Success: Perfection or Productivity?

Have you ever wondered how someone with more responsibilities or demands is able to achieve more of their goals than you do? No, they are not perfect, alien, or some breed of human meets robot. Simply, they are probably just more highly productive and efficient than you. 

Now, if only we could be as perfect as they are then our lives would be better and we would be happy, right? That’s hard to say. So, let’s talk about this.

According to Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries, perfection is defined as

  • “having no mistakes or flaws”
  • “completely correct or accurate”
  • “having all the qualities you want in that kind of person, situation, etc.”
  • “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be”
  • “free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless”

Is perfection really attainable? And what exactly does perfection look like for me? These questions are complicated in the basic sense that we may all inevitably have different definitions of perfection. To further complicate the matter, shouldn’t we be looking at what “perfect” is for us based on our goals, dreams, values, and convictions, and not at what perfection looks like in other people? Well, this is exactly what make this all an on-going challenge.

Ultimately, we are all striving for some form of perfection. Although we logically know that (1) no one person is perfect and that (2) perfection is fleeting and hard to maintain, we still have this idea of perfection planted somewhere in our heads. The idea alone is not the problem. Rather, the problem lies in what happens to us emotionally when we recognize that we are not presently perfect and may never achieve perfection.

I really don’t know who sold us this dream of perfection because it definitely wasn’t the Disney films we watched as a child.  Even those characters experienced some kind of problems along the way! The movie endings were always perfect for them, but never what they envisioned when they started out. In life, we make these long lists that embody the full vision and wish lists of perfection. They assume the idea that if we can find or discover everything on our lists then life will be complete, happy, or whole. For most of us, happiness is connected to being as close to perfection as possible. However, success is rarely perfect and the road to success is not perfection either.

For the sake of discussion, let’s just hypothetically consider that we have achieved perfection. Yay! Pat yourself on the back! Well, not for too long because as we grow, change, and learn, our personal definition of perfection will change. It is like a never ending race that can become overwhelming, stressful, discouraging, depressing, and anxiety-producing.

However, there is hope!

Recently, I have been contemplating what my emotional and mental idea of perfection looks like. There’s going to be a lot going on in my life and I will not be already to plan for or guarantee perfection.

In the past I would get down on myself when I would make long goal and to-do list only to not get everything done. Thankfully, my Life Me mindset kicked in and I now have a great list of life hacks, edits, and simple changes which have enabled me to get more of the things done that I want and need to get done! Yet, it is still not perfection. However, before these hacks I would really feel emotionally defeated at the fact that I was not accomplishing everything, everyday, in every month as I wanted to for reasons both within and outside of my control (Let me know if you’d like me to share those tips. Just leave a comment below or message me on Facebook or Twitter). 

For the moment, I’m focusing on how to be as highly productive and efficient with my days as possible as opposed to having a “perfect” day. For me, productivity and efficiency is my new idea of perfection—a slight adjustment that has made the world of mental and emotional difference for me.

Through some time of planning and reflection, I figured it out! My mindset needed a shift if I planned on climbing the mountain of success effectively. So for the moment, I’m focusing on how to be as highly productive and efficient with my days as possible as opposed to having a “perfect” day.

For me, productivity and efficiency is my new idea of perfection—a slight adjustment that has made the world of mental and emotional difference. It has re-framed how I feel about my days, the intention in which I attack each day, and how I focus on things throughout my day. It has resulted in me actually accomplishing more in each new day than I thought I could. I now ask myself…

  1. What will productivity look like today?
  2. What do I need to get accomplished?
  3. What can I do/change to be more productive?

The goals haven’t changed; however, the approach has. If you adopt this mindset just know that there will be things that cannot be controlled completely through a pre-planned list and vision for the day. There are constantly things, such as work, family, friends, life, people, biological factors (sleep, health, nutrition), and weather, that either add to our daily “productivity list” or interfere with our ability to completely focus on the things we have set as priorities. But, that’s OK. If and when these matters arise, we can quickly recalculate how to handle them by determining when and how handling them would be the most efficiently and effective way possible. Some matters can wait, sometimes you can give yourself permission to say no, and other times, you might need to shift something to quickly handle life’s interruption.

