Perfectionist Tendencies

Many of my clients embrace perfectionism in one way or another. Outwardly, they appear successful and confident but their inner dialogues are filled with self-judgments and a whole host of “shoulds” — things they should have done better, perfectly. As we unpack those patterns of negative self-talk and begin redirecting our brains to more worthy thoughts, it opens up yet another opportunity for self-judgment.

It’s not working.

I can’t stop the negative thinking.

This just the way that I am.

This isn’t worth the effort.

When those old negative patterns come back around and take the wind out of our new, intentional thinking, it can be incredibly frustrating. It starts to feel like it is never going to work; we’re never going to “fix” our brains.

Consider what it would be like to commit to writing with your non-dominant hand. There would be time when you would forget about the experiment — you might reach for your pen with your dominant hand, you might even write a few words before realizing your mistake. It would be frustrating. There would be times when it would feel like a fool’s errand and a waste of your energy.

Why not just forget it and go back to the way things were?

When we experience set backs on the path toward our goals, it can be demoralizing. It can feel like it’s never going to work. But, in our example, most of us wouldn’t be surprised when you automatically grabbed your pen with your dominant hand or when you simply forgot you were making efforts to change the practice. We wouldn’t be shocked when our automatic, unconscious impulses kicked in, of course they did!

This is the same thing that happens with our brains and goal-ing. Those old negative thoughts will come back. They will try to rain on your parade. They will creep in when you’re tired and out of gas at the end of a long day.

But what if those “slips” were part of the deal? What if those “mistakes” were there to teach you something?

Transitioning to new, more high vibrational thoughts will include some slippage and likely will never completely eradicate old patterns; however, the back and forth dance is an opportunity to embrace our own imperfections and challenge the concept of perfectionism. It’s an opportunity to recognize that change is never going to come easily and that it will require not only commitment but compassion for yourself and your imperfections. Practicing new beliefs and experiencing those challenges often forces my clients to come face to face with their own perfectionist tendencies. It forces them to accept their slips, have compassion, and keep going. It forces them to see that perfectionism is just a pretty excuse for treating themselves terribly and setting unrealistic expectations.

What if we could translate that practice to all aspects of our lives?

What if we were willing to embark on any task, knowing and even anticipating, that we were going to mess up along the way but committing to do it anyway?

Simple thought work often reveals a microcosm of my client’s relationships with themselves. It sheds light on all our self-deprecating tendencies and requires us to face them head on in order to make progress. Those small steps develop a skill that will last a lifetime and will allow you to do away with perfectionism and embrace your dreams.

Our minds can be adapted and renewed. Developments in neuroscience tell us that the brain is capable of establishing new neural pathways, healing and building new brain cells. To do this, the brain simply requires direction and repetition — it requires a commitment to change and push through the discomfort and the setbacks that will inevitably come.

Are you in?


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Asking for Help

By nature (or creation) most attorneys are notoriously terrible at asking for help. We are conditioned to do it all on our own and figure it out and so far, it has worked out well for ourselves. In the practice of law, however, this reluctance can not only be detriment to ourselves but also our clients.

In my opinion, this starts with the study of law. Law school and the pursuit of lawyer-dom is a solitary pursuit. We spend hours and hours alone, reading casebooks, working on our outlines, and reviewing class notes. It’s not that the solitude of legal studies is unique from other kinds of scholarly pursuits but it is unique in that, becoming an attorney means becoming a business of one. People hire an individual attorney based upon their knowledge and skill set.

There is some expectation that we, standing on our own, will have the answers.

Pair that implicit expectation with the study of law and those long hours of solitude and drop in the competitive gauntlet of the legal job market. Everyone is competing for positions at the top firms or clerkships; you have to lock down a job before your last year of law school even begins lest your career be over before you even graduate.

This solitary, competitive realm breeds attorneys who are silo-d. We get really good at the grind and problem solving. But this environment also breeds attorneys who are not very good at asking for help.

There are going to miscommunications and disconnects between you and the rest of your team. Partners will omit essential information and facts when giving you assignments. People will make false assumptions about your background or skills. When we resist asking for help or seeking additional clarification, we are ignoring all of those truths.

When we don’t ask for help we are choosing instead to believe that we have been provided all of the facts, communication was clear, and no one made any assumptions.

