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Pair #69 - The bravery to be average
We all celebrate achievements and successes, but sometimes I wonder if our occasional champagne-fueled trophy ceremonies, while celebrating the lone winner, aren't attended by a crowd of self-punishing people who mainly feel bad it's not them. 

I mean underneath, we all are aware of having set high sites on a goal and then failed. Maybe miserably and humiliatingly.   And then we turned that failure into the lifelong drive to never feel that sting again.  We set a course toward destination Avoid Failure At All Costs, and whenever we do that we pay a high price.   From where I'm standing I think two things happen
 
we lie to ourselves  and we try to be something we can never be: a perfect human. 

We lie to ourselves because we tell ourselves being perfect is possible, which it is not.  We tell ourselves striving for perfect works to create perfection. Which it does not.

Then we abandon ourselves.  We walk right out of our own bodies when we think that it's possible to be anything other than who we are.   

To achieve something feels good.  I made a promise to myself that every month I'd keep my accounts  up to date and every time I do that and keep my commitment, that feels good. Nothing wrong with that.  And I notice that doing what I say, and living up to what I believe doesn't require me to be perfect.  Just to live and be myself.  Maybe living as myself actually requires that I mess up - otherwise how can I even know my own preferences. 

We don't need to make what we are perfect, that is just another form of self-punishment. You can't self-punish yourself into loving yourself.  Might as well let it out - warts and all.

This week...consider rewarding yourself for doing a terrible job.   

You might notice that you are still yourself -  perfectly acceptable You.

Hear Jen Louden and I talk about Ending Perfectionism on September 10th, live on the show
 
 
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Pair #62 To err is human, to forgive is human too
I can give up the idea that one day, if I work hard enough, nothing will bother me, I'll never get upset or angry and I'll never again have a unkind word for myself or others.

*Sigh*

No matter how much personal work I do, I can still come up short, get lost in a petty idea, and not follow my own best advice.

Just today I was upset and frustrated.

And actually the thing that really hit home was that I was angry because I thought I shouldn't be frustrated.  I thought I should be able to 'do better than that'.

To come nose to nose with my lack of humility was a jolt.  Did I really think I was so self-aware that I should never have a problem or find anything difficult ever again? The truth is, I got upset that I didn't have my shit together.  And it got me thinking...

What does it mean to do personal work?  Do I really believe that it means I'll grow out of myself?

Where in the fine print does it say "after a certain time has passed, you will no longer react at all and never make another mistake"?   There's nothing wrong with not being able to cope, getting frustrated or just plain losing it. 

Which reminds me of this wonderful quote:

Every human heart is human.
       -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How unhelpful to think that one day we'll become so wonderfully self-aware that we will crawl out of our humanity.

There is nothing wrong with being human. 

In fact, it's rather divine.

© 2010 Elese Coit
If you wish to reprint, feel free, please link back here and if it's of use, include:
"Elese Coit is a leader in transformative personal change and Hosts the Radio Show A New Way To Handle Absolutely Everything. To see the world differently, reach for one of her '101 New Pairs of Glasses' on http://elesecoit.com"

Thank you.
 
 
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Pair #48 Nowhere to run, baby
What happens if you don't "Walk Your Talk"?  Is it really all that bad if we can't be as good as we hope?  After all, we are just humans doing our best...

As I thought about this,  it occurred to me that we never ask others to be perfect in order to listen to us, do we? Anyone can deeply connect with another human being and lend a listening ear.  We don't really say, "Well excuse me, before I confide in you I'd just like to know if you've taken care of all your own dirty laundry."

On the other hand great stacks of dirty laundry eventually do begin to stink.

I bet you've encountered someone for the first time and felt an odd vibe that you just couldn't explain, and try as you might to like them, you just couldn't... only to later discover they were  1) promoting faithfulness but cheating on their wife 2) trying to get you into clean living while at home they hoarded old newspapers to the rafters 3) saving animals while yelling at screaming at the neighbor's children.  

I think we can sense incongruences in others.  Yet how adept are we at convincing ourselves that these 'little' things don't matter or no one will know. 

For Quick Sale: One house. Glass panels throughout.  Stone Garden.

