduction, then another 30 minutes (or an hour or however long you need) to do another discrete task. That way you know exactly what you’re going to be working on and you’ll be able to sit down and focus on that task (once you’ve got rid of the distractions that Mridu also discusses in the podcast).

I’ll be trying to put these tips into practise this week as we roll into another busy time at work.

Weekend wisdom 8

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

This week, I stumbled on Dr Sarah McKay, a neuroscientist who studies women’s brains. She’s also an author and presents the ABC’s Catalyst program. On her blog Your Brain Health, Sarah outlines the seven habits of healthy brains, which she says are:

  1. Sleep—it needs to be a priority, not a luxury. It is essential for consolidating memories and draining waste products from our brain. We also under-consume natural light during the day and over-consume artificial light at night, disrupting our natural rhythms, hormones and immune systems.
  2. Move—physical exercise is the best exercise for your brain. It triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes neurone growth and survival, reduced inflammation and supports the formation of long-term memories.
  3. Nourish—she says research favours a Mediterranean-style diet of mostly plants, fish, some meat, olive oil and nuts.
  4. Calm—chronic stress can change the wiring of our brains. Too much cortisol prevents the birth of new neurones and causes the hippocampus to shrink, reducing your powers of learning and memory. Meditate, walk or nap. Do something you’re good at that requires some degree of challenge.
  5. Connect—we are social animals and have a fundamental need for human warmth and connection. Loneliness and social isolation is as bad for us as smoking.
  6. Challenge—regularly challenge your mind and stay mentally active. Choose mentally challenging activities that you can practise regularly, that are reasonably complex and take you out of your cognitive comfort zone.
  7. Believe—seek out your purpose in life. People who score high in purpose live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives. Set fantastic, passionate goals and work like crazy to achieve them. Find your place of flow.

What struck me when I was reading this was that six of these seven things are the exact same things I am (or will be) working on in my wellbeing program. So this is good to know.

Another post I found useful was from the Insight timer blog, an app I used to use regularly but haven’t used for several months now. It talks about morning routines, which are supposed to be good for us in setting up our day, but which I have fallen out of lately. This post specifically talks about how to alleviate anxious feelings by establishing a healthy morning routine. I generally don’t have a problem with anxious thoughts in the morning but the routine is similar to what I used to do before it all fell apart.

This is their suggestion for such a routine:

  1. Examine your thoughts
  2. Get up and hydrate
  3. Practise gratitude
  4. Breathe
  5. Meditate (incidentally, Sarah McKay’s blog has a great article on what to do if meditation stresses you out, which I’m kind of glad to hear her say because when I was doing it I always felt like it wasn’t helping me and I guess that’s one reason why it was so easy for me to not resume when I broke my 500+ day streak last year, when I think I was doing it under a sense of obligation to maintain the streak than any actual benefit. Maybe that’s one to think about for another day.)
  6. Exercise

I found this great article from songwriter Christine Kane on another blog I read occasionally. It’s about how to overcome “attention splatter”.  Of all the articles and tips I’ve picked up over the years I’m finding this to be one of the simplest and clearest outlines of what to do when you “mindlessly and half-heartedly splatter your attention on non-activities, but you never fully engage”. This sounds like me.

Christine’s seven steps are:

  1. Have no more than three priorities for the day. Ask yourself, “If I only accomplish one thing today, which one thing would make me most happy?”
  2. Know the task before you sit down at the computer. Assign tasks. (i.e. “Clean out email folders”) Assign times. (“From 1pm to 2pm”) Stop as soon as the end time arrives.
  3. Put an end to activities that leak (like checking mails). Make a list of “leaky” activities, and stop the leaks by scheduling these activities—and stop when the time is up.
  4. Use your small slices of time. Learn to fit constructive things in to small slices of time. (Along the same lines, this week’s Asian Efficiency podcast has a heap of ideas for activities you can fit into small slices of time.)
  5. Use your intention. Before you begin any activity, set an intention for that activity. Focus on your desired outcome and how you want to feel during the activity.
  6. Get rid of anything that doesn’t feed you—emails, unread books, subscriptions . . .  if you subscribe to it, ask yourself why. Start letting go of stuff. Be ruthless about keeping the incoming stuff to a minimum.
  7. Be present in your down-time. When you take a nap, take a nap. When you take a Saturday off, really take it off. Don’t spend the day obsessing about the things you should be doing.

