Meet Compassionate Objectivity, The Antidote to Guilt

“I should succeed at this job despite the fact that we're severely under-resourced and my boss is chronically disorganized. If I don't, I’m a loser.” “If I don’t sacrifice everything to my kids, I'm a terrible parent.” "If I don’t get my hour of exercise in every single day, I'm just a lazy slob.” “If my book doesn't sell well, I must be a crappy writer.” You've probably experienced the above or similar thoughts at different times. No matter what the project, or how well we've done, it seems like we can always do a better job. And yet, guilt and shame won't help you be more productive—in fact, they are far more likely to rob you of confidence and motivation. People who continually berate themselves for not having done “more and better” need to consider whether that behavior is actually productive. The truth is that we all have limits on our time, money, energy, and other resources; also, that we all need to devote a big chunk of them to our own needs. Another truth is that life is pretty hard. … [Read more...]

What Being “Willing to Fail” Really Means

These days, many people know it's okay to fail.* They understand that failure is an essential part of any ambitious path, and also a fantastic learning opportunity. They also know that if you’re not failing at least some of the time, you’re probably not taking enough risks. This failure-is-okay viewpoint is reinforced by many inspiring quotes by brilliant people, including: "He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great. - Herman Melville “Go on failing. Go on. Only next time, try to fail better.” - Samuel Beckett "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." - Winston Churchill (There are zillions more.) So, to repeat: these days, many people realize it's okay to fail. Or do they? It turns out that many who think they're prepared to fail, really aren't. Underneath, they still crave success. It's a good bet that they've defined success perfectionistically--meaning, that any outcome short of "fabulous" is unacceptable. And that they're … [Read more...]

How to Measure Your 2013 Successes so as to have a Happier, More Productive 2014 (Part I)

As you evaluate your progress over the past year--or as your family attempts to evaluates it for you--one thing to keep in mind is that perfectionism often confuses success with failure. It basically recognizes just one kind of success, where you: (a) finish a monumental project, (b) do a spectacular job at it, and (c) win abundant praise and material rewards for it. Everything else is either (at best) not worth noting, or (at worst) a heinous failure. However, there are many more types of success, including: When you start a new project When you restart a lapsed project When you make progress on a project Most of our successes are, in fact, these kinds of "process successes." They can seem small or even trivial, especially when compared with the monumental successes we all hope for: that's okay, because when you look at your work through a process lens it becomes clear that there really is no such thing as a big success: only strings of tiny ones. Tolstoy didn't write War and Peace: he … [Read more...]