© 2010 Elese Coit
If you wish to reprint, feel free, please link back here and if it's of use, include:
"Elese Coit is a leader in transformative personal change and Hosts the Radio Show A New Way To Handle Absolutely Everything. To see the world differently, reach for one of her '101 New Pairs of Glasses' each day on http://elesecoit.com"

Thank you.
 
 
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Pair #41 Standing at the edge of the familiar ready to slay a few dragons
Today on the show Michael Bungay Stanier and I did, admittedly, go off on a wee bit of a rant.

We were chatting on the show about his book, “Do More Great Work” (you can hear the show here).  Besides the great exercises for stepping out of busy and into meaningful work, one of the things I loved about the book were the nuggets of wisdom from Michael. 

One that struck me in particular is that when you are engaged in ‘Great Work” it often takes you to the edge of your known world.  In other words you have to be courageous enough to be uncomfortable sometimes if you are going to do what really matters. It tends to stretch you beyond your competency.

Yet when we talk about “Great” or doing “Great Work” it might sound as if you are trying for some standard of excellence. Striving for a new form of perfection called ‘Great Work.’  But this is not the case.  You don’t have to be great, or perfect, or fixed up in any way to do something meaningful.  In fact, Perfectionism and what Michael termed “the Cult of Excellence” are the enemies of Great Work, precisely because we are very unlikely to be able to both stretch into the unknown and do things perfectly at the same time.

I love the idea that you do not need to be a different person to make a difference.  Although, you just may need to be a fed up person who doesn’t want to settle for less any longer. 

Fed up just enough to keep going right to the edge of your world. 

Here’s one of my yellow highlights from Michael’s book:

“You may have heard that when ancient mapmakers ran up to the very edge of the known world, they would write Hic Sunt Dracones, or “here there be dragons.”

May we all face them more often. 

More on perfectionism
(and only a wee bit of ranting...)


© 2010 Elese Coit
If you wish to reprint, feel free, please link back here and if it's of use, include:
"Elese Coit is a leader in transformative personal change and Hosts the Radio Show A New Way To Handle Absolutely Everything. To see the world differently, reach for one of her '101 New Pairs of Glasses' each day on http://elesecoit.com"

Thank you.
 
 
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Pair #38 You are the one you've been looking for
“What can other teachers do?  If they don’t know for themselves, they are just swallowing other people’s saliva.”   - Yun-Men*

Enlightenment. Sometimes I think the word should come with instructions and a Surgeon General’s label. "Warning. May cause extreme bloating of ego."  Or, "Warning, May cause sanity defects."

The reason I think striving for something called enlightenment is so damaging to one’s health is that it sends us into paralysis. It is the disease of the seeker, who must by necessity, seek.  Maybe we’ll wave a quick hello to acceptance, rest and peace as we dash down the road toward the destination called Somewhere Better. 

There is no need to put off anything until such a time as we become a better person, a holier person, or a more enlightened person.   I realized that I will not find love, be able to help people more, make more money, or change the world when I am all fixed up.  Being fixed up isn't required. In fact, the last person I want to come and help me, frankly, is that perfect person (you know the one!).

Only an ego puffed on self-importance could ever think up the idea that you must be in a high place before you can engage fully and be of assistance to others.   What better mechanism to keep a narcissistic, self-absorbed, know-it-all ego firmly in place than the concept of an enlightened state, which will be reached someday in the future.
 
 
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Pair #34 Please Place Your Oxygen Mask Over Your Nose and Mouth
Self Help is pretty much what it says on the tin isn’t it?  Helping the self.   So is that ultimate selfishness, or ultimate responsibility?

If you stop to think about it, self-help leads directly back to one's own navel pretty fast.  In the midst of an "it's all about me" culture, Self Help seems to make sense.  Yet, some of the most fulfilled lives have been spent considering, fighting for, writing about and trying to understand others.

What then, of the  Oxygen Mask idea?   Put your own mask on so you don’t snuff it before you even get the chance to assist someone else.  Doesn't that suggest that selfishness is almost required before you can assist another?...
 
 
Recently I was responding to a forum post from someone waiting to be in "the best place possible" before they got started with a project that was important to them.  It made me think...