I think the last one is a really great thing to keep in mind. You aren’t going to recover and rejuvenate yourself if you keep working and don’t take a proper break.

And finally, two thoughts from James Clear. Or one thought and a question:

An imperfect start can always be improved, but obsessing over a perfect plan will never take you anywhere on its own.

I need to put this up in very large print above my desk.

How long will you put off what you are capable of doing just to continue what you are comfortable doing?

Indeed.

Weekend wisdom 7

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

Sometimes I find it interesting that emails, usually from lists I never remember subscribing to, all come in around the same theme, which are often things I’m grappling with at the time. Perhaps there’s an invisible thing out there that says everyone has to write about the same thing at the same time. And everytime I think, I don’t really want to be on this list and think about unsubscribing, the post is about one of those relevant things.

This is not one of those things. This is an interesting article about how to store cooked rice so you don’t get sick.

The theme that seemed most prevalent in my email inbox this week was about setting boundaries. It follows on a little from the topic in the Bold Self Love podcast last week about how we don’t get to control what other people do, but we get to choose our responses to what they do, and our response, not the behaviour, determines our feelings.

So what this was about was if someone behaves in a way we don’t like and that we feel like we need to protect ourselves from, we need to set a boundary for ourselves around that behaviour in order to do that. For example, if someone speaks to you in a way that upsets you, you might set a boundary around this by saying that you are going to remove yourself from any conversation where the person adopts that way of speaking. Or if someone continues to call you when you’ve asked them not to, you might set a boundary by blocking their number.

And the thing this is supposed to do is to protect yourself, not to control the other person. They can continue to speak badly to you, but you now choose to leave the situation because it’s unhealthy for you to be there. If they subsequently change the way they speak, I guess that’s a bonus, but your reason for setting the boundary was not to make them change their behaviour.

It sounds like a very subtle difference to me but I think it’s important.

I suppose the next article, from the Havard Business Review a couple of years ago, might help you have the conversation about setting boundaries. This came to me from the wonderful Kendra Wright.

The article suggests that the way to approach difficult conversations is by reframing your thoughts about the conversation. It presents the following ideas.

  • Begin from a place of curiosity and respect, and stop worrying about being liked. [Conflict avoiders are often worried about not being liked, so they don’t raise difficult issues. Anyone? Anyone?]
  • Focus on what you’re hearing, not what you’re saying. You don’t need to talk that much during a difficult conversation. Instead, focus on listening, reflecting, and observing.
  • Be direct. Get to the point and talk to the person honestly and with respect. ([o which you may well respond, but what if the other person doesn’t respond with honesty and respect, for whatever reason? I guess you halt the conversation and try again later. Or get help.]
  • Don’t put it off. If you’re always thinking it’s not worth arguing about and that you’ll bring it up next time, you most likely won’t. You haven’t done yet. The article says “now’s the time. Instead of putting off a conversation for some ideal future time, when it can be more easily dealt with, tackle it right away”. [Uggh! Scary! No way.]
  • Expect a positive outcome. If you tell yourself the conversation is going to be a disaster, it probably will be. Focus on the positive and  tell yourself, “This will result in an improved relationship.” [I’m not so sure about this one. It never works for me.]

I think I’ll just leave that one for now and move on.

Lastly was this piece from the Insight Timer blog by Carolyn Ziel on how writing can change your life.

I quite liked reason number 5: You Can Write Your Life!

Writing is powerful. Writing an intention is like creating a vision board on steroids.

If you just THINK about your goals and dreams you’re only using the imaginative center, the right hemisphere of your brain. When you write your visions, you tap into the left hemisphere, the logic-based portion of your brain. You open up your subconscious mind to seeing opportunities that you might not have seen before. Things start to fall into place.

