Tag Archives: be the best you can be

CAUTION! Do Not Join Sarah Arrow’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge!

Sarah arrow blogging challenge

On April 9, 2015 I made a bold move that would change my life.  The people closest to me know that I’ve always been a person prone to procrastination; although, to be honest, I prefer to call it “taking my time because I don’t want to make a rushed decision.” Wish there was a word for that.  OK, I can hear you say, “There is! It’s called procrastination!” Moving on.

Over the past year I’ve grown enough to be able to admit to myself that many times I used that “need to think it through” excuse to not feel obligated to take action.  I was buying myself some time (stalling) so that I could analyze the situation from any and all angles, to ensure that I would not fail.  Heck, never mind failing, I did not even want to make a mistake.

The perfectionist voice in me kept asking “what if” questions that would take me down Disaster Road. I’ve always tried to adhere to that wise saying “Expect the best, prepare for the worst.”  The problem with that saying (for me, at least) was that as soon as I started “preparing for the worst”, I would begin expecting it!  And at that point, no matter how hard I tried, it was very difficult to keep myself from going down (and staying on) that road.

Until rather recently, I lacked the tools necessary to help me snap out of that disaster mentality and become more proactive in my own success.  Slowly but surely, though, I learned many techniques that helped me change and grow out of a lot of my limiting beliefs and negative thought patterns.  Some may argue that I took the long route.  I would argue that I took the route that was the best fit for me.  There are many people out there who have this wonderful “sink or swim” mentality.  “You know what you gotta do” – they say – “so just jump in with both feet and do it!” In my case, though, I needed to feel the water with my toes first, although admittedly at first I would spend a very long time contemplating the water and thinking “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could get in?” Followed by a prolonged period of research about water temperature, water quality, water salinity, etc. and another prolonged period of meditation where I would ask my higher self whether getting in the water was a good decision. I’m not even kidding. That was me, procrastinating.

Now, I don’t think there is a single right or wrong way to approach goals.  I think that as long as you are doing something to get to your destination you are in good shape.  The way I look at it now is, “There are more than one ways to get to any destination.” And while some may argue that you can get there faster by flying (just do it), my answer to that is “that may be true, but you’ll miss the experience of the scenic views you see when you drive.” Notice I said “when you drive” and not “when you think about driving, read about driving, contemplate driving” etc. That’s not moving towards your destination.

That being said, only you can determine how fast or how slow you’re willing to go, and there are many factors that will influence that. But you gotta be doing something.  There is one thing that’s guaranteed not to get you to your destination, and that’s inactivity. If you never set off on the journey, you’ll never get there no matter how much wishful thinking, research, meditation, and journaling you do.

And so when I finally learned that lesson I made a decision to begin my journey from the person I was to the person I wanted to be; from already good to even better.  And I am happy to report that the journey has been an amazing one.  Depending on the area of my life that I was working on, sometimes I took a plane, and sometimes I walked. Sometimes I got there faster, and sometimes slower. But of one thing I am certain: as long as I was doing something, it all happened the way it was meant to happen so that I could assimilate as much of the experience as possible.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, one of the things I struggled with was procrastination.  I would analyze a situation so much that it often led me to inactivity; “paralysis by analysis.”  I finally accepted something that my wife had been trying to tell me for years: this paralysis, this inactivity, was preventing me from reaching my destination in this area of my life.  If you haven’t figured this out already, she’s one of those with the “sink or swim” mentality.  You can imagine the lively discussions we have sometimes.  She often reminded me of the Andy Griffith episode where Andy is contemplating making a big decision and saying that he needed to think about it some more. Aunt Bee’s reply was, “Come along Opie; let’s leave your father to his slooooooow thinkin’.”

But anyways, I finally accepted that I needed to get off my couch and actually do something rather than just talk about it.  And slowly but surely I started doing less thinkin’ before my doin’.  After reading the book “How To Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie, I followed his advice.  He recommends that in order to eliminate worry and get out of this paralyzing “what if” mentality (which doesn’t serve us), we need to come to terms with the worst case scenario and then make a decision right there and then as to how we’re going to handle it.

So I started asking myself this question: “If I move forward with this goal, What’s the worst that can happen?” and once I answered it, I would follow it with, “So what?” By being honest with myself, I determined that if the worst did happen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, and there were ways I could recover from it. This practice alone helped me to get past my procrastination and start taking action. I also decided to follow Edison’s example. I read a story in which it’s reported that he was asked how he felt about failing 10,000 times in his efforts to invent the lightbulb. His response was, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I just found 10,000 ways not to make a lightbulb.”

