Tag Archives: Goals

Reforming Perfectionism

I’ve told anyone who is interested that I have been a reforming perfectionist for the last decade or so.  I say reforming because there is no end, no reformed and never a concern again.  Perfectionism is a mindset that is powerful and pervasive.  And not in my best interest.


Perfectionism is constantly on the lookout for all of the things that you did wrong or said wrong, not necessarily to improve upon them but often just to highlight your imperfection.  Reforming perfectionism is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve what you have said or done and therefore helpful.  As in ‘yep, I forgot that breathe and take one more look step before I sent out that email so I missed the attachment’.   I will work harder to make this a step every time in the future.


We are human and therefore have flaws; but also capable of learning and improving.  Perhaps perfectionism has been more of a friend to you than it has been for me.  I am happy for you, but have found more perfectionists that have been hampered by this trait, similarly to what it has done to me in the past (and currently when I am not vigilant).  What parts of perfection are worthy, and which should be discarded or ignored?  Where does a quest to be better turn into self-imposed disappointment?  We each must find these answers in our own time and way.

Nature makes beautiful things, without worrying about perfection.

Nature makes beautiful things, without worrying about perfection.


I have found reforming perfectionism to be more open, perfection is terribly rigid.  Rigid doesn’t allow one opportunity in a fast changing environment.  Rigid perfection creates a lot of negative energy, and there is already too much of that out and about; improvement is fluid and adjustable and positive.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved

1 Comment

Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

When did Built to Last become Planned Obsolescence?

I could do a bit of research and find out the actual answer to my question from a marketing or product development standpoint, but that isn’t my objective.  (If you know, please do share.)  I’m more interested in this question in an esoteric manner; we seem to have started this idea with products, quietly and slowly (washers and dryers used to be built for 15-20 years, now 8 seems to be the norm yet they cost comparatively more!) and the idea has spread to other parts of business and life.

End of Child Labor is Progress (Cotton mill workers,1909.Lewis Hines, National Child Labor Collection-Library of Congress.)

End of Child Labor is Progress (Cotton mill workers,1909.Lewis Hines, National Child Labor Collection-Library of Congress.)


Now progress is different than planned obsolescence – I learned to type on an old manual typewriter (my pinky fingers will never forget the force exerted to depress those keys was nearly beyond their power) and am thrilled to now use Word on my laptop to create.  That is progress, new inventions to improve upon old process.  Calligraphy and quill pens are now lovely in living history settings and used for artistic expression, but we will stick with our gel pens, thanks.


And as for applying the concept of obsolete to people, well skills might get a little stale, but not a person.  A person who has learned how to navigate a changing world always has something to offer.  We might have to slow down our hurry just a bit, sit down and have a chat, and then cull through the conversation for the good stuff.  But there will be good stuff; solid knowledge on making a life, earning a living, solving problems.


Older people might not know their way around all of these devices, but should your GPS break most would be capable and happy to show you how to read a map.  To tell you a story or two about the area where you find yourself.  How it once was, how it came to be what you see before you.  Sometimes this means a place quite different as the story progresses, but since nature is cyclical sometimes it means returning to something similar to what it was before.


One of the answers to my question might be, ‘that’s progress’.  Hmmm.  It seems to be more about pure commerce to me, which is what it is; but then we should carefully consider what parts of the world to apply the concept.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



Filed under Job Search, Personal Growth, Work Life

Challenges of a Mom Working Outside the Home: Work Life Balance

Mothers have this awesome, profound impact on their offspring.  We are all quick to think about the effect our own mother had on us, but it is a little harder to ponder the impact we may be having on our own children.  Being all things to all people doesn’t seem to be an affliction that men suffer from, although I do know more and more who are involved in their children’s lives to a deeper level than past generations would have ever believed.  Being all things to all people is an affliction that keeps many a woman up at night.


When my younger son hit the right age for Pop Warner football, he really wanted to join.  I believe in giving my kids the opportunity to try out a variety of activities, but I was already aware that this particular activity considered itself more of a vocation than a passing interest and had a large time and effort expectation of parents and players.  I was also working about 14 miles from home, full time at this stage.  I had to say no, please pick a different sport.


I thought of this again recently because I just read an article that more and more students are opting for sports through exclusive clubs at a fairly early age.  These clubs do offer the children a great opportunity to excel, but at what overall cost?  First there is usually a sizable financial commitment, then there is the time involved, etc.


Work-life balance is a phrase that hasn’t come up much in the past couple of years while businesses find ways to cut costs that often mean more strain on their staff.  Oddly, in times of stress work-life balance is a more worthy discussion because the actual balance is sorely lacking.  Add in the family needs aspect and it really gets intense.