You receive what you’ve asked for and you are living the life you have always dreamed of, as if by magic!

There can’t be any harm in trying, right?

Number 2 (Writing is great for people for like to be in control) made me think too.

Start by writing a list of your fears. As human beings we have the power to change our thoughts. Review your list and write down all the ways that the fears you have aren’t accurate. You can also list ways to counteract the fears. Looking at your fears in writing, rebutting them with common sense, changing your thoughts through the written word and knowing that you’re prepared for what comes next will help.

Keep writing. Write about specific outcomes. How you want to feel. How you want to think. What you want to let go of — like control.

Like to be in control? Me? Never.

I think I need to find something a bit light-hearted to end the post on.

Nope, I got nothing. Instead, a quote from Seneca, “How disgraceful is the lawyer whose dying breath passes while at court, at an advanced age, pleading for unknown litigants and still seeking the approval of ignorant spectators.”

Weekend wisdom 5

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

Nothing on perfectionism came through my inbox this week. I’m kind of relieved. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and think it’s time to stop thinking and start doing stuff.

Imperfectly.

So, I made myself publish a post on my photoblog that I’d been working on for weeks before I was ready to publish it and before I felt totally happy with the photos. But I knew if I kept putting it off and kept tinkering, I’d never publish it. It’s out there now and I can move on to the next thing.

20180115 T&G Building 2

T&G Building, Hobart

I’m still struggling with making myself go to bed on time. If this doesn’t motivate me to, I don’t know what will.

During deep sleep the spaces between our brain cells expand by as much as 60%, which allows cerebral-spinal fluid to flush through and remove toxins from our brain. One of these toxins is beta-amyloid, a protein that can lead to the build-up and formation of plaques and create memory impairment.

Oh. My. God. That sounds gross! But very good. The last thing I want is memory impairment. Get more sleep!

This statement is from the Smiling Mind website, which is an app I’ve been using to develop a mindfulness practice, mainly at work, where I really need it.

Smiling Mind has just launched a new sleep meditation program, which I signed up for. I like this because it relates to the work I’ve been doing on trying to get more sleep through my wellbeing program. I haven’t started doing it yet because it needs me to have my phone in my bedroom at night, which I don’t like doing. I’m still trying to find a workaround for that so I can have calming music or do a guided meditation at night without my phone. (My CD player has died, so that’s out for now.)

Another segment of the wellbeing program is trying to get more vegetables into my diet. I scanned through this article, 10 Ways to Make Vegetables Taste Good by Steve from Nerd Fitness. I need a lot of help in this area, so I was very interested in what he had to say. In summary, the 10 ways are:

  1. Change their state (cook them in some way: steamed, baked, grilled, sautéed).
  2. Blend them in a smoothie (works well with things like spinach and kale).
  3. Make a combo bite with a food you like (make things like stir fries with lots of veggies and gradually increase the amounts of vegetables and reduce the amounts of the other food).
  4. Cover them in cheese.
  5. Wrap them in bacon (works well with asparagus).
  6. Spice it up (add spice or hot sauce to change the tastes, which reminded me I saw a post on Instagram last week from EatWell Tasmania, which has a similar “veg it up” campaign suggesting ways to get more veg into your diet, which included a suggestion to roast thin slices of carrot with olive oil and cumin, which sounds absolutely delicious and I have to try it).
  7. Pretend they are other foods (zucchini noodles, “cauliflower rice”).
  8. Dunk them (in hummus or guacamole).
  9. Add small amounts of leafy green vegetables to other meals like pasta sauces, chilli beef and curries (I do this a lot).
  10. Cover them in something you do love (which may be an unhealthy thing but the point is to start getting the veggies in and then gradually reducing the amount of sauce. I imagine the same goes for the cheese and the bacon suggestions).

And then, some beautiful words from @tilleysong on Instagram about how our feelings are valid, we don’t have to fix them and we don’t have to make “negative” emotions go away. This was a wonderful post. It came up in a few places for me a couple of weeks ago and it’s something I constantly have to remind myself of.

Finally, some words to inspire me in my photography, from David duChemin,  who says it’s important to get out of your comfort zone, face your fears and keep learning.

