51 percent

From a young age I have been encouraged to strive for excellence. My parents did not exert much pressure, mind you. But I think the fact that they were teachers probably drove my expectations about academic achievement. I thought that “winning” was doing well in school, and since learning came fairly easily to me, I aspired to this type of achievement.

Looking back, I remember taking on a heavy course schedule, especially in middle and high school, when we could select our electives. I also participated in many school activities, band, forensics (what they called public speaking) and various other extras I was encouraged to add because I was deemed “gifted” due to test scores.

At the same time, some teachers in middle school in particular thought that I was not working up to my potential. I distinctly remember my 6th grade reading teacher explaining this to my parents at conferences. We had page number requirements for books we had to read and I remember that 1500 per quarter was considered grade A level (1200 = B, 900 = C). My reading list typically listed 4000-5000 pages for each quarter, or about 300% of A level.

I was (and am) a voracious reader, but not as excited then about writing reports or summaries of what I had read. Of course, I did not always remember a lot of what I had read (and I now know variable attention was a factor). At the speed I was going, I just wanted to cover as much ground as possible. Even today, I typically get through books quickly. But now I tend to read them more closely a second time if they have a larger impact on me. This habit worked well in college for getting through vast amounts of material, and then selecting what needed to be studied rather than simply read.

Fifty one percent

At work, it has been my habit in my career to attempt to give 110%, to go above and beyond what is needed. I realize this was a cultural norm for the company I recently worked for, which had in its mission statement the words “striving without reserve” for the greatest possible reliability and quality. While I appreciate the intent, the “without reserve” part always bothered me.

For many years, my personal “reserves” ran low constantly. By giving so much to my work so consistently, I short-changed close relationships, friendships, and even my own health at times. I received promotions and advancement, but at what cost? Since I experience variable attention, I often arrived early or stayed late so I could work while it was quiet and there were less interruptions.

Ironically enough, in my final year I realized that cutting back on work hours generally, and giving less (more like 90% rather than 110%) made me much more effective in the hours I actually worked. When I use the tools of more sleep, meditation, better mental and emotional management, and good quality food and exercise, and more time away from work to rest and play, I make better decisions.

In yoga teacher training, we are learning about the concept of non-striving, about giving 51% in our practice, the just right stimulus for growth, rather than 110%. As someone who has taken a break from the full time work world for 9 months, I likely embrace the concept more readily than many. It chafes against our cultural conditioning. And that can be a good and necessary thing.

In a world that often tells us we are “never enough” we need to re-think what is essential, and what is extraneous. Not all days or phases of our lives are identical, of course, and we may need to adjust accordingly. But sometimes giving 51% and keeping some energy for ourselves is appropriate and what gives us resilience for the longer term.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Move on and create more

So many dear and wonderful women I know (including me) get caught in trap of perfectionism on a regular basis.

We wonder: Is this good enough? Will it land with my audience? Am I doing it right? What if I mess up? 

These are all common concerns, but they stop us from taking the necessary actions that will propel us toward our ultimate goals. Sometimes this can happen in decision-making as well (as illustrated by my questions below in thinking through my job search):

-academia? public sector? nonprofits? small companies? (note: I have temporarily ruled out large companies)

-program management? project management? people management?

ease flow and beauty
While I am not a visual artist, I did not hesitate to create and share this piece. Some might be embarrassed but I find it endearing that my inner 7-year-old likes to do art. 😉

But when we allow ourselves to linger too much on each of the options, we just allow confusion to cloud our judgment.

This is how I feel when I am writing blog entries. I give myself about 20-30 minutes to draft an entry. Then I figure out a picture (~5 minutes?) and get it posted up. If I have a little more time on my hands, I spend another 5-10 minutes editing. In total, I spend no more than 45 minutes on each post.

It is not that I don’t *think* through ideas when I brainstorm topics. But the writing itself is typically posted without a lot of anguish or delay.

And that’s why I can write often without much stress about it. I press the publish button and I let go of the result. I am grateful that so many “citizen journalists” can exist today without editorial gatekeepers.

Sometimes I notice there are typos when I go back and read prior entries, particularly if I did not remember to go back and edit. But well, what can I say? This is the internet. Everything has a pretty short shelf-life.

Very often I will go back and read a month of entries (or entries from the year before) and discover themes emerging that I find interesting. Or I’ll realize: wow, I keep learning the SAME lesson over and over again! 😉

I move on, and I create more. There is very little advantage to spending lots of time to polish each post until it shines. Good enough is good enough.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

On the graceful “no”

I interviewed on Wednesday for another freelance project job that sounded interesting when I read it, but I have some doubts now. 

