Tag Archives: Self Improvement

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

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Hassle Anticipation

We’ve all heard the advice not to buy trouble.  But we should also be prepared for certain eventualities.  Some days, certain activities are just like… doing your taxes or going to the dentist.  A hassle, an aggravation, frustrating – and so on.  But sometimes we expect something to go wrong and so we start to work ourselves up, just ready.  Going to get your license renewed, for instance.  Encountering certain people at work, perhaps.  Waiting in line just about anywhere for anything.  (I’m not an early adopter so I really don’t get the folks that stand in line, sometimes for days for the latest release of any technical item – don’t ever tell me you hate to wait in line.)

Construction is always a hassle.

Construction is always a hassle.


Back to hassle anticipation – could we possibly experience the hassle just because we became so certain that we would have one that we somehow brought it on?  I’ve certainly watched it happen to others – someone ahead of you in line is giving off that vibe by fidgeting, sighing, or other cues gets up to the counter and their voice has that edge right off the bat.  I imagine that I have probably done it too, though no example comes to mind as I type.


We are bound by rules almost everywhere we go – the employee handbook at work, bank rules, insurance rules, school rules – piling up in front of us and blocking us from just getting the simplest thing on our to-do list done.  (Well such-and-such isn’t going to happen today because I forgot to bring that stupid form with me.)  It is such a hassle, why are there so many rules?


We know on one level that we need the rules to create structure and protection for certain rights, but do we need so many?  (The answer to that is probably not, a lot of rules are around just for the sake of rules or to benefit the institution over the individual…)


Back to anticipating the hassle, logically we are just in knowing that these established steps and rules can make things go slowly so why do we not allot enough time to accommodate this awareness?  I’ll just be a minute at the bank at noon on a Friday – sure.  Why is the doctor running late at 4pm, I have to get my daughter to dance class you know?


We are mad at the system, the institution for making our quick task or errand drag on and put us farther behind for the next one.  On top of it, we knew this would be a hassle, so we waited to the last possible minute to do this thing so it isn’t like we can come back later – how dare they?


How dare they indeed.  Do you have any stories about hassle anticipation?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



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Promises, Promises – The Follow Up Trap

More than once I have called someone back to complete a request and had the person on the other end of the line express astonishment that I called back.  Gratifying for me, but disturbing too.  If the opportunity to gain kudos is just this easy, why aren’t more people doing this simple thing, follow up?  Oh my, in the interest of complete disclosure I must also admit that I have been the person who hasn’t followed through on something too.  Though I constantly work on myself to keep this to a bare minimum.


The excuses (er, reasons) we don’t follow up:

  • Forgetfulness, plain and simple – completely gone from the memory banks, or just a wisp of a thought that ‘I told X that I would do something, I think…’
  • Fear – So-and-so didn’t really mean that I could call to make an appointment to (learn / discuss / ask…) about Y
  • Didn’t really ever mean to – be honest, the offer to do something, be somewhere or whatever was made in the moment with no intention of completion

And so very many more that you would stop reading if I tried to list them, and really there isn’t any point.  But if I’ve gotten you to consider some of your own reasons why you get trapped, then I’m glad.

public domain crab trap

public domain crab trap


The maxim that the road to hell is paved with good intentions came about and has lasting power for good reason.  (Except for the last point above.)  We become so disappointed with others when they let us down, but can we look in the mirror and hold our own gaze steadily on this topic?  Probably not, for we know (thanks to another maxim) that to err is human.


But we can also decide to do better each time we have a ‘next time’.  We can understand our triggers for forgetfulness – if you ever ask me about something that requires follow up in a space where I cannot or do not write it down, then beware that this is one of my follow up downfalls.  I have learned to ask you to help me to remember with an email or some other prompt.  (Particularly if you have a smartphone because I do not – archaic, I know.)