We ascribe absolute perfection to others involved in the project and assign absolute imperfection to ourselves. The wildest part about these scenarios is that we KNOW, logically, that the partner or assigning attorney is far from perfect. They may have a habit of omitting pertinent information or forgetting to provide key documents or they may simply have a reputation for providing terrible direction. But in the heat of the moment, we are so busy focusing on ourselves and our failures in the situation that we overlook the roles of others involved.

We provide no room for compassion toward ourselves. It’s so much easy to be hard on ourselves!

When you fail to ask for help it is usually because there is some nasty thing you tell yourself in that moment. You make asking for help mean something negative about you. The next time you find yourself spinning your wheels in confusion, ask yourself what you are making it mean if you went to ask for help or clarification? Do you believe that it means you aren’t good enough? You should not be an attorney? The partner is going to judge you and think you’re an idiot?

You are none of those things. You already are an attorney. If you weren’t able to do the job, you wouldn’t have made it through the LSAT, 3 years of law school, the bar exam, and landing your first job. Don’t let something as simple as a miscommunication or misunderstanding erode all of that value.

Approach the situation with curiosity–why am I struggling? Why am I confused? What am I missing? And get to work sussing out that information.

That may require you to seek some additional support and follow-up with the assigning attorney. Remind yourself that the other attorney is not perfect either and it is possible they omitted something or miscommunicated something. In fact, that is more likely true than the possibility that you are an idiot who shouldn’t be practicing law.

Open yourself up to alternative possibilities and stop making it all about you!

Your team and your clients are counting on you to put aside your ego and get the job done.

Take advantage of an opportunity to take this work deeper and apply it directly to your practice. Sign up for a free one-on-one coaching session with me. I would love to help you reconnect with your value and get your career back on track.


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Disappointment

As my clients learn to take more ownership over their feelings and their actions, one of the challenges they face is how to address negative experiences. Their immediate inclination is to shift to a new thoughts to try and feel better about the situation. But reality is that sometimes things will happen in our lives that we don’t want to feel good about. So what do we do?

Many of the things we do (or don’t do) in our lives are because we are chasing (or avoiding) a feeling.

We get married because we want to be happy. We don’t volunteer to speak up because we don’t want to feel embarrassed. We don’t ask for more money because we don’t want feel ashamed if they say no.

We spend a significant amount of energy in our lives calculating how certain events may or may not make us feel and we then choose to act based upon those estimates. It seems logically self-protecting. Why would we set ourselves up for a failure or embarrassment? Why would we take any action that would make us feel terrible?

This recently came up when I had a client tell me how she blew an important deadline. She was overloaded and low on sleep and it just slipped her mind. Despite the fact that is wasn’t a career-ending mistake and was completely salvageable, my client felt terrible. She was overcome with disappointment in herself — I should have been more organized, this shouldn’t have happened, I let everyone down. She explained to me that, in the days that followed, she just kept trying to shift her thoughts to a “better” thought. To one that didn’t make her feel so terrible, but it just wouldn’t stick.

The problem was that my client was resisting her feelings of disappointment. She was trying to cover them up by manufacturing prettier thoughts. She was running away from that experience and, not surprisingly, it wasn’t working.

Why? Because she was disappointed. She didn’t want to feel good about her oversight. The truth was that she WANTED to feel disappointed (but she didn’t really want to FEEL disappointed). She didn’t want to feel good about it but she didn’t really want to experience the disappointment either.

Whenever we have an experience that we don’t want to feel good about, we cannot give in to the temptation to try and cover it up. We must allow the feeling of disappointment to be there. To run its course. We can’t try and cover up the 50% of our life experiences that aren’t sunshine and roses.

There will be hard days and we cannot simply write off half of our lives.

Half of the time it’s going to be hard and painful. We have to practice accepting that. We also have to practice processing emotions.

When we resist negative emotions and try to bury them with better feelings, the negative feelings simmer below the surface and compound. They will eventually make their way to the surface. It might not be today but it will likely be at some inappropriate time–when you are stuck in traffic on the way to meet a friend for happy hour and you burst into tears….when your spouse asks you what time you will be home for dinner and you bite his face off.

Those feelings will find a way to get out and whomever is on the receiving end likely doesn’t deserve it.