I learned that mistakes are not failures. They are data that tells us that modifications are needed, and that data gives us the opportunity to make whatever we’re working on that much more effective. But the key is that we have to be moving. We have to be working on something.

Case in point: I had decided that I wanted to share the lessons that I had learned along the way, and which helped me grow into a better me, with the world.  I wanted to bring hope to anyone struggling with situations similar to mine, and share with them the techniques I had used to help me deal with those situations successfully.  Only I didn’t know how to go about it.  In doing a little research I realized that a blog would be an excellent way to make this happen.  But there was another problem, or rather two problems.  One, I was not sure that what I had to share would truly be of value to others, and two, I was terrified of writing!

I started looking for books related to the subject of blogging and came across the book “Zero To Blogger In 30 Days!” by Sarah Arrow.  The reviews were very positive so I decided to give it a try.  But here’s something else I did.  I read the very inspiring “About Sarah Arrow” section followed by the “How to use this guide” section in which Sarah mentions that the book is organized in two sections: the first section helps you to set up your own self-hosted WordPress blog, and the second section covers the challenge, blogging for 30 consecutive days. She also offers readers the ability to sign up for the Facebook support group for encouragement and accountability.

Without giving it another thought, and without allowing time or room for procrastination or doubt to creep in, I joined the 30 Day Blogging Challenge offered by Sarah Arrow.  I went to the Facebook page and requested to be a member, then signed up for the challenge emails. Just like that. Within 10 minutes of making a decision to share my life experience with the world I had not only gotten a book to help me do it, but I had signed myself up for a 30 day challenge to write a blog post for 30 consecutive days. What? I had not even read the book yet!

The old me would have read the book, highlighted it, read it again, gone online to do additional research, read 3 more books, journaled about it, meditated on it, before considering joining the group. Some might argue that in doing all of this I was still moving forward. But the truth is that I know myself, and I know that for me, that was just another way to procrastinate, a way to look busy while in the back of my mind still stalling under the pretense of not wanting to fail.

I determined that if there was anything else that I needed to learn, I would learn it along the way. If I made mistakes, I would use the data to correct them. If I got stuck, I would ask for help. Besides, that’s what the support group was for. So in short, the worst that could happen wasn’t anything I wouldn’t be able to recover from.

So I joined the challenge and the rest, as they say, is history. Today I complete my challenge with this post, and I want to thank Sarah Arrow and everyone else in the Facebook support group for their comments and words of encouragement.  I also want to thank my wife who believed in me from the beginning, and who put up with my nervousness, panic, and excitement, and read every single post! I could not have done it without her unending support and encouragement.

Did I do it in 30 consecutive days? No, it took me 35 days actually. I started off with a bang but somewhere down the road I got sick and that set me back a few days.  The old me would have been completely bummed about it, and I would probably have given up on the challenge because it wasn’t perfect. I had failed.  But had I?  The purpose of the challenge as stated in the book intro was to “build your writing muscle and give you the discipline to carry on blogging and get great results.”  And that I had definitely accomplished.

The new me recognizes that we set goals to accomplish something, and we have an ideal about how we’re going to accomplish it. But guess what? Life happens. Stuff (for lack of a better word) happens.  And it’s what we do when stuff happens that will determine whether we’ll succeed in reaching our goal or not.

So while I did not do it in 30 consecutive days, I did write 30 posts and that did build not only my writing muscle but also my confidence in my ability to do what I wanted to do.  Do I count this as a failure? Heck no! Would you?

Thank you for joining me in my journey!  If you have any input, questions or comments, please feel free to share them in the comment box below. I’d love to hear from you!

Oh, and about my “caution” statement in the headline? I’ll finish that statement now:

Caution! Do Not Join Sarah Arrow’s “30 Day Blogging Challenge”… unless you are ready to increase your self-confidence, build your writing muscle, and start on your way to a blogging success in 30 days or less!

Made you look, didn’t I?

To your success!

JC

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If You Truly Want to Be Exceptional, Go For Being Average

As far back as I can remember I used to be a perfectionist overachiever, and this was greatly due to the meaning I had derived from my life experiences growing up.  I was surrounded by people who, with the best of intentions, expected the best from me.  They had high hopes for me, and they wanted me to rise above average, to be exceptional.