I got a similar message on a post in a Facebook group, which was just to get out there and shoot and even if it goes badly, you’ll still have learned something for next time.

So, it’s time to get out there and do something!

Weekend wisdom 4: perfectionism meets comparison

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

Perfectionism has been the major theme in the things that have caught my eye over the last couple of weeks and I think I’m calling an uneasy truce with it now that I’ve come to understand what it is. After much thinking and writing, I thought I was done with it and that it was time to move on to other things that were grabbing my attention. To put it in the words of a friend who I’d been talking about this with recently, I thought I had kicked that shit to the kerb.

But perfectionism isn’t done with me yet and so the lessons keep coming. It’s probably good that they do, because I don’t think you ever truly “recover” from perfectionism. You have to constantly be on your guard that its voice doesn’t start speaking to you again and that, if it does, you don’t start listening to it. And one way of doing that is to have the message that perfect is the enemy of the good (or done is better than perfect, whichever way you want to look at it) constantly reinforced because reinforcement is how the old pattern of perfectionist thinking got entrenched in the first place.

So, the first thing on Monday morning I saw was this article by Lisa Byrne on perfectionism, in which she says that she sees perfection as being the opposite of excellence. This rang a bell with me because I see my pursuit of perfection as a misguided pursuit of excellence. That is, where I thought I was seeking perfection I was really seeking excellence. I’m still processing my thoughts on this so that might not make too much sense, but I was interested to see what Lisa had to say.

Lisa says that perfectionism leads us to compare ourselves with somebody else (real or imagined) and that when we do this we’ll always come up short because we are not them. (There’s a theme emerging in these posts, isn’t there?)

In her post, Lisa writes of an interview she did with the shame researcher Brené Brown. Brené observed that we are all unique. We’re made up of different parts and we’re all many different things: mother, father, sister, brother, partner, worker, volunteer, writer, gardener, cook, artist, singer, teacher . . . whatever we are. There is no exact replica of us in the world and, therefore, no one to directly compare ourselves to. So instead, Brené says, she (we) (I) compares one part of herself to the “perfect” version of that part. So she might compare her writing to the World’s Best Writer’s work, her volunteer work to Mother Teresa’s work, her research to the World’s Best Researcher’s work, and her photography to the work of the Artistic Genius I referred to last week (no, she doesn’t, that’s what I do . . .).

And guess what? She concludes that she’s falling short in every area of her life because she compares each individual part of her life with the “top” parts of several different people’s lives.

The “comparee” might be a full-time artist who has spent their whole life learning their craft, and has been doing it 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for the last 25 years. They might have devoted their entire life to the service of others. They might be at home full-time with their kids . .  . and so it goes . . .

And hopefully you begin to see that you can’t be the Artistic Genius AND the World’s Best Researcher AND Mother Teresa AND the Gardening Guru AND be home looking after the kids all day because you don’t have 48 hours in a day or 14 days in a week to put in as much effort to each one of those things that you’d need to put in to reach the standard of one of those people in one of those areas. Even if you never slept, you wouldn’t be able to achieve at the level of all of those people in all of those things.

This reminded me of a time I was reading blogs about whole foods and trying to eliminate as much processed junk as I could. I thought I was doing pretty well until I read an article from a homemaker blogger, who said she milled her own flour because flour starts to go bad as soon as it’s milled and the fresher it is, the better.

My first thought was: Are you fucking kidding me? I make my own chicken stock, I am learning to bake bread, I buy hyper-expensive organic yogurt, I don’t buy packet sauces or tinned baked beans or frozen meals anymore, and I have my own chickens and now you’re telling me I have to Mill. My. Own. Flour.

At the time, I felt hopelessly inadequate beside this “homesteader”, who did absolutely everything from scratch, and wondered why I was bothering even trying because I could never achieve this level of food nirvana.

This week, as I reflected on how that had played out, I thought, hang on, if Brené Brown, world-renowned researcher and author, is comparing herself to others and finding herself falling short, then what hope is there for me in getting off the comparison hamster wheel?