Aside from the fact that resisting those emotions is futile, there is a practical reason for allowing yourself to feel the disappointment. If we don’t accept that negative 50% of our emotional experience, we never get good and experiencing those emotions and moving on. Instead, we create patterns where we resist and avoid those emotions so we start to believe that we can’t handle them.

When we spend our whole lives avoiding those negative vibes, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to learn how to experience them. To learn that they won’t kill us. To learn that we can experience those emotions and keep moving. Think of it as emotional aversion therapy — we have a hang out with those emotions so we are no longer afraid of them.

When we create a pattern where we fear those emotions, we spend our lives trying to avoid them. It makes perfect sense that we would avoid those emotions that aren’t familiar and that we don’t understand. Of course, they would seem scary! But what if you could explore and come to intimately understand those emotions? What if those emotions were no longer so scary?

Consider what you would do with your life if you weren’t afraid to feel embarrassed? What would be different? What would you accomplish?

As I mentioned at the outset, we spend our entire lives taking actions or not taking actions because we are chasing or avoiding certain feelings. Those feelings are just vibrations in your body. They won’t hurt you. They are created by your thoughts and you have complete agency over those thoughts. But rather than using your brain to try and erase negative emotions, what if we allowed ourselves to experience negative emotions when it is warranted? What if we became practiced and comfortable with those emotions we typically avoid? Then our lives become a series of actions we take simply because we want to; because we know that whatever the outcome, whatever the feeling or negative result, it doesn’t matter because we have no reason to avoid it.

Allow yourself to experience the 50/50 that is our lives. What other choice do you have?!

As attorneys, I know that some days, weeks, and months can feel more like 80% negative and 20% positive. If you need help working through the yin and yang of your life, set up some time to get some free coaching. What do you have to lose?


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Self-Confidence

I spend a lot of time with my clients envisioning their ideal future and ideal self. One of the things I often ask them to examine is how that future self would be talking to them. What would her internal self chatter sound like? Invariably, the brains of our ideal selves are filled with affirming thoughts, focusing on our strengths. Our ideal selves are confident. They trust themselves implicitly.

We all want to be more confident and when we think about our ideal selves, that woman lives in a bubble of quiet confidence. She is never afraid to speak her mind and she trusts her ability to do anything. So, if our work together is to help you move one step closer to that ideal version of yourself, the next question invariably is:

How do I get there?

How do we build self-confidence?

We have to practice failing.

Stay with me here….as attorneys and women who excel at examining options and weighing risks, many of us struggle with action. We thrive when we are planning and analyzing. We excel at PREPARING to act. The problem is that we don’t have any clear metric as to when our preparations are complete and it’s time to act.

How will you know when you have fully vetted all the alternatives? How will you know when it’s time to act?

The truth is we don’t. We never do. And that is why it’s so easy to remain stuck–stuck planning to act but never actually doing anything.

All action must acquiesce to the truth that there is no such thing as being fully prepared.

There is no way to ensure success. We must simply act. Only through acting will we ever know if our preparations were in vain. Only through acting will we see whether we overlooked anything. But many of us get stuck in the faulty belief that we aren’t “ready yet.” We tell ourselves we have more work to do, more data elements to analyze. So we just keep preparing. And. We. Never. Move. Forward.

My rationale for drawing out that point is simple:

If we want to build self-confidence we have to start acting and stop preparing.

We have to start acting even when we might not be 110% ready. Why? Because only through acting do we force ourselves to experience the pressures that create self-confidence. When we are stuck in inaction, we never get the chance to really see how we perform under fire. We are so busy believing that we must do it “right” that we don’t allow ourselves the chance to simply TRY.

Passive action robs us of the opportunity to develop confidence through action.

When we act and fail, we might experience embarrassment, shame, or guilt. But when we commit to continued action despite those failures and the crappy feelings, that is where we build self-confidence. Self-confidence doesn’t mean we never fail. Self-confidence means that we know we can fail and get back up and keep going.

Self-confidence means that we trust that we can experience any emotion and keep moving.