It wasn’t long before I learned what I deem to be one of my most important life lessons.  I found out that when I set off for being exceptional, always striving to be the best, always reaching for first place, always pushing myself to do more, more, more, I found it more and more difficult to feel happy or even content about my current and past accomplishments; in fact, I could not even bring myself to acknowledge them, let alone enjoy them.

Whether they vocalized it or not, the expectations of those around me always rose above the results I produced.  Whenever I showed them I could do more, they expected more. The more I showed them I could do, the more they expected of me.  And if I ever I fell short of performing at my newly set standard for whatever reason (maybe I was just having a “bad” day?) the spectators around me cut me no slack.   They frowned and showed signs of disappointment, which in turn caused me to feel disappointed in myself.

As a result of this, my own expectations on myself rose high above my accomplishments; even the times when I excelled at something, I always told myself, “You could have done better. You must do better next time.”  This caused me a tremendous amount of pressure and anxiety, not to mention feelings of never being “good enough” or “special enough.” Needless to say, I was unable to find satisfaction in my accomplishments; they felt like empty victories to me. I was literally unable to be pleased with myself. How sad it was to go through life feeling like no matter what I did, I was not good enough even in my own eyes.

In his book “Supercoach” Michael Neill shares with us the concept of going for “having an average day” as a way for being exceptional.  When I first read this I was skeptical because I thought, “This goes against the conventional belief of making every day exceptional!”  And indeed it does.  At first glance it may seem like we’re being encourage for settling for an average life and being conformists or having a mediocre attitude.  But as Michael explains,

The paradoxical promise of the “average day” philosophy [is that] the cumulative effect of a series of average days spent doing an average amount of what loves and wants to do is actually quite extraordinary

It took me a bit to digest this concept but the more I thought about it the more sense it made to me.  I realized then that whenever I wanted to accomplish something or do something I wanted to do, my perfectionist overachieving attitude kicked in and suddenly the task seemed too daunting or complicated. I could anticipate my own expectations about it and felt anxious rather than motivated.  As a result, I tended to put it off!  “If I’m going to do it, it has to be perfect” – I thought – “otherwise I am not going to do it.” And then I felt burnt out before I even started.

Well you can imagine how many things got put off or postponed as a result, from making sure I spent quality time with my kids, to working on the next chapter in a book I was writing. I knew I wanted to spend quality time with my kids every day, but I always believed that it had to be this whole ordeal that would take at least a couple of hours each day in order for it to be done right.  In the case of my book, I often focused on the fact that I needed to do additional research and get all the words and all the paragraphs perfect, which again would take a long time to do.

But after reading Michael’s tip I saw how my perfectionist-going-for-exceptional attitude was actually working against me and holding me back.  So I decided to implement his suggestion and shoot for having average days instead.  This simply meant that there was no more pressure to get it perfect. The goal was just to get it done.  So I made it a point to spend at least some quality time with my kids on a daily basis. That time was sometimes spent playing a few rounds of go-fish, or talking to them while I was cooking dinner (yes, I’m a dad who loves cooking for his kids), or sitting with them on the couch with my arms around their shoulders asking them about their day.

Was it ideal? Far from it. But I realized that if I waited for the “ideal” I would rarely (if ever) get to spend any time with my kids!  At least now, I got to spend some real quality time with them, talking to them about their needs and their dreams, and really giving them my attention.   If during the time we spent together I was able to make even the tiniest bit of difference, the impact this would have over the course of their lives would be far from average!

So now, whenever I find myself putting off something I want to do or postponing it until the stars and planets align and everything is perfect, I apply Michael’s tip and get right to it.  I’m finding that as a result of that I am able to accomplish more, and get more satisfaction out of my accomplishments.  My wife and I have also made it a point to convey this attitude to our kids.  They know that we are effort-oriented rather than results-oriented, and that we don’t expect straight A’s in their report cards.  We’re making it a point to take the pressure of perfection off of their shoulders and encourage them to just give things their best shot.   We’re reminding them constantly that if they’re not pleased with the results, they can always try again. But at this point it becomes a choice rather than an expectation, and this allows our creativity and our energy to flow freely and shine.

Remember the fable of the (average) tortoise and the (overachieving) hare, and the moral of the story?   “Slow and steady wins the race!” It really is true!

What do you think of this “going for an average day” tip?  Drop me a line in the comment box below,

I’d love to hear from you!

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