And it hit me that maybe there isn’t. No matter how skilled I get at something, there will always be someone who is “better” than me, who knows more than me and who has been doing it longer. If I reach a level that I consider equal to theirs, then they will have moved forward too and I’ll still feel inadequate in comparison.

Comparison is a game we can’t win because the goalposts are always moving. Therefore, it’s a game that isn’t worth playing.

It’s a trap.

We compare ourselves unfavourably to other people because we’re comparing one part of ourselves to the only part of them that we see. When Brené Brown compares herself to the World’s Best Researcher or Barb compares herself to the Artistic Genius or the Homesteader Blogger, Brené and Barb are always going to feel inferior because they’re comparing a small part of their identities to what they perceive as being the whole of that person’s identity—that is, the part of that person’s identity that they show in public. (That was the only time I’m ever going to be mentioned in the same sentence as Brené Brown, so let’s just take that in for a moment . . . )

And you know what, if Brené thinks she comes up short against World’s Greatest Researcher, then I bet that the people I look up to have moments where they feel inadequate compared to someone else too. After all, they are human too. Homemaker Blogger might look at Artistic Genius the same way I do and feel like giving up her art because it’s not as good as theirs. World’s Best Researcher might look at Homemaker Blogger and feel terrible about their own food endeavours. Hell, Artistic Genius might sometimes feel totally incompetent in their own field because they aren’t Van Gogh or Ansel Adams. But they’re still in the same comparison trap that I’m in. They’re comparing their whole self with only a part of the other person’s identity.

One of my favourite expressions about this is that you can’t compare your cutting room floor footage with someone else’s highlight reel (thanks, Kendra). We don’t see the crap that the “comparees” made first, the struggle they’ve gone through to produce what they show us, the things that went wrong. We only see the finished product. We also don’t see the World’s Best Researcher pop in to Macca’s for drive-through on the way home every second night because they don’t have time to make dinner. We don’t see Homemaker Blogger’s pile of unfinished art and we don’t see Artistic Genius’s overgrown garden.

And that’s the way I have to deal with these comparisons whenever I hear that nagging little voice in my head tell me that what I’m doing isn’t as good as what . . . is doing.

So, after the initial guilt for using potentially tainted flour had worn off, I told myself that Homemaker Blogger devotes her entire life to raising her family, making a home and preparing the absolute best food she can. I am not this person, I am nothing like this person and my life is nothing like hers. For a start, I work outside the house. I have to, to pay for it. Therefore, doing home stuff is a much smaller part of my life than it is of hers. Just like I have less time to spend on my art than the Artistic Genius has and Brené has less time to volunteer than Mother Teresa did.

So rather than looking at World’s Greatest Researcher or Artistic Genius and thinking I’m useless in comparison and feeling deflated and defeated, I need to learn to acknowledge that someone else’s personal best is their personal best, not mine and that I should be striving for my personal best from the place I’m at, not that person’s personal best.

Rather than allowing it to make me feel inadequate, I can then use comparison as a motivation to do my own work and to get better. To shine my own light, not someone else’s. I can look at what it is I like about what they do and see if there’s something there that I can learn from. Perhaps I can buy better quality flour in smaller quantities and store it differently. If like the way the light falls in this artwork, maybe I can look for opportunities to incorporate that into my work. When I noticed that a writer has used words that flow with a certain rhythm, I can experiment with doing this and see if it works for me.

Comparison is a two-edged sword. When it inspires you and moves you forward, it’s a useful tool. When it deflates and demotivates you, it’s time to stop. Get off social media, stop reading blogs, take a break and focus on your own work. Forget about what everyone else is doing and go out and do what makes you happy.

And stop I will because that’s long enough to spend on one article from my inbox (which, incidentally, is still not at zero).

I had a couple of other strong messages grab my attention too this week. First, was an article from James Clear called Stop Thinking and Start Doing: The Power of Practicing More, which is a great reminder that you don’t get better at something by reading about it and thinking about it; you get better at it by doing it. The second theme that I saw in a couple of places was the importance of learning, which at first seems to contradict the message in James’ article, but this wasn’t as much about learning new skills as it was about broadening your world view through reading, exploring new ideas and getting out of your comfort zone. Here’s one of them by photographer David DuChemin, The Greatest Misconceptions in Photography.