Accepting that everyday will never be perfect is the first step to being more productive and happy. If I am being highly productive, using my time effectively, and placing optimal focus on the steps that bring me closer to my goals, then I am having the perfect day. That makes me extremely happy!

Some are still holding out hope that a magical unicorn will fall from the sky and reveal the secret to perpetual perfection. Until that happens, we can all strive to be as close as we can to achieving highly productive days. Before you know it each day will add up and you will look up to see that you’ve almost accomplished your goal(s)!

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Am I being productive?
  2. Am I doing things that bring me closer to my goals or am I doing things that pull me away from my goal?
  3. Am I focused on the things that I should be focused on?
  4. Am I wasting time on things that are not necessary?
  5. Am I spending too much time on things or people that will not increase my chances of achieving the vision of life I want to live?

Remember, success comes one deliberate step at a time and one productive day at a time.

And remember, productive days include time to manage stress and take care of your health — a healthy body and mind increases productivity!

Discussion: Talk to me! 😁

What are some ways you stay focused on your goals? What are some tips and tricks you use to stay productive? How do you protect your productivity? Please share below or come chat with me on Facebook and Twitter!

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Photo Credit: _dChris

 

 

Worrying Less About What People Think About You

“Stop caring about what people think about you,” he said.

I replied, “it is easier said than done.”

It is not always easy to analyze the causes of our fears, but it is usually very necessary. In my personal fear analyses, I found that too many of my fears centered around what other people — friends, parents, coworkers, associates, strangers, haters — were going to think about me. I asked myself, “if they are not God, why the heck do I even care so much about what they think?” I didn’t always have the answer, but I knew something needed to change if I wanted to live a full life.

I have never been a person that completely bends over backwards to ensure that people love me, but as a normal human being I do have a certain preference for people liking rather than hating me. The truth is that fear, comparison, competition, doubt, and insecurity in some ways center around us caring about what other people think about us. In general, overcoming the concern about what others are thinking is a major factor and hurdle for and in our success.

Whether we care to admit it or not, other people’s standards and expectations sadly become a factor in our decision making. I believe that people who are more successful — and I would argue happier as well — have found a way to overcome the “what will people think”  syndrome. Sometimes we miss out on the greatest adventures, opportunities, people, and experiences because we are overly concerned with what people will think about us and our decisions. 

Although it is easier said than done, these are some of the conclusions that allow me to move beyond worrying about what people think of me:

Sometimes what you think they think is not even accurate. 

While working at a very prestigious university some time ago, I was doing a good job but still felt slightly inadequate compared to what I thought were the geniuses I worked with. There were a number of opportunities to take more risks — some I did and others I did not — but I kept wondering what others would think about me if I stepped out in front, failed at a task, or took things in a new direction. To make a long story short, I was worried about them thinking I wasn’t qualified enough but the entire time they were thinking (I later learned) that I was doing great work, was very capable, and had a lot of potential to go even further. If you have ever experienced a time when you were certain you knew what someone else was thinking but ending up being wrong, then you have evidence that sometimes our worries are not always accurate. We cannot read minds so it makes little sense to be preoccupied and hindered by thoughts we may never know for sure.

Unfortunately, things are not always that positive; sometimes people are thinking negatively about us. In those cases, I use the following to help me move past the fear…

People are going to talk about you even if you are perfect.

From work to friendship circles to acquaintance gatherings, I cannot count the number of times in which we were all talking about how we love or like a person, place, or thing only to have one Negative Nancy (an expression, not a real person) chime in to share how much they do not like them or it. When asked for reasons why he/she did not like that person, place, or thing, they had absolutely no evidence to support their feelings! I can discuss the many reasons I think this happens, but it will never change the fact that people will have something to say about everything and everyone! God bless celebrities because we have never met most of them, yet we judge them like we own them! From these many experiences, I concluded that human beings are too complicated for me to ever prevent people from having an opinion about my life. I have been in situations were I felt I did everything right and someone still had something to say about it.

Sometimes people’s negative opinions about you are really just reflections of issues they have within themselves.

