Tag Archives: Ritual

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

Cultivating Your Professional Garden

Periodically you have read reference here in this blog to sowing seeds, cultivating ideas, fallow and fertile ground for thought so how fitting that we talk about a full-fledged garden of your professional being.  (A nod to contact Bob Podgorski for this phrase.)


Gardens, vegetable or flower, must be tended regularly or their character will change entirely.  Some plants will run rampant and strangle out others, some are too delicate to survive in a wild environment and will die, weeds will take advantage and push out more valuable plants by depriving them of nutrients.  So to must you tend to your professional life in an intentional manner.


I like to take walks around my neighborhood and check out how the plantings in various yards change with the seasons and the years.  There are so many different styles and predilections starting with absolutely no plant adornment, through no time to spend on the previous owner’s efforts, all the way to showy designer planned installations.   And of course in these days there are the houses that fell victim to the crash and are awaiting loving care.  Some of these had beautiful yards and I watch with interest to see if new owners will coax the garden back to glory or will rip it all out and start fresh.


My point is that it is easier to find a means to maintain than to bring something back or to give up on it and start fresh.  I know that you don’t have enough hours in a day for all your tasks – work, family, etc.  How could you possibly squeeze in a to-do or two to plot out the state of your professional garden?  You don’t know the first thing about what is growing there these days.  Well, finding yourself suddenly in job search is not the time to start taking inventory except that this seems to be the standard prompt.


What is in your professional garden?  First there is you – do your skills stack up against others in your position and industry?  How aware are you of the trends within your industry?  Then there are your contacts – who are they, where are they, and when was the last time that you were in touch?  It is a whole lot easier to get a recommendation from someone right after a successful mutual project than months or years later.  What have you done for them lately?


I know that it just sounds exhausting, and it is work to maintain any garden.  But judicious effort on a regular basis is warranted and prudent.  And a whole lot less work than bringing a tangle back to order or replanting an empty lot.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved


Filed under Job Search, Personal Growth, Work Life

Puttering: Anti-Stress Random Acts of Little Consequence?

When you have unstructured time, do you find yourself thinking about your long to-do list but just doing something mindless instead?  Your mind has taken over because it needs unstructured time and since we are always behind we don’t ever give it this luxury.

5.29.13 front circle from N

I disagree just a bit with the dictionary on the definition of puttering, or maybe it is a matter of semantics on the use of ineffective and unproductive in the description.  Puttering can be aimless and random, leisurely and casual – but can be highly consequential.  We don’t do enough of it in my opinion and seem to swing from overly-booked to entirely mindless as a result.


My dad had sets of old once-white t-shirts and worn jeans (or shorts in the summer) that came out on the weekends when the suits were set aside.  These clothes signaled a day spent puttering; he would be found in the backyard, his workshop, the garage, or the shed if not taking a trip to the hardware store.  Now some of the work, like mowing the lawn was planned and therefore not puttering, but most of what he did falls in the puttering category.


Meanwhile mom could be found doing her own version of puttering in the house, stationed in the corner of the sofa with a stack of reading material, a cup of coffee and a notebook and pen.  Mom’s puttering was about culling information and repurposing it for her needs; exploring ideas that might come back out years later as part of a project.


I started to think of all of this while doing the dishes (yes, I do them by hand – mindless puttering gives me time to ruminate) and wishing that someone who likes to fix little things around the house would adopt my house as a cause and come putter here once a month or so.  Puttering about the house sorting, straightening, culling keeps me from having to plan a big chunk of time to keep things in order.  Puttering in the garden idly plucking weeds out of the mulch (love mulch, gardening is enjoyable with mulch) keeps me from having to spend hours weeding.


So puttering is ineffective?  I don’t think so.  When my brain is tired, I can still sit with a pad and pen and jot down the stuff I will do later when I have energy, as it wanders into my head – aimless, but effective.  What do you think?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Zen, Japanese Beetle Removal and Centering Yourself

I designated one corner of my backyard as my Grandma Garden in honor of my mom.  This gives me an opportunity to continue to buy her presents for significant days like the anniversary of her birth.  (I channel my dad when I need to do some DIY around the house.)  The first thing that my boys and I bought for her was a Rose of Sharon because she loved flowering plants and we had all taken a trip to Ireland together the year that she died.


2012 Rose of Sharon & Japanese Maple in Grandma gardenWe have enjoyed watching the Rose of Sharon grow each year since, particularly since we wisely situated it to be seen from the family room and kitchen.  Unfortunately Japanese beetles have also taken an interest in this bush and they can be devastating.  I discovered that the remedy is a cup of soapy water, where the beetles meet their maker after I tip them in.  (Another remedy is to apply granules to kill the grubs but this must be done early in the season and I don’t always have my head straight in time.)


