Stuck? Lose Your Label!

Here’s a useful piece by Austin Kleon on How to Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Chaotic Times. I like #3 a lot: “Forget the noun, do the verb.” Calling yourself a “writer,” “artist,” "activist," "scholar," “entrepreneur,” or any other label can invite procrastination if you use that label perfectionistically. For example, if you think of a writer as someone who is supposed to: write many hours every single day sacrifice everything else to one’s art happily starve / live in a garret be smarter about all things writing-related than anyone in the room (or anywhere!) write fantastically all the time, and, enjoy writing all the time Then you’re inevitably going to fall short, and feel miserable about it. Here are some other labels that get people into trouble: “good parent" (if you think "good" means you must sacrifice everything for your kids) and “dutiful child" (if you think "dutiful" means you must do everything your parents ask). In these cases, you should forget … [Read more...]

Parenting Is Not a Zero Sum Game!

From Evelyn Tsitas, an exceptionally useful blog post about what it took for her to write her thesis: Admit it, if you are a mother, there is always that nagging voice somewhere – yours or some critic – that says ‘intense focus and study at the expense of much of everything else in your life will be bad for your young children.’ Rubbish. Low expectations, complacency and laziness* are limiting. Constantly pushing your boundaries and challenging your comfort zone, on the other hand, teach children not to be limited in their aspirations while at the same time reinforcing that anything worth achieving takes hard work, and sacrifice.If you are completing your doctorate and fretting about your children taking a back seat, don’t worry. The mum up late studying, turning down social invitations, spending holidays at the computer or university library may be absent from her children’s lives in some ways, but she is abundantly present in ways which matter in the long term. I can tell you first hand that far … [Read more...]

“If You’ve Made Them Cry, You’ve Succeeded In Getting Your Point Across.”

A Success Academy charter school teacher was caught on film harshly criticizing and publicly humiliating a first grader. She literally tore the girl's classwork into pieces and flung them aside! The school is claiming that the incident was an exception, both for this teacher and the system in general. However, there's plenty of testimony that it isn't. The title of this newsletter is a quote from a former assistant principal who says it sums up the system's overall culture. She also notes that, "embarrassing or belittling children for work seen as slipshod was a regular occurrence, and in some cases encouraged by network leaders." You don't have to be an expert on perfectionism to understand that this kind of degrading treatment is totally inappropriate to inflict on anyone, much less a child. What most people don't realize, however, is that even a single incident like this can catalyze a lifetime of underproductivity. I know this because I hear it all the time in workshops. I'll be discussing a … [Read more...]

“Her Face Went From Scowl to Peace”: 7 Secrets of the Prolific Helps Lifelong Procrastinator and Her 12-Year-Old Daughter

From the mailbag: I just wanted to thank you for putting together this comprehensive book. I've suffered from writers block/perfectionism my whole life, and once in a while I break through, but then get bogged down again. Your book confirmed some of the core discoveries I made overcoming my blocks, but has done so much to help me see the bigger picture. I love the list of the attributes of perfectionism. I love the description of compassionate objectivity and recently conveyed it to my 12 year old daughter who was feeling discouraged that she wasn't amazing after a half hour of ice skating instruction. Her face went from a scowl to peace -- it made so much sense to her. I also love the section that talks about the stages of writing and how we have to retreat to stage one whenever we start to feel unsafe. Read sample chapters here. Buy it here. … [Read more...]

New Articles on Procrastination and Perfectionism, and How to Help Your Kid Kick the Video Game Habit

Just posted new, updated sections on how to recognize and overcome Procrastination and Perfectionism. Please check them out! Also posted a new article called How to Help Your Kids Kick the Video Game Habit. It's adapted from one I published a while back on the Psychology Today blog, andit will be useful to anyone (not just kids) trying to play fewer video games, watch less television, or do less web surfing: "Try treating his desire to overindulge in electronics as a kind of procrastination. That’s what we call it, after all, when adults put off doing their important activities; and a kid who’s obsessively playing video games (or watching television, etc.) can likewise be said to be putting off more meaningful and enriching activities such as sports, art, music, reading, volunteering, a job, or in-person socializing." Hope you find them useful, and as always I welcome your feedback. … [Read more...]

Father’s Day Post: Betty Ming Liu on Making Peace with an Authoritarian Father

Betty Ming Liu on making peace with her deceased dad: The war is over. Even though my father was a tyrant who made me miserable, I’ve fought hard to reclaim my life and get to happiness. So after all the years of weeping and blowing my nose at the shrink’s office, letting go is possible. This Sunday, I will celebrate. Finally. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you, Dad. To be honest, part of me can’t believe I just typed those words. But what a relief! This moment has been a long time coming. My father died 37 years ago when I was 19 and he was 70. It was 1976 and we had reached a tense truce in our constant arguing. To cope, I was a few weeks into a new tactic: Instead of talking back, I shut up and silently obeyed his orders. After all, I lived under his roof and had no money or means to survive on my own. (Or at least, that’s how I viewed the situation.) More here. … [Read more...]

New Parenthood Can Lead to Situational Perfectionism

A new parent writes to syndicated advice columnist Carolyn Hax about how stressful it can be: I’m a new mom of a pretty but challenging 6-month-old boy. I am a naturally decisive person; however, the anxiety I’m feeling over making the “right” decisions or providing him the “right” things has been difficult to cope with. For example, since I’ve gone back to work, I haven’t been able to pump enough milk, and I’ve needed to start supplementing with formula. I intellectually know this is fine and many babies have formula, but for some reason I’m beating myself up over it. Why can’t I produce enough milk, why can’t I provide what I’m supposed to for him, etc.? Also with regard to other things — like when to stop swaddling at night, how and what solids to feed him — I feel so worried I’m going to do something that is less than optimal that might hurt his development. I’m second-guessing myself very often and starting to drive myself crazy, and I know that isn’t good. Do you have any suggestions for how to … [Read more...]

For Kids: Fern’s Writers Block (from Arthur)

Note Fern's situational perfectionism, caused by: *being told her story will be the "main event" at the next day's Fiction Forum *being told a famous author will be there *being labeled as "creative." Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck says that when you praise kids for attributes--by calling them, for instance, "smart" or "creative"--they freeze up, in part because they have no control over those attributes (which are vague, anyhow), and are afraid they won't be able to repeat their success. Instead, praise them for effort--for concentration, effort, strategies--and for specific results, and you'll likely motivate them to work even harder. *note also the catastrophizing: Fern imagining the event as being disastrous. (In fact, imagining Shakespeare attending your reading and dissing you is some world-class catastrophizing! I'm actually a bit worried about the writer who came up with that script!) If I were Fern's mom, I would remind her that: She's written many wonderful stories, and will no … [Read more...]

The Right Way to Cope With Your Kid’s Perfectionism

Jules at Pancakes & French Fries writes about what she perceives to be the perfectionist tendencies her young son has inherited from her: Mikey inherited my drive for perfection. Last week I hung in the laundry room some of my favorite drawings the boys have made over the years. Nico doesn’t draw as well as Mikey did at his age, but if you ask him everything he does is brilliant. When he saw his pictures, he immediately pointed out everything that was awesome–and there was plenty of awesome. When Mikey saw my wall of pictures, he grimaced. This one, my favorite of the bunch, really annoyed him. “It’s not my best work.” Days later he saw it again as he was putting his baseball uniform to wash. He came storming back to my desk to complete his argument (I refused to take down the pictures days prior). “You know what really bugs me about that Allosaurus picture? It’s attacking a Triceratops, which is impossible. They aren’t even from the same period.” I reminded him that (1) we don’t know any … [Read more...]