We can disable the fear with the thought – another maxim, our ancestors know us so well – that nothing ventured is nothing gained therefore we shouldn’t decide for the other person whether they meant it or not and go ahead and make the request.  Politely follow up once or twice, and then forward this post on follow up to them…


Sometimes all it takes to be successful is just this little thing called follow up.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Forget About Fix It and Forget It

I wonder if the copywriter who came up with ‘fix it and forget about it’ thinks about how that phrase has permeated our modern over-booked lives.  I don’t even remember the product that prompted the creation of the phrase, do you?  (I Googled it and got a series of cook books, didn’t keep searching.  So join in and make this a conversation if you know.)


Well, the phrase is apt for cooking, but not a good fit for most other parts of life and certainly not a good career strategy.  I have seen it applied too many times as a career strategy though.  Yikes.  It often goes something like this:

  • Get some schooling – degree, certificate, what have you
  • Get a job somewhere
  • Get regular promotions
  • Retire

By the way, this isn’t a plan – it resides somewhere closer to the wishes, hopes and dreams department but sometimes people have trouble telling the difference.


No, fix it and forget it jobs are those ones that leave you in a series of tiny cubicles until you aren’t in the workforce anymore.  (And just a note for you foodies out there, I know that you don’t think this is apt for cooking either, that it only applies to one pot meals for busy families, not carefully planned experiences.)  It means doing the bare minimum, marking time until the end of each work day, never raising your hand for special projects, not taking the initiative to learn new things.


Abraham Lincoln, known to be a strategic thinker, public domain-Matthew Brady, 1862

Abraham Lincoln, known to be a strategic thinker, public domain-Matthew Brady, 1862

Since this blog is all about thinking, I’m not sure why a fix it and forget it type might even be reading this, but you never know.  Plus the phrase got stuck in a groove of my head and this is a way to exercise it out.  (I have no idea why it popped in and stuck around, perhaps I heard it on the radio like those songs that loop in your head sometimes after you get out of the car.)


Maybe I have been thinking about copywriters since I read a review of a new book coming out that is based on the ‘a diamond is forever’ DeBeers campaign from 1947 (written by a woman, Yes!) that lives on.  Anyway, the United Negro College Fund had a point; a mind is a terrible thing to waste.  So don’t fix it and forget about it, use it.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Mistake – Not an End, but a Start

I am giving myself an unintended and untimely lesson in something that I used to frequently tell my team.  We tend to think of a mistake as and end step in a process, and a failed one at that.  But we are human and therefore flawed.  We are not machines so we must take into consideration mental state and other factors like how much is going on and whether standard routine is being followed or broken.  Hence, my philosophy – born of my ongoing effort to be a reformed perfectionist – that a mistake isn’t something to harp on, but a starting point for a new chance, more learning, etc.

Right now, I am busy correcting the mistake which was born from my absentmindedness and assisted by activities outside my normal routine.  And I am refocusing recriminating thoughts on my philosophy for the team.  If I believed it to be true for them, and I absolutely did regardless of the size or nature of the mistake, then it must be true for me as well.  I will not beat myself up (I continually remind myself), but I have talked about this in conversations to see what sort of response that I get.

It is very interesting to see how people respond to the mistakes of others, and telling.  The tendency to look down on the mistakes of others is common, and strong.  We feel a need to constantly distinguish ourselves and this is one standard method – ‘I would never do that’.  Women are much more likely to focus on diffusing the self-flagellation, whether the mistake maker is male or female – but particularly if the mistake maker is a friend.

If we are going to be teased or made an example, no wonder the urge to hide a mistake is so strong.  Even though we know, logically that the mistake could grow if not attended.  That repercussions can grow if the mistake is discovered by someone else.  Somehow the draw of avoidance is more powerful than any other and taking ownership along with steps to correct is really, really hard.

lined up to start the race, Vanderbilt, public domain

lined up to start the race, Vanderbilt, public domain

But if we see the mistake as a start, then it is easier to think how to fix it and then consider what we can learn from it for next time.





© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Formal Learning Meets Life Long Learning

(This post is my take on the Daily Prompt Back to School.)


I keep a long quote, spoken by Merlin, which is from The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White that I won’t reproduce in entirety here, but starts out telling us that “the best thing for disturbances of the spirit is to learn”.  Merlin goes on to expound about the way that life ages us and difficulties peck at us but our response should be to “learn why the world wags and what wags it”.