Back to my example, my son still feels slighted because his older brother played a season of Pee Wee football in our old town and he couldn’t play until high school.  I feel sad that he has not found a way to reconcile this disappointment, but otherwise my feelings are a throw-back to prior generations.  I have a short list of activities that I didn’t get to do as a child because participation would have required too much general family sacrifice.  Parents wanted their children to be happy and to have broader and better experiences than the parents themselves, but not to the point of disrupting family life.  Now we seem to think that we should move heaven and earth to give our child these experiences.


But sometimes life will put blocks in the way of your hopes and dreams, so perhaps it is better to learn about compromise when the stakes are about a sport and not a livelihood.


We have to work so hard and so regularly for balance because it is elusive and takes concentration.  Children can learn that part of balance is making choices.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Productivity, Progress & Purpose

Besides all starting with the letter p and thereby providing me with a lovely alliterative title, these words all have work in common.  We should all keep these words in mind as we toil away because they will help us to stay away from busy work – the kind that looks good from a distance, but really has little substance.


These words do have much in common, but are not entirely synonyms of each other.  A task can be purposeful, but not always directly productive.  Productivity and purpose may not always lead to progress.


I believe that I have previously mentioned my sticky note on my desk that reminds me to act with purpose.  Which doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally do something just because – sometimes down time is just the right thing to be more productive.  Too, purposeful acts can be small and give a person a nice energy boost needed to tackle larger activities which will improve progress.


public domain, 1895 Mountain Climb

public domain, 1895 Mountain Climb

Progress is only possible when there is an identified larger goal.  Something to work towards like a degree or a promotion.  Then acting with purpose, in a productive manner will move a person or a company closer to the goal progressively.  Progress isn’t always as linear as we would like it to be so then it is beneficial to have productive and purposeful activities to help us to feel effective.


Progress in certain situations, like job search, is particularly sticky.  In job search so much activity can seem to be fragmented and give the job seeker a feeling quite the opposite of progress, purpose or productivity.   Learning new things, even disparate things is progress in this situation.  Just not necessarily linear progress rather being one facet of the purpose to gain new employment.


Similarly, there are days at work when progress might not be achievable, but purposeful acts can still be completed.  Phone calls returned, plans started for later and so on.


What phrases help you to prevent busy work?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Job Search, Personal Growth, Work Life

Tick, Tock – Watching the Clock and Marking Time

There is nothing worse than a slow day at work and even in these days of fewer coworkers and greater pressure the slow days do appear.  Agonizingly dull while your mind whirls through all of the things that you could be doing at home if only you could be released from the necessity of an eight hour stretch in the office.


Of course, there are probably things that you can do here and there to occupy a few moments, maybe even an hour.  By helping someone else, clearing up a few outstanding tasks, sorting through information that was left for later – a later that many days seems to be terribly far out of reach.  The funny thing about this current boredom is that you have joked about it with your cohorts and longed for it when you have felt buried under a to-do pile that quite possibly is heavy enough to set off one of these sink holes that are opening up all over these days.


But for whatever reason you sit here today, must look gainfully occupied, but idled and making up games in your head to keep from staring at the clock.  Because that darn clock doesn’t move fast enough on this day when on others it laughingly flashes through the minutes while you frantically work through all the urgent steps for over-due projects.


Finally, lunch and a taste of freedom.  But of course, this time is over way too soon and you are back at your desk.  At least a few more methods of looking busy popped into your head while you ate.  And a few emails that could use attention came into your inbox.  Oh and this is a perfect time to do some research on upcoming projects, and that seminar you want to ask about.


You think to yourself that perhaps you should have more sympathy with your children the next time that they say they are bored, instead of looking daggers at them while you are swamped with chores around the house.  No, probably not.  Just as right now you are sorry that you ever joked that you’d like to be a person of leisure when crazy busy, you are certain that the memory of this day will fade quickly, aided in disappearing by a new avalanche of to-dos.


(This post was written in response to Daily Prompt: ( YAWN )


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Give Yourself Permission

Our well-meaning parents, in an effort to teach us and keep us safe, told us no quite a bit as we advanced through childhood.  Some of us, being naturally more mischievous, heard no many times a day as we explored our environment.  (I busted my head open three times before I was five because I liked to climb.)  Yes got thrown in occasionally for variety but the ratio of no to yes was pretty skewed toward a negative message. Ironically, our parents were narrowing our world view of safety and comfort all in an effort to ensure that we made it to adulthood in one piece so that we could then start to realize their dream that our world would be bigger and brighter than the opportunities that they were offered.