We trust in our ability to handle whatever fallout may come our way. Self-confidence acknowledges that we have a goal and we are going to start taking action to get there, no matter how many times we have to face-plant on the way. Self-confidence means that we aren’t going to sit and wait and plot and plan until we can do it perfectly–because we trust in our ability to have compassion for ourselves and keep moving even when it doesn’t go perfectly.

When we know that failure simply means one of our theories didn’t pan out we can keep moving. It doesn’t mean we did anything wrong. That is self-confidence. We trust ourselves, despite the failure.

You aren’t going to grow self-confidence in your analytical lab.

You aren’t going to create self-confidence strategizing and planning. You will only create self-confidence when you put a time limit on the passive action and get out and start taking massive action. Stop with the planning and start practicing at failure. Once you master that, you will have all the self-confidence you could ever imagine.

Self-confidence is one of the most highly sought after skills my clients want. I have so many ways I support my clients to get out there and get moving. The transformation I see in them is why I do this work. If self-confidence is something you want, let’s get you some free coaching and see what we can do together.

Cheers!


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Productivity and Perfectionism

Many of my clients describe themselves as perfectionists. They don’t want to do something unless and until it can be done properly. While that sentiment sounds noble and worthy, its impact on our lives is much more nefarious.

The truth underneath that notion is that when we allow ourselves to delay action until it can be done perfectly, we are really just trying to protect ourselves from failure.

But what I often see happening is that perfectionism morphs into complete inaction; permission to remain in place. I’m not ready to move forward yet so I’m just going to stay where I am.

It is not logical to believe that we can plan everything to such an extent that we can eliminate all risk of failure.

You are going to have to risk failure if you are ever going to act.

Those that work with me regularly know that I believe perfectionism is for scared people and I’m not the only one who objects to perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionism is a just a prettier word for self-protection.

While I agree that we must all act in a manner that protects ourselves in the highest sense, that self-protective impulse is not relevant when it comes to commonplace activities — applying for a new job, reaching out for support, finishing a large project, sending an email. So many of us apply that self-preservation impulse to those every day tasks and the net result is that we don’t apply for the job, we never reach out for support, and we agonize over the tiniest details of projects and simple emails. Our work takes longer and our emotional fortitude wanes.

When we allow ourselves to linger in preparation mode rather than simply acting, not only do we prolong our current state (assuming we will EVENTUALLY act, which is not always the case, some of us prepare indefinitely) but we rob ourselves of the opportunity to create self-confidence.

Self-confidence is not something we are born with; it is something we create for ourselves.

How do we build it? We take action and fail and develop the ability to move forward despite the failure. When we know we can survive failure, heartache, embarrassment, shame, humiliation and all the other fantastic emotions that accompany failure, we learn to trust ourselves. We realize that we can weather any storm, overcome all those negative emotions. In that experience we develop confidence in ourselves because we know we can do and survive anything that comes our way.

Naturally, that means that in order to become more confident, we must fail. We must take action and set ourselves up to experience failure. If we don’t ever experience failure and adversity, how can we learn to trust in our ability to do and survive anything?

If we play it safe forever, allowing ourselves to linger in preparation so that when we do act, we can act perfectly (as if that ever really works) we prevent ourselves from simply acting and taking the chance that we might fail.

At the same time, we rob ourselves of the possibility that we might act and do it perfectly the first time. It just might work out! All those details you wants to distress over and sift through might never even matter. But you won’t know until you take the risk.

When we linger in preparation we imply that it is possible to know exactly what is needed for success and what is necessary to prevent failure. That is ridiculous.  If that were true, our lives would be very different. The truth is that we never know what will work or won’t work until we start acting and learning all the things that didn’t work.

When my clients explain to me why they aren’t taking action on things or why they are taking so long to complete their work, I challenge them to experiment with the concept of B- work. What if you allowed yourself to present B- work where it was warranted? What if you allowed yourself to recognize that sometimes done is actually better than perfect? What if you accepted that all the minutia, all those nagging second-guessing thoughts might not actually be important to the overall project? What if a client wants a B- answer and doesn’t want to pay for a A+ dissertation-worthy response?

What is the worst that could happen if you just committed to acting and stopped second-guessing?

Embarrassment…shame,…guilt…?

Those are all just vibrations in your body, caused by your thoughts. YOU and how you talk to yourself when things don’t go as planned, THAT is what causes those emotions.