Clearly I keep this quote because it speaks to me.  I was raised to seek out knowledge and this was nurtured by my own personality as well as by engaging and inspiring teachers throughout my school years.  I understand that others may have had very different experiences which have made their achievement of knowledge through formal learning very impressive indeed.  I build nearly every day upon that foundation of learning that was started very early for me, not often in a formal learning setting.


public domain: Socrates & Plato

public domain: Socrates & Plato

Though I did just go back to school this past spring to earn a certificate in Project Management.  And last fall I took my first credit class, in Supply Chain, in more than a decade.  It is very helpful to combine knowledge gained on my own and through doing with knowledge gained through formal learning.  With the weight and importance placed on testing and metrics, it is not surprising that somehow formal education is considered ‘better’ and more worthy than knowledge gained on one’s own.  But is it appropriate?


There are a number of people from the past whom we revere, rightly, but who were mainly self-taught in some manner or who expanded well beyond the parameters of their initial core area; Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Danny Kaye… I wish some women would come to mind, but I know that there are many more people of both genders.  Would these people now be rejected because they didn’t have lots of letters after their names to prove their worth?


I gain great benefit from learning, different kinds of benefit when I curate the information myself or join a formal class, but always there is great benefit in continuing to learn.  This is why I keep this quote close to mind always.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Putting a Name to a Face

I’ve read the tricks for association – Dale Carnegie and those much more recent.  I don’t have much difficulty remembering faces – except this time of year when some people’s faces tend to be less pale and their hair is the opposite, both due to sun exposure.  And of course if you see someone out of context; say someone from work out for an evening of fun.  These changes are a bit jarring for anyone’s ability to recognize and identify.


I’m going to admit something here, because I think that I am in the majority on this, my biggest problem is that I’m not quite ready to really hear when I am being introduced to someone (or introducing myself)  and so while my eyes take in their features my ears let their name slip right out the other side.  Oops, yet again even when I long ago figured out this was my main problem with the whole name to face thing.  I mean, like years ago.


I tell myself in the car on the way over, I’m going to take a deep breath and center myself before I walk in.  I tell my ears to be ready to listen and capture the names.  But time after time, a couple of people into it and I realize that my ears aren’t doing their job right.  I can’t practice association if I don’t catch the name from the start.


A person’s name is important – even if they aren’t too fond of it, they want you to remember it.  I know this, but I just can’t seem to convince my ears.  And when it is an event that includes name tags, my ears just completely abdicate to my eyes.  But name tags get crumpled or written in faint ink, or covered by something.  Or go on the jacket which winds up on a chair.


Enough about me, are you with me?  Do your ears try to convince you that the noise level in the venue is too high, or the variety of sounds are just too distracting?  Do you just love events where the planner has stationed a person with kindergarten teacher perfect handwriting at the door to write the name tags?  In bold black marker.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Absorb, Assess and Analyze

After keeping pace, firing on all cylinders, digesting information and bringing forth coherent responses my brain has been stuttering along at ‘duh’ the past couple of days.  I’m going to blame the cumulative effect of the heat and humidity.  Or perhaps just a bit of what Herman Melville termed a ‘silent grass growing mood’ necessary to internalize information, which is oh, so necessary for writing.


We are told that the earth is bombarded without let up by all sorts of space debris, which mostly burns up or what have you.  Modern life does the same to our thought capacity, but perhaps not so modern.  I found out over the weekend that Sir Francis Bacon gave us the phrase that knowledge is power back in 1605.  Interesting that this concept goes back so far into history, and yet not really.


But knowledge is much more than exposure to information, we must internalize that information; absorb it and then start to figure out where it fits in with the knowledge that we already hold through assessment and analysis.  Sometimes absorption is quick, sometimes laborious and at others – like for me at this moment, it gets backed up because we expect too much.  Like when you overtax a sponge in the attempt from keeping a spill from expanding past the kitchen counter to the floor.