Weekend wisdom 3

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

This week was a mix of a couple of intense days and a couple of less intense days where I was able to slow down and deal with the backlog of things I had neglected during the intense period. I even got to inbox zero at work, which was a nice feeling to go into the weekend with.

There wasn’t a lot that came through my inbox this week that really jumped out at me as something I wanted to remember and/or put into practice. The first thing I noticed was from James Clear, who wrote about the myth of multitasking in his weekly email.

I’m familiar with this concept so the article was more of a refresher than anything new. James observes that while we are capable of doing two things at the same time, such as watching TV while we’re cooking dinner or sending an email while we’re talking on the phone, it’s impossible to concentrate on two tasks at once. So what our brains do when we think we’re multitasking is actually switching very quickly back and forth between the two tasks. This uses a huge amount of energy and wastes a lot of time because of the time it takes to get back onto the previous task when you switch. And it results in lower performance.

To overcome trying to do many things at once and to enable him to focus on what’s important, James says he identifies his “anchor task” every day. This is the one priority that he has to get done that day. He says that, while he has other things he has to do during the day, the anchor task is the priority, and he plans everything else around doing that one thing.

What I like about this model is that James has a weekly schedule of these anchor tasks, which give his week some structure and allows him to know exactly what he needs to focus on that day. So, for example, on Monday he has to write an article and on Friday he has to do his weekly review. This is something I’m going to try out and see if it works for me.

20190702 Elizabeth & Macquarie St from Franklin Square 442pm 2

Completely unrelated photo taken on my phone on the way home during the week

The second article I found interesting this week comes from Asian Efficiency, which is about checking in on how you’re going with the goals you set for yourself at the start of the year. If, indeed, you actually did that.

The article suggests if you look at how you’re tracking half-way through the year you can adjust your goals accordingly so that they remain achievable for the rest of the year. The example they give is if your goal was to do 50 book reviews and you realise you’ve only done 15 by six months, the mid-year review would be an opportunity to either adjust the goal or to amend the number of reviews you do each week to help you achieve the original goal.

The article suggests some things to look at, which include:

  • changing a goal, for example, because your circumstances have changed
  • removing goals you no longer want to pursue or that aren’t as important to you anymore
  • looking at where you’re at with the goals you set and what else you’ll need to do to get there.

It also touches briefly on the idea of setting more frequent goals, rather than 12-month goals. For example, rather than 50 book reviews in the year you could set a quarterly goal of 12 book reviews. By setting shorter-term goals, the article says you need to make more frequent check-ins. So you’re less likely to become overwhelmed by the length of time needed to achieve the goal.

I guess most, if not all, of my goals for this year are in my 19 for 2019 list, though I didn’t write the list with “setting goals” as an objective. Some of them aren’t so much goals as nagging tasks I keep putting off. Looking over the list there’s only two that I would consider to be “goals” that I haven’t made a lot of progress on and that I want to tick off by the end of the year. And I still have six months of the year left to do them so at this stage I’m not too worried. Ask me how I feel about them again in November!

Weekend wisdom 2

Welcome to another instalment of my (hopefully) weekly posts on the things that came through my inbox that resonated with me this week. (Week 1’s introduction post is here.)

First up this week is an old post that I had saved from Ali Stegart’s blog Alphabet Soup and somehow stumbled on again this week. It’s in my extensive email library*, which as we learned last week, is something I never look at so I’m not sure how I found it again.

Ali’s post complements what I was reading about perfectionism last week and echoes the direction my own thoughts have been going. Ali refers to “toxic perfectionism” and says

. . . perfectionism, like most traits, has pros and cons, a light side and a dark side. It can be helpful and harmful.

Perfectionism may well be the superpower that got you where you are. Be proud of your commitment to excellence. The world needs your people of your calibre and standards. However, high achievers and perfectionists are not the same. The former strives for real excellence, as in a personal best, or the best on the day; the latter pushes for an ideal, unattainable perfection. To the perfectionist, ‘almost perfect’ is the same as failure.