The beauty of it all is that you control those thoughts and you can decide what you want to make it mean when your commitment to action is met with failure. 

It doesn’t have to mean that you are a failure or that you aren’t cut out for your job. It could simply mean that you learned how to not do something; you can add that learning to your arsenal, practice experiencing the feelings of embarrassment of guilt and just keep moving.

Without acceptance of failure, you will never create meaningful success. The price for success is repetitious failure. The process of repetitious failure creates self-confidence. What do you have to lose?

Are you wanting to take action but can’t figure out how to get moving? One session can make all the difference. Sign up for free session and get started creating the life you really want.


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I’m Not Going To Make It

When we look around at our live and see all that we have, it is important to recognize where it all came from. How you were able to create it.

As attorneys, it’s easy to look to our law school education as one of our greatest accomplishments. Have you ever thought back to that time and considered what you were thinking that got you through it? What were you believing about yourself that propelled you through those 5-hour finals?

Have you ever considered the opposite end of the spectrum? Consider some of your struggles in life. Times when you weren’t showing up in a way that you were proud of or times when you threw in the towel. What were you believing about yourself in those times?

Our beliefs about ourselves and our abilities bubble below the surface in everything that we do.

I can support you to identify your negative thinking patterns and shift to some prettier thinking but if the beliefs you have about yourself are toxic, none of our work will stick.

What we believe about ourselves and our abilities are often based upon our past experiences. What we were taught, what we have learned about ourselves from events 5, 10, 15 years ago. The truth is that none of that is relevant today. There is no reason our pasts have any bearing on our abilities today.

We can choose to believe anything we want to believe by ourselves.

We are not constrained by our pasts.

There is no universal truth about your ability to create the life you want to. It all depends upon whether or not you believe you can do it.

Many of my clients set big goals for themselves and whenever they are faced with challenge, their brain immediately offers them those deeply ingrained beliefs about themselves. I just don’t have what it takes. I’m not cut out for this. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough.

We have so many beliefs like these rolling around our brains, running automatically in the background like elevator music behind everything we do and everything positive thought we try to believe. We treat these words as if they are facts. There is a part of us that believes those statements about our abilities are true.

Unless and until you can identify and address your negative beliefs about yourself, you will never be able to achieve you dreams.

This is why so many of us achieve big things but those accomplishments never hit our radar. We finished law school, we landed that major clerkship, we got the job at prestigious firm but we still don’t feel fulfilled and we don’t feel happy. We barely pause for a moment to recognize the achievement because we still don’t believe we deserve it. We believe we aren’t worthy or good enough. We’re impostors and they will find us out! Those thoughts are playing in the background and drown out any positive interpretations of our accomplishments.

The accomplishments never make us feel better because our negative beliefs about ourselves jump in and remind us that it is never going to work. So many of us spend our lives caught in this cycle, constantly achieving and reaching goals but never feeling fulfilled.

The first step in learning to believe new things about yourself is to recognize the negative beliefs you are carrying around.

Take a look at them and see them for what they are: optional thoughts. Choices you are making.

Do you want to continue to believe those things?

Are those beliefs serving you?

How would your life be different if you chose to believe something different?

Second, allow yourself some grace for those thought errors.

You are human and your brain is really good and repeating those thought to keep you safe and cozy. There is nothing wrong with you. Recognizing that your brain has this thought pattern, is not a free pass to dive into another batch of negative self-talk about yourself. These negative thought patterns are normal; don’t beat yourself up for having them.

Third, force yourself to argue with the thought.

What if I am good enough?

What if I can  do this?

What if I can figure it out?

Let those questions lead your brain to some better fodder.

Finally, choose an alternative belief about yourself that does serve you and your goals.

Consider these suggestions:

It’s not what we do—it’s who we are.

There is nothing wrong with you.

You are enough.

Sometimes I doubt myself and that’s okay, I am learning to be more confident.

Nothing has gone wrong here.

I’m responsible for everything I think and feel.

My purpose is the life I am living now.

If you don’t do this work of recognizing and addressing those closely held beliefs you have about yourself and your worthiness, you will always be striving toward your goals while dragging a ball and chain.

Stop fighting yourself and get on the same team.

Get support for free by signing up for a free mini-session. I reserve three slots a week–get yours before it’s gone!