As you might have learned in a psychology course, sometimes people project their issues onto you. Sometimes people are thinking negatively about you simply because you remind them of what they are not or what they do not have. I remember when an old friend went on a rant about how I thought my boyfriend was the greatest guy on the planet. It was a very odd occurrence because I rarely talked about how deeply I was in love with him or ever mentioned much of any of the amazing things he did for me to her. She personally had a lot of issues going on in her life at the time, so I was quickly able to recognize that her comments stemmed from something else. Another instance came at work in which one woman tried to downplay the success of my work. She had a lot of social anxiety and insecurity (her own words) so I just assumed something about me reminded her of something she wasn’t happy about within herself. I have had my fair share of realizing that I don’t like someone simply because they have something I wish I did; so, I can speak with certainty when I say that you will never be able to control everyone liking, approving, or thinking positively about you. Sometimes the issues lie within the other person and out of your control.

The moral of the story: we should not allow our concern about what other people think of us to hinder us from taking opportunities, risks, or from striving for greater success. Since people are going to have an opinion no matter what you do, you would be crazy to wait around until everyone liked or agreed with you to make your move. It is probably impossible to completely stop caring about what people think of you, but you can work on getting to the point were the fear of opinions doesn’t prevent you from making a decision, taking a risk, or trying something new.

Photo Credit: Jenny Downing

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Success and Competition: Is There Room for Everyone? (Part II)

Note: In Part I of this series entitled “Is There Room for Everyone?” I attempted to consider this life question through the lens of a major issue facing our society right now— racial tension. I hope that you a chance to read it and share your thoughts! If not, it is not too late.

For Part II of this series, I would like to consider this same question but applied to another area of life: personal success. If you have ever lived–which obviously you have– then you can relate to the pressure that comes with needing to feel competent, competitive, and successful.

From birth we are taught to “be the best,” to “eat or be eaten,” to “strive to do better than we (our parents) did,” to “set an example for those following behind us,” to “live up to our fullest potential,” and to “strive for success.”

Well hello, I was only 10 years old and I didn’t know what all that meant in practice. Thanks for setting me up to chase after something I had no idea about! Of course, back then I did not have that smarty pants reply to everyone who ever encouraged me to strive for success. If I knew the hunt would be so convoluted, I might have spoken up!

There is a lot pressure on children to figure out life! No wonder youth struggle with so many internal and external pressures. All I knew as a child was that “success” was this illustrious concept that every older person I knew was still striving for. I just wish someone would have told me that success is something you achieve everyday, step by step, goal by goal, instead of making me think that it is something to be achieved at one major level.

It is very sad to think that we spend the majority of our childhood, teenage, and early young adult years chasing a concept that we likely cannot even define for ourselves until much later in life. People ask, “do you want to be successful?” Well, YES, of course! Who doesn’t want to be successful? Duh.

Unfortunately, that is the wrong question. The real question is, “what does success look like for you?”  Figuring out what success looks like for us as individuals yields a more attainable picture of success. It is wiser to know what we are chasing before we start wildly running around hunting for a random target. Unfortunately, most of us are not taught the importance of the process so, just like me, you probably started wildly running after success without direction, confidence, or a clear focus. Can anyone relate?

Ultimately, any positive or negative decisions we make in our lives can be boiled down to two motives: (1) we are either chasing what we think will lead us to success, or (2) we are doing something that helps us cope with the stress and pressures that comes along with chasing and achieving success. However, simply asking someone if they want to be successful without first guiding them toward a personal definition does two things: (1) gives them the impression that they are currently unsuccessful and (2) ultimately sends them spiraling into the abyss to chase success with a blindfold on. Hooray!

And with that, we find ourselves quickly entrenched in the Comparison and Competition Wars at a early age. “Be yourself” they say. But what does that mean when one doesn’t even know who he/she is? So in an attempt to figure out who we are, we start looking at other people for clues and direction. We take bits and pieces of other people’s success to help form our own, which is not entirely bad. It does, however, open the door for the dangerous trends of comparison to and competition with others.

Personally, I think this is one of the most damaging things we do to ourselves: compare ourselves to other people. From the physical, intellectually, financial, materialistic, and the emotional, we constantly struggle with comparing ourselves to others.

1. If we think that we are better than them, we either…

  • directly or indirectly treat them like they are less than we are
  • gain internal confidence, or
  • become prideful and exert our “better-ness” every chance we can.

2. If we think that we are not better than them, we either…

  • find ourselves challenged with insecurities
  • strive to improve ourselves to catch up to them, or
  • do things to bring them down to our level and in turn seek justification for those actions.