My solution takes time and careful study because sometimes the beetles are deep in the flowers.  At first I resented this additional task at the end of each packed day.  But finally last summer, a particularly stressful one, I realized that this time was actually a gift.  If I rush through my perusal, then I miss many beetles which can then complete their life cycle and create more beetles for the following year.  But if I use the opportunity as a Zen meditation (another Japanese export, more welcome by far) then I get to deeply enjoy the form and individuality of each blossom.  My breathing and mind slow and stress melts.


We are all being asked to do more with less these days as the world cycles through the current growing pains.  Get it done and move on, get it done and move on, get it done and move on.  This is our sound track, which doesn’t allow for reflection.  And we all need a bit of reflection, a centering on something meaningful and greater than ourselves.


Nature is a great source of centering and reflection – I learned this from both of my parents, in different ways.  I hope for you that there is some opportunity to center yourself on a regular basis.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

What’s in Your Closet? Casual Friday, the Office Dress Code

Want to have a frothy conversation at the office, but keep it away from the hot buttons of politics and religion – start talking about the dress code.  This works better if your office has a mix of ages and business backgrounds.  An office full of 20 something designers or 40 something CPAs probably won’t lead to a lively talk.


What does business casual really mean?  Wear hose, don’t wear hose.  Capris, shorts, jeans in the office?  To tuck or not to tuck – and if men must tuck, why don’t the women have to?  T-shirts with logos, oh my.  And flip-flops, duck if you bring these up.


I grew up in the age when one still dressed up for church, celebrations of any kind, really any notable occasion.  (And I loved the authoritative click that my first dress shoes with a little bit of a heel made on tile!)  Putting some effort into getting dressed meant that something special was about to happen.  Both of my parents had sections in their closets for professional clothing – and I understood that to be taken seriously at work I should dress for the role that I wanted.


Now I am not stylish at all and I gravitate toward simple, comfortable clothing; and I like color as people who tend to too much black will tell you.  I don’t read style magazines, but I have studied how certain people seem to be nicely put together – it seems to come down to coordinating items and accessories; which I hope to master one day.


dressLeft to my own devices, I will dress neatly for work in my own uniform of sorts – a colorful top and a pair of Docker-like pants.  A blouse or unconstructed jacket will take it up a notch for client meetings.  I’ll wear jeans on casual Friday to show unity, but I’m not fond of jeans and office chairs – I prefer to wear my jeans when I can put my feet up.


Recently there was a discussion on one of my LinkedIn groups (Linked N Chicago-LiNC) that carried on for almost a full month having been started with the question Dress code at the office: Has it become TOO relaxed?.  Here is a quote that I think sums up the discussion succinctly:


“How you dress is a marketing decision. You should make that decision yourself and not be bound by a rule.”

~David M Patt CAE

See the full LinkedIn discussion here.


We each must figure out how to balance personal expression with the needs/wants of the groups to which we belong.  If you decide to get your office mates going on this topic, let me know the outcome.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Displaying the Colors

Patriotism waxes and wanes, understandably to a certain degree; after all we only have 24 hours in each day and a terribly large amount of stuff to fit into each of these days.  But it comes top of the mind at least once a year in July.  Does your office do anything to recognize the fourth, to exemplify patriotism?  How do you personally display your colors?

"Betsy Ross" flag, the original official flag

“Betsy Ross” flag, the original official flag


Plenty of us wear the colors – red, white and blue in some combination during this week, perhaps a flag lapel pin in the mix.  Some people wear clothing that shows the flag, even items that turn part of the person into a living representation of the flag.  We have other items that reflect the stars and bars, the colors of the flag.  I have a collection of small flags attached to pencil sized sticks that have been given out in past years and which adorned my pencil cup.


Being the daughter of a lifelong Boy Scout, I learned very early on that there is a respect due to this symbol of our country, first adopted in 1923 during a patriotic patch between the big wars: The Flag Code.  Of course at that point, it wasn’t known that this was just a breather between one world war and the next.  And it was long before anyone would have thought to body paint a flag across their chest or other body part.


Immediately post-9/11 was definitely a time when everyone wanted to show allegiance, reverence and connection to the flag.  My work place installed a flag pole outside the main entrance and decided to hold a flag ceremony.  Flags were still flying at half-mast at this point, but unfortunately the group responsible for the flag ceremony was not aware of proper protocol.  (For your information, a flag which will be flown at half-staff should first be hoisted to the top of the pole and then brought down to the half-staff position.  See point 7.m. in the link.)  Currently we see flags less frequently than in those first months and years after 9/11/2001.


I own one of my dad’s flags (the one in today’s picture) but I don’t fly it.  This particular flag is not only the symbol of the country where I have always lived, it is also the symbol of my country’s history and a connection to my dad and his love of country.  The flag is not something to put on or out just because it is the thing to do.


“Anything printed with the flag should convey a message, even if the message is ironic or negative.”