Once upon a time folks had to get permission from the manor house.  (public domain, 1820s Russian art)

Once upon a time folks had to get permission from the manor house. (public domain, 1820s Russian art)


Fast forward to your adult, working life and the cumulative effect of all that naysaying is commonly a reluctance to venture from the familiar to the untried – that vast world outside of safe and comfortable.  The conditioning to keep to a narrow, safe area now has unintended consequences.


Maybe I didn’t learn the right lessons from the experiences of busting my head open, although I did stop breaking my head open because the last one was a doozy; I’m advocating any method you want to use to reprogram the message of no, to give yourself permission to explore the area outside of the perceived safety zone.  Because that sense of curiosity that you used to have is out here, because there is a lot of potential for you out here.


Yes, the world is a confusing, often impersonal, complex place with conflicting expectations – so you think of your own.  Don’t know what the ethics are in a situation, or organization; where is your line for right versus wrong?  Err on the side of conservative propriety and now you have brought something of the familiar into an experience outside your norm.  But you have given yourself permission to step outside that narrow safe zone.  You have told yourself yes.


I’ve written previously about permission as Seeking Permission and comfort zones as Snuggled in Our Comfort Zones.  The sense of security that we derive from these zones is important, especially on a bad day when we can retreat to this safe space, put on old clothes that remind us of past good times and be surrounded by the objects and people that help us with a sense of well-being.


But staying within this narrow band of comfort turns that well-being into something else if we let it prevent us from reaching out to a desired goal.  A goal that we can catch glimpses of as we run through the familiar treads of our routine.  Giving yourself permission to step away from the safe zone, make an attempt at meeting that desire will preserve the well-being and give you the thrill of something new.  Start with a little yes.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Outrage Overload

The Age of Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason developed in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe and America (the fact that history as taught in our schools has a decidedly European and American bent is a topic for a different blog, but a worthy topic.)  We have moved from that age through the Industrial Age and now are in the waning years of the Information Age.  What to call the current age?  Well, outrage, umbrage, discord and conflict/confrontation are so prevalent that this might become known as the Age of Outrage.  People in general seem to be mere moments away from boiling over about any number of touchy subjects – and the list of touchy subjects just grows without resolution on any of the older items.

public domain

public domain


What is an office worker to do?  We have this notion that emotions don’t belong at the office, but we spend many hours toiling a few feet away from a number of other humans.  It would be nice to have a cordial and also meaningful relationship with all of them since we see them a great deal more than we see our own family.  We already know to stay away from the two oldest items on the touchy list – religion and politics.  (And how sad and ironic that something which was meant to be inclusive, religion, is so divisive.)


I have my own list of subjects that get my dander up, certainly.  But the tagline for this blog is Reasonable Expectations.  Hence why I started the count of named Ages with the Age of Reason (besides starting with the Iron Age would have made for a long, boring list) because I think that this could help us before future historians do dub this the Age of Outrage.


public domain - Understandably angry about conditions for women in India

public domain – Understandably angry about conditions for women in India

Outrage is a response of powerlessness, where reason is a considered decision for growth.  Outrage is complaining on steroids and complaining (kvetching, whining) is pointing out something that you think is wrong but waiting for someone else to come along and fix it.  But fix it the way that you think it should be fixed or the complaints just escalate.  Some offices are so full of complaining that you can practically see it in the air, until the big boss walks through and then there isn’t even a hint.


Reason identifies a problem, tracks it to a root or roots and then sets about coming up with potential solutions.  (This isn’t the use of reason as in an alternate word for excuse, rather sound judgment and good sense – thinking, application of knowledge and logic.)  Reason offers a path to a better place, a place where the touchy subject no longer holds any power or sway because we know how to correct, prevent or avoid the cause.


Outrage started out as a reasonable tool to gain the fickle attention of the public – all of us in the general populous who are stretching the hours of our day to fit in all of the necessary components – who might otherwise distractedly nod agreement, yes worthy cause please just catch me later.  But now the outrage is such a kneejerk reaction to every touchy thing, and the list of these must come on a scroll that rivals Santa’s naughty or nice list, that it is harder and harder to even get that little acknowledgement of agreement for a worthy touchy issue.


We need a reset, to solutions – reason.  Starting with common ground, identification of root causes using facts which aren’t filtered through any bias.  We’ve tried more outrage as a means to get attention to the growing list of worthy touchy subjects and it led to overload and dismissal.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

The State of My Year (To Date)

thinkHow could I resist today’s Daily Prompt, Daily Prompt: The State of Your Year.  Since this has been a year of transition for me, it is a great idea to review and take stock.  Am I in position to ‘gain traction’ (sorry for the buzz phrase); what have I done well, what can I improve?