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What Other People Think About You

How do you describe your practice to others? When you are at a mixer and someone asks what you do, is there a momentary hesitation about promoting your skills? Why is that?

I recently worked with a client who was hesitant to promote her new practice group. She had a marketing plan but wasn’t executing. She had marketing materials but she wasn’t distributing them. Why?

During our session, we discovered that she was afraid that people who received her marketing materials would judge her. That they wouldn’t like her. That they would think she wasn’t qualified.

We’ve all been there. That junior high fear of not being liked. We never seem to shake it!

The opposite side of that coin is the closely held belief that it’s important for other people to like you. It’s important not to be judged by others.

That belief keeps so many of us like my client paralyzed.

It is not possible to go through this life and have every human you encounter like you. Test this theory. Think of someone you think is unimpeachable. Run some Google searches to seek out their critics. You will be amazed. (I conducted this experiment with Mother Teresa. Yep, she had her haters too.)

You will always have people in your life who are going to judge you.

Get over it.

Move on.

When you cling to the belief that it’s important for other people to enjoy your lovely persona and appreciate everything you have to offer, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Every single person in your life is going to have a different notion of how you are supposed to act, what you are supposed to say,  and how you are supposed to spend your time. Those expectations will conflict. There is no way to meet everyone’s expectations of you.

Pleasing everyone is an impossibility; yet we secretly hope that everyone will like us.

The real question is my favorite: SO WHAT? So what if people don’t like you?

The “so what” in this story is really what is at the heart of this matter. When you ask yourself these questions, what you will likely discover is that it’s related to some thought about your worthiness.

We believe that if people don’t like you or if people judge you, it must be because something is wrong with you. It’s confirmation that you are doing it wrong.

There is part of you that wants to agree with them — they are right in their judgment and you are a failure.

When you place your worthiness in the hands of other people and the whims of their likes and dislikes, you are signing up for a course in misery. Why would you give those people all the power? I’m sure there are people in your life that you don’t really like and you don’t really trust but you are allowing their sentiment about you to dictate whether you believe there is something wrong with you.

Do you really want to give them all that power?

Or anyone for that matter?!

Besides, what does it even mean that “there’s something wrong” with you?

Who decides?

How do we know?

Who decides what is “right” about you?

You are subscribing to some undefinable standard and allowing other humans to decide whether you are worthy.

Those thoughts are not serving you. They keep you playing small.

When you transition your perspective to a belief that the only person who decides your worthiness is you, it becomes so much easier to start taking action.

Rip the worthiness metric out of the hands of your haters.

You are enough. Just as you are. How someone else perceives you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

You can’t control the humans; you have to stop living your life in a manner where you are trying to manipulate their thoughts about you.

You will not be everyone’s cup of tea. And. That. Is. Okay. That is how it works. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you.

In this life, people will judge you and criticize you. You always have a choice as to what you make that mean about yourself and your values. Stop making their words mean something negative about your abilities or value. That approach is never going to serve you or your career.

Your beliefs about yourself will either help you build the career of your dreams or they will help you crash and burn.

The choice is yours.

As part of my 6-week programs, I dedicate time specifically to the beliefs we carry about ourselves and how they impact our actions. Curious? Sign up for a free 45-minute session now before they are gone.


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Perfectionism

AKA the most common way we hold ourselves back.

I recently had a mini-session where my client was telling me that she needed an entire day to complete one of the tasks on her action plan. When I challenged her to constrain herself and do it in half the time, we discovered that her reasoning for this conclusion was it would take an entire day to “do it right” and to make sure that it was “perfect.”

We do this all the time. We convince ourselves that we must complete something to perfection before we can move on to the next step.

We can’t ask for a raise until we are able to conduct our work with perfection. We aren’t going to offer to speak at a conference until we have a full mastery of the underlying material. We don’t want to take that expert deposition until we have done simpler depositions perfectly.

We carry around this faulty belief that there is no sense in doing something unless you can do it flawlessly.

Can you imagine where we would be if everyone followed that logic?! If everyone was afraid to massively fail on the way to success?

Consider Thomas Edison and his endeavors to create artificial light: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

The real motivation behind this perfectionism is the avoidance of failure.