3. Finally, if we find that we are on the same level, we either…

  • work on maintaining an equal level or status,
  • feel comforted that we finally found someone that can relate to the highs and lows of our journey to success, or
  • do everything we can to push them (1) a little lower so we feel higher or (2) a little higher because that’s what confident people do!

This comparison and competition is only heightened when it comes to professional areas of life. Do I even need to explain this one? If you work, hang around professional people, or have any kind of position or status in an institution or business, then you know that competition is both subtly and not so subtly at an all time high. The more prestigious the job, the more competition. It really takes a mature, self-assured, confident, independent person to not fall victim to the competition and comparison wars of professional culture.

So in the end, is there room for everyone when it comes to being successful? Is it possible to compete less with each other and work more to support each other?

It will be challenging, but I say it is possible to make room for others. However, there are a few things to keep in mind…

  • There will never be room for everyone else if we don’t figure out what success looks like for each and every one of us. We are all unique and have our own individual paths in this world. Success means finding your own lane and mastering the art of running in it. From relationships to professional careers, are you mastering running in your own lane or are you running in another person’s lane?
  • Until we embrace this concept– of defining our own success and staying in our own lane– we will always find ourselves pushing everyone out of the way to make room for our self. In reality, we were all created to be different so there are enough lanes for everyone. I know, competition seems natural and inevitable; I understand that. But I think that one of the reasons we compete, personally and professionally, is to ultimately be crowned a winner. Winning validates that everything we have been chasing in our own lane has not been a total waste of energy. We want to at least know that if we wasted our energy, someone else did too. However, our success is not measured by how we competed against someone in another lane, but rather how we mastered everything laid out for us in our own lane. Competition against others only leads us to emotional and mental exhaustion. So, the only time you should be looking at someone’s lane is to get tips on how to better run in your lane. Remember, the best version of you is not a series of stolen bits and pieces of other people.

There is room for everyone in success, but that’s only if everyone commits to staying in their own lane. You can look at other people’s lanes to find inspiration, but at some point you have to go back to your own lane and get moving. The only competition allowed is between following your heart or listening to the handicapping thoughts floating around in your head. In that battle, only you will decide which one wins.

Read Part I: Race and Racial Identity: Is There Room For Everyone? (Part I)

Read Part III: Relationships: Chemistry and Compromise (Is There Room For Everyone? Part III)

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Let it Go.

Don’t hold on to things or thoughts that are clearly making you sink. How silly is it that we feel ourselves sinking but refuse to release the weight pulling us down. What’s the worse that can happen – you float? Isn’t it at least better to float than drown? Let it go. No really, let it go.

Prepare for Success

One thing that I am always trying to get my students to realize is that they should take advantage of the time they presently have in order to work on building/exercising their skills in their own particular areas of weakness. Of course, getting high school students to see the bigger picture of the seemingly mind-numbing routine of the educational system can be at times a daunting and tiring task. I aim to get them to see that there will come a day when their career(s) or life in general will call upon these skills to perform. Life is lived skill upon skill, lesson upon lesson. However, as most teachers in any field, it is easy to forget all the times in both high school and college when I myself could have used my time more wisely to study harder and learn more; but of course, I preach to them nonetheless… a privilege of adulthood. *wink*

There is a valuable lesson to be learned in all of this for both the youth and adults: Use the time that you have in the present to prepare yourself to respond to the demands and dreams of tomorrow. It might be reading a book to keep your mind sharp for ideas of tomorrow; becoming healthier to be able to endure tomorrow’s journey; resting up today for the times when you might be working extremely hard on a goal; or, saving money for a rainy day or that dream vacation.

We, the “big people,” also need to be aware of the skills/areas in which we are weaker (in the hopes that if we put in the right effort those areas will improve over time). For some of us adults, those area may even be emotional. Maybe we need to become more aware of how our insecurities, poor communication skills, emotional issues, and past disappointments still linger around so that we are prepared to love and nurture those around us (and those that will come into our lives). Whatever the area, pay more attention to who you are, how you became that way, and also how you might change for the better, if necessary. Use your life’s time wisely to benefit your life (and subsequently the lives of those connected to you) and chase your dreams while you have the time. We are purposed to find success in life but we spend too much time doubting our weaknesses and waiting for life to change; maybe it’s time we strengthen our own weakness and changed our own life.And as they say, “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”… but figure out why before you go acting like a fool by doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. As for me, I will keep trying to practice what I preach.