My impression is that the amount of work it would take to complete the project is far more than the client has budgeted or was clear in the posting. While I really like the concept for the book, and I thought the research could be interesting, I have some intuition that this may be more than I bargained for in my proposal.

I explained in my call that my proposal was based on the notion that there would be a draft manuscript produced by the client in a few weeks, as indicated in the description, and that I would work with that material. While he seemed excited about my background and skills, and thought I might be a good fit for the research aspect of the project, my internal doubt-meter started sending me a subtle flare of warning.

Then a little while after the call, he messaged to ask for my information outside the platform where we connected, and requested some free work (a small task but we have not yet agreed on contract terms, so it is against policy). Another warning flare. 

The people-pleasing part of me hates to say no to people, especially when they seem excited to work with me. But something about this project seems as though, while an interesting topic, could become a burden.  The client has some unrealistic ideas about what “ghost writing” entails. After I did some research on the market for this, I believe I under-valued the time this will take. 

As I always do when making important decisions, I will sleep on it and allow my subconscious to reveal any insights that will help me make a final decision. But right now I am mentally crafting a professional and respectful “no” because I truly believe we must pay attention to our intuition on these matters.

Saying “no” to some good things allows room for greater things. It may not be fun, and it is uncomfortable. But I am willing to feel the discomfort and do the right thing. Indeed, living in my integrity requires it.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Curtain call

Today I will tell my team about my career decision news. My director scheduled a mandatory conference call so I could tell them in my own words what I intend to do, and that I will leave the company in early August.

It is interesting that my subconscious was working on this task as I slept last night. I had a “naked dream” last night. I was the only one without clothing, but somehow I did not feel at all self-conscious. I am choosing to interpret this to mean that, though I am making a somewhat vulnerable choice and I am totally exposing my goals, dreams and plans before they are fully baked, I am ready.

curtain call
Photo credit link

In reflecting this morning in my journal about the message I hope to deliver, I started realizing that it boils down to this: I want to reinforce the idea that they are a “small and mighty” team. But I also want to model courageous change. Instead of leaving them feeling abandoned, I want them to realize how strong they are and how resilient. While I worried plenty about who would “protect them” if I left, I now know everything will be fine.

Sometimes our fears of being who we are get in the way of taking our next steps for development. Speaking personally, I know how vulnerable it is to admit a dream to someone else, knowing they may not understand. They may tell us: you’re crazy! They may induce doubt that are dreams are worth pursuing, or fear that we may fail.

But being who we are, and exposing that truth about what we desire is fundamental to our longing as human beings. I think Glennon Melton Doyle said this in a conversation to Liz Gilbert during a podcast. Her desire was to be known for herself, for the truth of who she is.

My dream this morning helped me realize that I am the one who needs to accept myself as I am. Whether others do or not is really irrelevant. But at the same time, it is being my best, brave, true self that may help them do the same.

May you feel free to be who you are and live your dreams and desires.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Commitment honored

I am really proud to say I delivered on a commitment to myself that I had made back on June 8th, just before my vacation. My deadline to communicate was July 3rd, and I made it happen a day earlier.

I took a deep breath, scheduled the conversation yesterday with my boss in the morning and completed the conversation in the afternoon. I explained my plan to leave the company as of August 3rd and my intention to do independent consulting work after a break to pursue some family time and personal projects. He told me that he will always support any decision that I know is right for me, even if he does not like it (which of course, he did not, and he admitted that).

commitment.JPG

I had written the points of the conversation ahead of time, and was able to convey 3/4 of what I had drafted. For me it was not critical to say all of it, but I wanted to have my explanations “in the bag” so I would not be dissuaded. He could tell by my tone of voice and the fact that I titled the meeting “decision” that I had already made up my mind. He did not try to change it.

He did want to talk with me later this week so we could map out a communications plan, to be sure that team members understand this was my decision, not related to company decisions or the budget we were allocated. I understand his concern: last year, there were a couple of non-voluntary transitions (which resulted in other positions within the company for the two people affected). People get nervous if they perceive that their jobs are at risk.

For now I am breathing a sigh of relief. I am grateful for his response, and for all the opportunities I have been given here. But I also realize that this is a strong signal of my commitment to the next venture, and now I have declared (to the universe effectively) that I will make this work. No matter what.

Do you honor commitments you make to yourself? What do you do when you are scared by the commitment required to move yourself forward toward a goal?