Ali says we should “strive for excellence, but make GROWTH [our] aim”.

I agree and think there is a whole world of difference between excellence and perfection, which is unattainable. Photographer David duChemin refers to perfection as

the bastard love child of a protestant work ethic and the fact that we celebrate the work of artistic genius but never acknowledge the process responsible for that work. We are told, if not by others then frequently by ourselves, “Unless we can create that brilliant thing, and unless we can make it perfect, don’t bother.” And we forget that any good thing is almost always a result of a long, slow refinement of something that almost always starts ugly.

I think some of my quest from perfectionism comes from comparing my work to that work of the artistic genius David refers to. I will compare my beginner level work to that of someone who has been working for many years and feel bad because mine isn’t as good, so I give up instead of striving to make my work better.

However, as David has pointed out, that person’s good thing is “a result of a long, slow refinement of something that almost always starts ugly” but you don’t see that in the finished product and you don’t see everything that the person has done, their years of training and practice and mistake-making they needed to do to be able to create their brilliant thing. David puts it like this

Perfectionism is a childish response, itself imperfect, incomplete. It pouts in the corner when it can’t get something done “right” the first time and so it never learns the lessons of craft and character that come from wrestling the muse to the ground and making something of nothing.

(Speaking of putting in the work, I also enjoyed this article by Charlie Moss on the Digital Photography School website.)

David’s comment reminds me not to compare my ugly starting point with the beautiful end-product of someone who has been around a lot longer than me, knows a lot more than I do and has spent years mastering their craft. It reminds me that my ugly starting point is not my finished product, so the comparison to any finished work, let alone that of someone else, is completely invalid. And it reminds me that if I don’t start at that ugly starting point because I’m overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy that arise from my work not being as good as that of the artistic genius, I will never achieve a beautiful end-product of my own.

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In the interests of embracing imperfection, here’s an imperfect photo of a beautiful sunrise on Friday, taken from the bus window

As one of my favourite people, Kendra Wright, says  “comparison kills creativity”. I love this expression and I try to bring it to mind whenever I start to feel like this.

Other things I read this week reminded me that it’s also important not to feel down on myself when I’m in this state of mind. Talking about comparison, Ali’s post says

If you find yourself struggling with feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and bitterness, it’s time to pause. Remember, these aren’t “sins” or character flaws; they are common human feelings that simply indicate how strongly you want something you don’t yet have.

Acknowledge the feelings without judgement. “Hmm. Interesting…” Then move on! Ruminating on it or shaming yourself or poking yourself in the eye do no good.

Acknowledging negative feelings without beating ourselves up about having the feelings was also a theme in an email from Cassandra Massey, who says

Feeling the bad emotions is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a healthy thing to do. But most of us believe that when we feel bad, we should do something to make ourselves feel better.

But feeling the negative emotions, along with the positive emotions, is what creates a deep and fulfilling human experience.

  • When someone dies, it’s normal to feel sad and to experience grief.
  • When you don’t get the promotion or the house, it’s okay to feel disappointment.
  • When someone betrays you, it’s okay to feel resentment (at least initially).

The problem arises when we try to resist or avoid the emotion by doing something to make us feel better. Trying to get rid of the emotion with food, wine, or even by trying to stay positive, is very disempowering.

And often times, the emotion grows. Emotions don’t like to be ignored. We have them for a reason.

When you call allow yourself to process the emotion fully, you become empowered.

My takeaway from her post is to use these negative feelings to motivate you to take the actions that will get you to the point you want to be rather than doing things to numb the feelings with self-destructive behaviours.

That’s a lot to think about!

*Actually my Evernote files, which I refer to just as infrequently as I do to my extensive email library.

Weekend wisdom

One of the things I try to do on Saturday mornings is to go through the backlog of emails in my inbox that I haven’t read or dealt with during the week. I’m a slightly flawed follower of the inbox zero regime and I don’t often get to inbox zero but I do like to only have a small number of emails there that I can see all at once.