What are some things you do to grow and become a stronger person (mentally, emotionally, physically)?

Comment below, if you have time of course.

Getting Out of The Box: How I Get Over the Fear

“Step outside of the box.”

“Think outside the box.”

“Break outside the box.”

This little box must be made of some extremely durable substance because the entire world is either living it or trying to get out of it! No, seriously. I am not joking. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard these expressions about this box. Darn it, I have even said them many times. The funny thing is that it is always “the box” not “your” box, but I digress. It is very true that I need to “step out of the box” some more but I was wondering, can I bring the box with me? I mean the box has done so much for me in my life; its walls acted as a sturdy pillar as I tried to walk before I could crawl and it protected me from the elements (society) when I was not strong enough to brave it. Thanks to the box, I was able to grow and develop the skills I needed to survive once outside the box.

Some of our boxes are different sizes because some of us need more room to grow into the “element” fighting beast that we need to be. Then the time comes when the box has given us all that it can, and at that time and not a minute sooner, we should leave the box. Time is everything and leaving the box too soon might mean we are under-developed and too weak to sustain ourselves outside the box. See, that’s why I want to bring the box with me!

Don’t get me wrong, I believe we need to get our booties out of that box. However, that can be a scary task. Sometimes I am afraid to leave the box because I question whether I am ready to tackle the dream before me. Sometimes the fear is in wondering if leaving the box means that I won’t have anything to fall back on. So, I decided to think of it this way: take everything I need out the box, place the contents in an air tight container, step out of the box, and then say goodbye to the box. Genius! This way I figure that I am solving the problem of living as an oversize giant in a tiny box and the problem of worrying that I have the essential tools I need along the journey. With the goodies that make me strong and competent safely tucked away, I may pull them out whenever I feel I need to rest, regroup, and remind myself that I have already been nurtured to accomplish the task ahead. I don’t know about you, but envisioning that I can take everything with me that “made me” makes getting out the box less intimidating. Maybe it is all a placebo, but whatever, it is working and I am stepping outside of the box… and that’s all that matters.

Going With God

“So, you are going with God,” I asked. “Yes,” they replied.

I am a firm believer that God can do the impossible; but I also believe that we cannot expect miracles to happen if we don’t put forth the effort to prepare ourselves to sustain that “impossible opportunity” once it happens. The statement above was the last exchange in a conversation with a friend who was applying for a job promotion. After talking through the entire process, I began asking them if they knew anyone that might be able to put in a good word for them. “I am sure I do” they said, but proceeded to inform me that they decided to just leave the outcome to fate.

This reminded me that in some situations going with God is the best decision one can make. It is very easy to become accustomed to working hard for new opportunities that we just stop believing God has any hand or place in the paths we take. Funny thing is that God gave us the ability to work hard in the first place so it probably all leads back to God anyway; but I digress. Nonetheless, we can often find ourselves so caught up in our own world and abilities that we forget that God wants to be a part of them. We get to the point where we so heavily trust our partners, family, friends, our skills, our networking, and our resumes that we forget to sometimes solely trust God. So, maybe when you are picking your next success team and assembling your success checklist you will remember to pick God to be on it; and if you want to go that extra mile, you can do like my friend and just go with God as your sole team member. If you do, whatever the outcome, you will clearly know that “it” was or was not meant for you.

I understand that sitting back and letting things unfold is not always the best strategy; but for those ambitious people that may forget to include God in decisions, this is just a little reminder. We tend to trust friends, family, and at time even strangers enough to rely and depend on them. I wonder if I really trust God that much?

The Danger of Doing Nothing

Multiplying By Zero This is a simple math inspired post that reveals a simple life lesson. Remember when you learned that anything multiplied by zero equals zero? Exactly. If you do nothing, you will get nothing. Small steps, large steps, new action, or old actions repeated; whatever it is, just do something. You will never get where you want to be by doing nothing.

Nothing multiplied by the greatest dream still equals ZERO.

And you thought that everything you learned in school was a waste of time.