I’ve mentioned before that in our house, growing up, analysis was not only encouraged, it was expected.  But it must be appropriate analysis, I have learned as I have matured, or it leads to analysis paralysis.  You have to pick the parameters of your analysis, define your expectations, and determine the appropriate controls – which all sounds much more complicated than it really is.


My favorite question to ask myself (and to consider when I’m interacting with others) is ‘what is my intent?’.  Knowing where I want to wind up helps me better to decide how to get there and whether or not I’m taking the right path.  It also helps me to decide whether a goal is worthy or should be changed or scrapped.  (I don’t understand people who pursue a goal that is no longer valid out of a dogged determination to finish what they start.)


Anyway, back to my year.  I have learned a great deal this year and met quite a few interesting people – none of which would have happened if I had continued on my previous track.  That track was getting pretty mucky and odious, but it was familiar and so I admit to waffling on next steps until some of them were decided for me.


Some of the things that I have learned, or re-learned this year:

  • Skills necessary for job search rarely match skills needed for most jobs
  • Being open to new experiences doesn’t mean that you won’t also have to mourn what was expected
  • Memorizing is hard when you haven’t done it for a long time
  • Surviving something that you feared is very freeing (I’ve had to learn this one a few times in the past decade, I’ve got this one down – do you hear that Fate?)


This has been a year of the unexpected for me, but I think that I have mostly managed it with the right attitude.  We do only get one life and there are sweeping changes and snail-paced days mixed into it, but as Studs Terkel told Rick Kogan when he was 93, “I’m feeling interested in life.”  I think I’m in good shape, at least in the interest respect.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

How Your Bosses (and Their Bosses) Process Ideas

You have another great idea, you are certain that this one ‘has legs’ as one or another senior boss has a habit of saying around the office.  You try not to think about the discarded ideas that you have put forward in the past because this is really the one that will get you noticed, make your year.


Once upon a time your boss got excited about all kinds of ideas, before he or she was business-itized, out of necessity you understand; at least in respect on how to assess a new idea for viability.


I’ve written previously on the topic of bringing forth your ideas as Filling Gaps.  But not from the angle of the higher up.  Even if you have not ever seen the business world from this angle, it behooves you to familiarize yourself with the concepts if you want to improve and move up.  Going higher up the hierarchy in your company means paying greater and greater attention to the ability of your team to provide value that is tangible (i.e. bankable) regularly, as in every quarter.


“I broke multiyear projects into pieces that delivered important capabilities every quarter. The tempo of business is measured in three-month cycles, and quarterly operating and sales results are the basis for many (maybe even most) business decisions. When you show the CEO and other executives that you are getting things done in 30-, 60-, and 90-day cycles, you build credibility, and the executives approve your projects and budgets.”

~ Mike Hugos, What I Learned My First Day as a CIO


So look at your idea from this perspective.  You may have to tweak it so that you can play up the aspects which will help your boss to achieve this goal of tangible improvement.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

1 Comment

Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life, Work Smarter

Manifest Destiny, Personalized and Modernized

John Gast's painting American Progress 1872, public domain

John Gast’s painting American Progress 1872, public domain

Maybe it’s because we just passed another 4th of July holiday, and it is the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg and I’ve been dipping back in history in general but I woke up in the middle of the night recently thinking about manifest destiny.  My next thought was to try to bring up the context for the reference, followed by the thought that I should take this back up again in the morning.

This phrase seems to have been coined in the 1800s, with broad use and unclear definition.  Basically the phrase was used in whatever manner suited expansion of the American ideal of that time and place.  I remember hearing it in both history and literature classes back in my school days.

America has had reach from the east to the west coasts for some time, one of the intents of manifest destiny, and we have promoted democratic ideals globally which is another intent.  We seem to have grown a bit weary and jaded at this stage of American progress and leave idealism for small pockets of energetic folk.

But I put personalized and modernized in the title after this 19th century ideal.

Something which is manifest is evident or obvious and while we don’t much talk in terms of destiny anymore, we know that it means something that will happen.  Perhaps we could apply this to the current debate about the place of higher education, for each individual.  Based on a person’s overall goals in life, is it their manifest destiny to attend college?  (And thereby, most likely, incur debt?)

There are no overreaching answers to questions like these, rather personal reflection on the balance of the question against the expectation of the individual – i.e. if it is my manifest destiny to (fill in the blank) then college seems (select one: worth the cost and effort, not worth the cost and effort).

Answer me this, what do you think of manifest destiny?

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life