But I’m not here to talk about emails.

I’m on more email newsletter lists than I really need to be, many of them because I signed up for one thing and then never got around to unsubscribing from the list. Some of them I usually delete without opening unless the title of the email really grabs me, like one did this week. Some of them I glance through and some of them I read in more detail if I have time. Those are the ones where I often find little snippets of wisdom or inspiration. They often appear just at the right time when I’m grappling with an issue or a problem, which is kind of cool. (Still talking about emails . . . )

Sometimes I save the email in my extensive email library—but I’m not really sure why, because I never browse through my extensive email library. I usually file it away and never look at it again.

Sometimes I copy and past a couple of quotes into my journal so when I re-read it I’m reminded. But I wondered if there might be a better way to keep track of everything and I thought it might be fun to make a weekly blog post of quotes and information that I found interesting over the week.

So here’s instalment 1 of Weekend Wisdom.

Perfectionism and procrastination from Cassandra Massey,  which is not a website I regularly read, but the headline got my attention.

What interested me about this was talking about how we procrastinate because we can’t do the job perfectly or because the perfect conditions aren’t in place, so we don’t get the job done. And then we feel bad and try to do something to make us feel better, which is normally something that isn’t productive, like binge watching TV, endlessly scrolling through social media, having another glass of wine.

The podcast says that what to do instead of giving in to the bad feeling by “buffering” with one of these “false pleasures”, is to begin to tell yourself that you’re going to do the thing anyway and say, “I am not supposed to feel great about this right now. I am not supposed to be experiencing a positive emotion.”

Cassandra says:

Maybe it’s something that you haven’t done before. Maybe it’s a big project that you’ve been putting off for a long time. And so you’re experiencing a negative emotion and so just reminding yourself that that is okay, that that is part of the human experience.

When you can train yourself to allow that negative emotion and to do it anyway, you’re really building up a new skill and so the more that you do this, the easier it is going to be for you to follow through on things that you don’t feel like doing even though you know that they are going to lead to the result that you ultimately want.

I’ve been experiencing a lot of negative emotions this week and I think that reminding myself that it’s part of being human to feel like that is a good thing to keep in mind on the bad days. And linking it to procrastination, a thing that I am a master of, like this isn’t something I’ve heard of before.

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One of this week’s photos from @hobartstreetcorners on Instagram

This one is from photographer Dan Milnor on the Blurb blog, which also served as a reminder for me to stop procrastinating because whatever I want to do won’t be perfect and just do it anyway.

Art is what you want it to be. A way of seeing the world, a way of thinking, a way of making something as pure expression, or something that has meaning.

Art is pure freedom. You can create and make anything your mind can dream up, and this acts as a counterbalance to many of the less than savory aspects of being human. Art also works as a translator, connecting people with varying opinions through the filter of light, shape, color, form, or concept.

The best way is to just start. Remember, there really is no right or wrong, only how you see the world, or an individual piece you are creating. Create as if you are the only person who will ever see the work. That way you allow for your real vision to shine through and not the vision you think people want to see.

Making art for art’s sake is a GREAT way to breakthrough creative plateaus. When left alone with no strings attached, you will create work that is pure you, and often times, this is the best work you will ever create.

And finally this week, some words from one of my favourite writers, James Clear, on the importance of showing up every day and mastering the fundamentals of whatever it is you’re trying to do.

It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one critical event or one “big break” while simultaneously forgetting about the hidden power that small choices, daily habits, and repeated actions can have on our lives. Without the fundamentals, the details are useless. With the fundamentals, tiny gains can add up to something very significant.

Nearly every area of life can be boiled down to some core task, some essential component, that must be mastered if you truly want to be good at it.

Mastery in nearly any endeavor is the result of deeply understanding simple ideas.

For most of us, the answer to becoming better leaders, better parents, better lovers, better friends, and better people is consistently practicing the fundamentals . . .

PS. I wasn’t going to post this at all because I didn’t have a snappy title for it. But I talked myself into it because if I’d waited until I had the right title, I’d still be waiting this time next year. Done is better than perfect.