If we believe we can’t act until we can do it perfectly, then we don’t have to do anything until we know we can do it without failure. We don’t have to face any criticism of our imperfections until we have a foolproof plan to avoid criticism. We can spend our entire lives building up to those perfect skills and never getting there: we never take any risks so we never fail.

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

Perfectionism is a way to stay stuck. To convince yourself that your efforts are noble. You simply want to do it right and you can’t move forward until you do that. It seems valid. It seems reasonable. But this is simply fear masquerading in a more “honorable” outfit. The fear of failure, dressed as perfectionism.

Perfectionism is for scared people.

The truth is that you don’t want to face any criticism.

It’s easier to tell yourself you are only going to do it if you can “do it right” than it is to be honest with yourself and admit that you don’t want to experience failure or criticism. Most people avoid criticism because they have a practiced habit of endorsing the criticism. They agree with the criticism and interpret the feedback to mean that they are a failure.

When you allow criticism to mean that you can’t do it, of course you are going to try and avoid criticism!

Enter the myth of perfectionism to distract you from what’s really going on.

Don’t jump teams and join your critics by default. Don’t let failures mean anything about you. Don’t let the words of critics hold you back. Criticism from others has more to do with the other person than with you!

You can decide to receive criticism however you want. Consider allowing it to mean that you are learning and always improving (because you are a human and “to err is HUMAN”).

If you committed to doing everything 80% and moving on, how different would your life be? How much more could you accomplish?

People may criticize your B+ work. People may NOT criticize your B+ work. You won’t know until you stop trying to manufacture A+ work before putting anything out there. You can always go back and make something better but you won’t know what is “better” until you start trying and learning.

Besides, just because you conclude something is perfect, doesn’t mean no one will criticize it. Spinning on things until they are perfect, does not “save” you from criticism.

That is a lie you are telling yourself to keep you safe. To keep you stuck.

Don’t convince yourself that perfect is something to strive for. It’s all subjective.

Don’t allow the myth of perfection to keep you stuck.

Success only comes from trying and failing repeatedly. Not from sitting on the sidelines theorizing about how to best do something.

Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection. ― Kim Collins

Get out there are start failing. You can’t learn how to handle critics if you never do anything noteworthy.

Think your perfectionism is serving you? Let’s see what’s really going on. What are you afraid of?

Photo by George Becker from Pexels

Failing Hard

Have you ever asked yourself why you aren’t doing something or why you aren’t taking action toward your goals? What I have found is that most people simply are afraid to fail. If you are going on a diet and plan to lose 50 pounds, do you tell your friends? Do you put it on Facebook and declare it to the world? Probably not and here’s why: no one wants their failure to be up for public scrutiny. As humans, we prefer to fail quietly and privately or not fail at all. If we succeed, great, THAT we will shout from the rooftops. But if we keep our failures privately, it’s like it never happened. No unmet expectations of others and no disappointments other than your own. But what is so bad about failure after all?

The fear of failure, the fear of embarrassment, the fear of how we will feel if it all falls apart, is at the heart of it all. Here’s what our friend Merriam-Webster Google has to say about fear:

an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Let’s break this down…

Fear is an “unpleasant emotion” caused by a “belief”. Beliefs are choices we make in our brains based upon thoughts we hold to be true. So fear is an uncomfortable emotion caused by our thoughts. That is all that is holding you back from taking action, from making that move, from leaving your soul-less job. You are letting your brain ruin all the fun.

If you want to lose 50 pounds, don’t let an unpleasant emotion hold you back, don’t be afraid to fail. So what if you fail? What’s the worst thing that could happen? Embarrassment? It’s just a feeling caused by what you are thinking. How you will feel after a failure is driven 100% by what you make that failure mean. We all do it. You set a lofty goal and then when you miss the mark you think “I’m never going to fit into those pants again” or “I’m never going to get promoted” or “Why do I even bother trying.” Ugh those thoughts are dream-killers. You are choosing to think that garbage and it is making you feel terrible.

If you have a lofty goal that you are not pursuing, ask yourself why. What is the worst that could happen? You don’t achieve it? So what? What is it about that failure that is so scary? 99% of the time we are afraid of how we will feel once we fail. We are afraid of feeling disappointed in ourselves. So instead, we put our little dream on the shelf and feel disappointed in ourselves for not trying. Don’t you see that we are already feeling those things we are trying to avoid!? Instead of trying, failing, and feeling disappointed. We are not trying, not failing, and feeling disappointed all the same. People, this is some kind of crazy.