... timing and readiness are important, but I also think there is a difference between being in the best place we can be and being in the perfect place - as we embrace new challenges.  

To be in the best place in me means actually caring for myself well (doing something called 'self care') and showing up fully present.  In other words, more aware of what is going on right now in front of me and more focused right here in this minute than either in the past or in the future.  When I am present I not only know what to do, but also what not to do and what I am ready and not ready for.  

When I am waiting to be in the perfect place, well, that's it isn't it? I'm waiting.  I generally feel I'm not up to the tasks in front of me. That they are simply too big, and I am simply too small.  I think I have to be something I'm not in order to live my life.  I forget that clearly I am enough to live my life perfectly well.  The proof of that is I'm here.

The moment I start wobbling around thinking there is something I need to fix or some ‘better place’ I’ll arrive at one day: be it a place of greater understanding, a place of less ego, or a place of less stress then I try to get ready for that big fixing task.  Sometimes that takes a whole lifetime.  (Know anyone who's been 'getting ready' for a lifetime?)
 
While I believe it is good to do things when we are ready, what I notice is we also find lots of ways to tell ourselves - we are not ready yet.

Today I’m reflecting on just how much our ‘not ready yet’ can cost us.  And perhaps, the world.
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Pair #6 Unready for Readiness
© 2010 Elese Coit
If you wish to reprint, feel free, please link back here and if it's of use, include:
"Elese Coit is a leader in transformative personal change and Hosts the Radio Show A New Way To Handle Absolutely Everything. To see the world differently, reach for one of her '101 New Pairs of Glasses' each day on http://elesecoit.com"

Thank you.
 
 
When did it get so difficult to be the learner?

It seems like never before have so many people been so uncomfortable with their own not knowing.

Yet when I look at my life, there isn’t one single thing that I’ve learned that I could do perfectly the first time I tried it. None:
  • Not driving
  • Not writing my own name
  • Not speaking French
  • Not even walking
If you’ve ever said “I should have done better…” chances are you too have a little perfectionist living inside too who thinks it's possible to get a better past through rumination and regret.  My perfectionist bully arrived when I was about 7.  My first grade teacher, Mrs Wolf had a very gnarly hand with red nails and it would swoop onto my paper as I was writing and point to the single mistake on the page.  I swear I had nightmares about her right index finger pointing the way to my certain death.  I was terrorized. 

I continued her practice by terrorizing myself, in turn, believing that the way to approval was through the eye of the needle of perfect performance.

So, are we supposed to learn by, erm, already knowing?

Just walk around to notice the number of children currently being educated in perfectionism.  Why do you think so many teens commit suicide?  They aren’t supposed to be in school to learn it seems, only to prove how much the already know.  Kids do more tests, earlier, every year.  Standing with your hand on the handle of the door marked Failure is terrifying to contemplate and future creative lifetimes are being tossed into the waste bin right now to avoiding having to open it. 

What happened to not-knowing, when failure was considered a required class for success?

I was under the impression that mistakes are not a synonym for wasted life, but for ‘learning’.   Someone put the wrong sign up on that door. It should say "Step through this door and experiment all ye who enter here."

Now that we are big and not terrorized by Mrs. Wolf’s index finger, the door marked 'Failure' shouldn't seem so scary and shameful.  But it does. 

Eldon Taylor, who guests on my show on Friday, April 16th,  has written powerfully about the "form of conditioning that can set us up for disappointment and failure... the one that teaches us we should have an answer (I've reprinted his great thoughts on my Facebook Fan Page in Notes). 

Let’s take a dare together today. What if, just for today, we didn't try to be perfect.  I OK, this is going to sound crazy, but you really cannot know what you don't know.  

After all, what’s the worse that can happen?  I can write my name, speak French, drive and walk. So worse case – you learn something. 
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Pair #5 Perfectly Perfect in Every Way
© 2010 Elese Coit
If you wish to reprint, feel free, please link back here and if it helps your readers please include:

"Elese Coit is a leader in transformative personal change and Hosts the Radio Show A New Way To Handle Absolutely Everything. To see the world differently, reach for one of her '101 New Pairs of Glasses' each day on http://elesecoit.com"

Thank you.