~ Karen Chen, Chicago Tribune reporter, paraphrasing Hugh Brady (flag expert)


We should be proud of our flag, the people that it represents, and display our colors respectfully.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Paid Time Off – Holidays – Independence

Good morning on this day before the National 4th of July Holiday in the U.S.

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia


The holiday which celebrates independence as a country – and as I heard said at a meeting yesterday, the best sort of no pressure holiday; all about food, fun, friends and family.  Some of the young fellows in my neighborhood have already been practicing their fireworks lighting skills, just in case they got rusty since last year.


For my U.S. readers, I hope that this day brings you a little paid independence from your work place – maybe some lazy time to fill with outdoor eating, friendly gatherings, parades, fireworks and maybe a bit of beer.  (And since it falls on a Thursday this year, perhaps even a nice long, leisurely weekend.)


For my readers elsewhere in the world, I hope that you too have some point in the year when you can enjoy a day of independence from the work day toil, a day out of the ordinary mundane working tasks to enjoy with those that you choose to pass pleasant time.


The warm weather and sunshine that we Americans expect as a natural part of this holiday increases the ebullience.  We should all be quite pleased that fashions have changed during the history of this country because I don’t imagine that the many layers of jackets, cravats, wigs, hose, etc. were particularly comfortable in steamy weather.


Independence is a wonderful gift – dreamed of fervently by children doing adult bidding everywhere.  In the midst of the revelry, I hope that you each get a moment to smile about this freedom.


I hope that all have a Happy and Safe 4th, I’ll see you here again on Friday the 5th.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Our Brains on Summer


Everyone who knows me is going to cry foul – so do as I say here and not as I have done in the past and get out of the office to take in some sunshine and fresh breezes as many days as you can.


Why?  Because your brain will thank you.


Why?  Because vitamin D directly from the sun is the best kind.


Why?  Because we should all channel our inner child periodically and watch the clouds scuttle across the sky.


Why?  Because people watching is an interesting pastime.


To fulfill all of these whys, and just for funsies – leave your phone and your pad and all other electronic devices in the car or the office.  Partake in the sounds of nature along with the sights.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

Insulated from the Rain

Have you ever noticed that fluorescent lighting, which is normally so harsh takes on a softer glow when contrasted with gathering storm clouds?  I can remember back to an early age in school, deep in whatever task, coming out of it to look around as my eyes sent me messages that the quality of the lighting had changed, a storm was approaching.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether I am in a mid-century school building, an older school or an office building, the change in sunlight affects the quality of the artificial lighting indoors.  Differently than the transition to evening.  Though newer lighting tends to have more of a spotlight effect.

stormyWhen the clouds gather, sometimes slowly stacking, sometimes madly swirling, my instinct is to get a good seat, a book and to watch the clouds until the storm bursts – interspersing storm watching with reading.  Of course, at work or at school I must deny this instinct.  Somehow though, the threatening weather seems to draw everyone closer together, a primitive impulse that there is strength in numbers.

It does depend on the season though, doesn’t it?  In fall and winter, rain makes our thoughts turn to being cozy, to soup and sandwiches and fireside chats.  In the spring and summer, we have an urge to go out and be in the rain, to let it wash freshness over us – to watch later how it brings out new plants, encourages buds on established plants.

Heading home, hearing the swish of the windshield wipers and watching headlights arc through the brooding gloom and tires splashing in the water slicing across streets we aren’t ever very fond of rain at these moments.

Later when we stand in grass that is almost neon green and under trees that shake rain droplets from their leaves with every breeze, we see the benefit of the rain storm.

This post is written in response to the daily prompt:


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Work Life, Writing

The Soundtrack of Our Lives, at Work

I think that a love of music is pretty universal.  Music in general, that is; once you get into types of preferences, there can be heated discussions.  This type over that type, the volume, the method of delivery.  Sometimes this argument is more about power struggle than like/dislike of music itself.


Imagine a movie without a soundtrack, realize how rare it is to go into a store without music playing.  Music affects mood and energy, underscores a message.  But it can be very contentious in a work place; back to the preferences – not only of type but also of volume.  Because even with headphones, there can be issues.


As a manager, there is also the problem of getting the attention of the person plugged into headphones, without scaring them.  (It always makes me wonder if this person can hear their phone ring, too.)


Personally while I love music, I don’t feel the need to drown out my current environment.  I have never listened to music at work, and I listen to natural sounds when I go for a walk.  I get that it isn’t for everybody, but suggest that you try it out.  Especially if your office has music wars.


Does your office have music wars?  Why?  How are they resolved?


Is music played in your office?  How is the type decided?  How do you feel about that?


Music can be a uniting factor or a dividing one.  Back to where I started this post, music is generally appreciated, therefore a uniting factor.  It is in the details, just like with so many other things in life, that music gets mucked up.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life