I am challenging you to try and fail, despite the fear. Try and fail and feel those feelings having known that you actually tried. If you’re going to feel crappy you might as well do something first to feel crappy about. Don’t feel crappy about your inaction. You don’t deserve to feel crappy about your situation unless and until you have actually tried and failed.

But let me challenge you even more. I submit that, if you try and fail and continue to try and fail, despite those feelings, you will win every time. Every single time you try and fail, you will develop yourself. You will learn how not  to achieve your goal, you will learn alternative methods to try and achieve your goal. You will learn how to manage those feelings of shame, fear, embarrassment, etc. You may not even have the same goals on the other side of all the trying. I do not believe that someone can try and fail to achieve a goal repeatedly and gain nothing from the process. It’s impossible.

If you are not trying and failing on a regular basis, my guess is that you are already sitting with those ugly feelings you are trying to avoid by preventing failure. If you are not trying and failing at something all the time, I am begging you to examine what it is that is holding you back. Shame? Embarrassment? Those are all just feelings. Driven by your thoughts. Driven by what you are making your “failures” mean! Failure doesn’t have to mean you are hopeless and destined to be unhappy. Failure can mean that you are dedicated to learning and evolving. To challenging yourself and learning to manage your brain. Are your dreams really worth ignoring because you don’t have what it takes to experience uncomfortable emotions? Take that leap.

What is the worst that could happen?

Coach with me and learn the skills to fail forward.

Want More. Fail More

Want more. There is no question mark in the title of this post. This is less a question and more a directive to you: Want more for yourself. Want more for your life.  

If I had a magic wand and told you that I could give you the career of your dreams, would you be interested? What if I told you I would give it to you only if you first promised to fail 10 times trying to do it on your own? Big fails. EPIC fails. All I ask of you is that you try to figure it out on your own 10 times, and fail 10 times. After those 10 tries, it’s yours. Fail ten times and I will waive my magic wand and I will make it so. Would you do that?  

Of course you would. The problem is that we are truly faced with this very offer every single day of our lives and very few of us take the challenge. We are too afraid to fail. We are too caught up in our reptilian brain that says “welp, I hate my boss and I don’t LOVE my job but it pays the bills and life is secure under this cozy little comfort blanket. I am not going to rock the boat, things are fine; this is what it means to be a grown-up.”

Are things fine?

Are you going to be satisfied when you are 80 years old and you look back at that job and that life that were just fine?! What if you were diagnosed with cancer tomorrow and had only one year left to live? Would you keep playing it safe and being fine.  

Fine is such a blasé, gross word. There are so many beautiful words in our vocabulary. If “fine” truly sums up your present state, rest assured, my friend, you are far from fine. I refuse to believe that we were meant to live a life that is “fine.” I believe we were meant to live a life that is exciting and full of highs and lows and all the colors of the rainbow.  We aren’t meant to live in the doldrums.

I want you to live with the old lady version of yourself on your shoulder urging you on, saying, “let’s make this happen, lady, I’m not getting any younger!” 

Years ago I found myself in the middle of a violent and abusive relationship. Drifting through life pretending I was fine despite my deep depression and dark thoughts. You know what finally snapped me out it? What really made me wake up and decide I wasn’t going to live like that anymore? I could not reconcile the person I had become with the person I dreamt of becoming. I looked in the mirror and realized that my 5-year-old self would be disappointed in the woman I had become. Ouch. It broke my heart how far I had strayed from my true north. I wanted more for myself and I had set my little 5-year old heart on a bright future. A future that I was presently squandering. 

I want you to have that wake up moment too. I want you to see the big picture, step out of the race, breathe, and own your space in this world.

What do you want your story to be? What kind of tales do you want to create for your old lady self to recite to her friends in the retirement home over a cup of tea?   What kind of legacy do you want to leave?   Don’t disappoint yourself by living out of tune with your purpose. You never know what news is waiting for you tomorrow.   How do you find that purpose? Coach with me and let’s find out.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. Henry Ford.