It starts with knowing what you are trying to learn and why.  If it is for someone else, that hampers absorption right off unless you can figure out an angle that makes learning meaningful for you.  And you are not going to be interested in pursuing the rest – assess and analyze – to make it your own, admit it.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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LinkedIn: Worth More than 17 Minutes Per Week

linkedin_logo_11I recently read that the average time spent on LinkedIn is 17 minutes per week and saw on someone’s Facebook status that a friend of a friend hasn’t been on LinkedIn for ages.  If this is you, you are missing out on some great stuff.


Things to do on LinkedIn, for starters:

  • Read all the free and great content from the LinkedIn Influencers – on all types of topics.
  • Discover information about your industry, like info about competitors
  • See the skills of your peers by searching others with your title
  • Keep up with useful contacts, and build a relationship with others
  • Participate in groups – learn tips on how others handle similar issues that you have in your department/business/work life


I know that you are busy and your free moments are at a premium.  Do you have a set time allotted for social media?  How much of it is spent whiling away hours reading memes on Facebook or Pinterest and how much of that time relates to your work life?  LinkedIn has value which could help you get that promotion, new job, new business, what have you that you mention periodically to your friends is a priority.   This site really got it right when it comes to one stop for the professional, or as we termed it recently – those with a business comportment mindset.


Want to polish your personal brand?  See all the useful information on LinkedIn.  Want to figure out what the heck a personal brand is – LinkedIn.


Once I was a LinkedIn quasi-user, glancing at the email enticements telling me about updates from contacts and the like, deleting the nuisance emails about group activities that I was missing.  So I understand the hesitation, but then I started to poke around on the site and check out the features.  Now I plan to allocate time to curate information and cultivate relationships on LinkedIn regularly.


What benefits have you found on this site?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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When We are All Attempting to Differentiate Ourselves, Why Don’t We Like to be Different?

We are each busy in our own way, consciously or not so much, proving to ourselves and our spheres that we are relevant and valuable – making a contribution that matters.

Back in January, I wrote a post called Different.  With all of the current angst, the idea of people being ‘different’ is topical; for all ages, creeds, and ethnicities.  Different is the essence of diversity and it doesn’t stop with the color of our skin, hair and eyes.  Here is a pertinent excerpt from the earlier post:

“In our eternal human quest to simplify, we usually allow only two choices for something new – Right or Wrong.  I propose a third choice which should be prominent – Different.  Putting something new in this area for a time allows for reflection, consideration, exploration.  It allows for adjustment.

This is kind of like driving.  Most of us seem to have the idea that we must have our foot on either the brake or the gas (only 2 choices).  When I was teaching my sons how to drive, I talked to them about coasting as a viable option.  It gives you time to think before coming to a decision – therefore hopefully making your decision stronger.  Of course, this is an option and should not be used in an emergency, say when the car in front of you suddenly stops.  But if you are paying attention, you have time to think if you allow your car to coast toward potential issues.

Different is similar to coasting.  It is a safe place to try out a new idea, theory, concept without immediately categorizing it.

Putting something unfamiliar in the Different, or wait and see, category gives you time to look it over – both actively and passively.  Give it a test drive, see how it looks on a shelf in your house, mention it in casual conversation.  Unfamiliar or new isn’t bad, it’s just different.”

In January I was referring more to events and things, today I am focusing on people.  I have had the pleasure to meet people from varied backgrounds in my life and I am the richer for it.  We like to be comfortable, and we are never more comfortable than when we are insulated in a group of people just like ourselves.  Here is the thing that I have learned as I go about meeting people, we have more similarities than differences once we get to know each other.


“Since the majority of me

Rejects the majority of you,

Debating ends forthwith, and we


~Philip Larkin

When we see distaste of diversity called out like this, we want to find a way to be more inclusive.   Our better selves want a quotation like this to be representative of our actions:

“He who is different from me does not impoverish me – he enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves – in Man… For no man seeks to hear his own echo, or to find his reflection in the glass.”

~Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Flight to Arras (Pilote De Guerre), 1942

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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