The case for imperfection

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.
Henry van Dyke

I have been accused of being a perfectionist.   It always makes me bristle.  “Ridiculous!”  I shout.  And, as proof,  I argue that my work isn’t perfect.  Turns out,  That is a classic symptom.  So is my tendency to take waaaay too long to do just about everything,  typically a result of redoing or overthinking or restarting or, worse yet,  not starting.  All in all, strong evidence of a perfectionist – or at very least, perfectionist tendencies.

It is not like I don’t know I’m doing it.  I am aware that that I am taking too long and tell myself to consider it done and move on to the next thing.  And I do to – you know, right after just one last adjustment.  It is time to get that under control.

I need to let it go so I can accomplish more in less time.   And finish more.  Take for example past efforts to keep a journal – or blog for that matter  – to track progress.  Inevitably I miss a day and then feel compelled to ‘catch up’  before moving forward, which obviously somewhat defeats the purpose.

What was my point – oh yeah, not a perfectionist.

Perhaps I could stretch the truth just a little and claim to be a ‘recovering perfectionist’ (read that somewhere at it appeals to me).  I’ve made some progress but not nearly enough.  It is time to again take up the charge and embrace imperfection.

Perfection stifles creativity AND productivity.

Aim for progress, not perfection and just get started

 

 

 

 

Aim for progress.
Aim for excellence.
Be realistic- about time, expectations, and resources.
Don’t wait for the perfect time.
Start today.  TAKE ACTION NOW!!

If you have stories to tell, don’t let perfection be an excuse for getting started. Don’t worry that you have all the details exactly right.  Do not stress over finding the perfect font, the ideal picture the best quote.

Even the biggest failure beats the hell out of not tryingGet it started.  You can always refine or revise – to a point of course.

Progress, not perfection!

 

 

 

Where are you on the perfectionist scale?   Are you a perfectionist and proud of it? A sometimes or situational perfectionist? A denying or recovering perfectionist? Or perhaps you are the polar opposite of a perfectionist – would that be an unperfectionist – or maybe anti-perfectionist?

Share strategies you use to make sure that perfectionism doesn’t become procrastination.

Recording Oral Histories

Capturing stories before they disappear

I have been working on designing a variety of memory quilts.  One that I want to do is a tribute to my Mom and Dad.  Whenever I work on that, I am grateful for the time that I spent with them talking about family pictures and stories but I always wish that I had recorded more of their stories  more formally.  And definitely with some vocal recordings.

Recording history

Do your parents have a box of old photographs with no identifying features?  Does your favorite aunt keep trying to give you memorabilia from her days as a roving reporter?  Does your grandfather regale you with stories and offer you tokens of his adventures?
 
You might value the collections and want to restore them for display and sharing.  Or it might be that you want to learn the stories behind accumulated stuff that has come into your possession.  Or maybe you don’t even want all the treasures but  you  want to be sure that their tales are not lost.  Whatever the reason, now is the time to record some of those details.
  • Sit down with your Mom and Dad and have them tell you about the people, places and events in those old images.
  • Interview your aunt about her days on the beat and have her tell you about the people she met and the meaning of all that memorabilia.
  • Listen to your grandfather retell his stories and hear them with new attention – ask questions, make note and seek details.
Taking the time to do this will ensure that history is not lost.  Start now.  Make a date to connect.  Don’t wait and later regret not asking the questions.
 
It is not really that long ago that the source of much of our family histories were from the oral tradition and reminiscences of people who lived it.  Maintain that tradition and speak to older family members to learn about your family history.

8 Tips for conducting an oral interview

  1. Ask permission to take notes or record the discussion.
  2. Have a list of questions to start the conversation but don’t be too tied to a specific list or order. Be able to change course according to the whims of the speaker.  Ask follow-up questions and be flexible.
  3. Start with brief, biographical questions for context and to help your subject relax.
  4. Use open ended questions that invite a detailed response rather than a yes / no answer.
  5. Give the person time to think and answer.  Be prepared to wait and learn to be comfortable with silence.
  6. Be an active listener and check understanding of words, phrases and references.
  7. Rather than one long marathon session, plan on multiple smaller ones.
  8. Make notes shortly after the conversation while it is fresh in your mind.

Most people welcome the opportunity to share their stories. For you, it can be gift, a chance to spend some time connecting with family and friends.  I remember a few sessions when I encouraged my parents to label pictures and they brought out one of the boxes then went back and forth with stories while I noted details on the backs of the photos they described. Those were fun evenings with lots of laughter. I feel lucky to have shared that time with them and only wish we had done it more often.    Now they have gone and there is still so much I wished that I had asked.

 Time to connect and gather the stories is never wasted. So, you might want to decline the generous offer of a stuffed swordfish but don’t miss the chance to hear its meaning.  Invite Gramps to pose with his trophy fish and tell you again about the day he caught it – and how it fought the good fight.  You’ll be glad that you did!
 

Wednesday wonder

Not much narrative today.  Just a few images from Fisherman’s Cove, a small village on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore.

2015-05-06

 

Dramatic sky…

 

 

2015-05-06-sky2015-05-06_cat

 

 

 

…Lovely colours…

 

 

… and a sweet little feral cat under the dock.

KTS – A Two Part Challenge

I’ve broken my Keep The Stories project to a two part challenge. The first step is to capture the moments so you can tackle the second part and reduce the “stuff”.  It’s a simple idea but not always as simple in practice.

Part 1: Capture the Moments

Find ways to capture the stories of your life – from the everyday routine to the once-in-a-lifetime moments. Express your stories in ways that work for you. Use the same approach or mix it up as the mood strikes you. Use one style or many, in sequence or in combination.   Keep your creation private or share it with the world in print or online.

  • Shoot a photograph
  • Scrapbook (digital or traditional)
  • Write a song, a poem, an essay – or a blog post
  • Make an audio recording or a short movie
  • Stitch a quilt
  • Paint a picture
  • Incorporate the object into a unique piece of art

How will you capture your moments?

Part 2: Reduce the Stuff

Once you have captured the story, it is time to let go of the stuff.  Having a ritual might help.  In my case, I’ve decided to tell the next chapter and include what happens next to finish the story.  I’ve created a worksheet for telling the stories and have a section for the next step for each item. So far I’ve   identified donate, reuse, recycle/freecycle (http://www.freecycle.org/ to find a location near you), trash (sometimes it is the best or only option but I use this as my last resort).

I am accepting that it isn’t necessary to keep the things we associate with memories and finally getting rid of the stuff, though there is a still a way to go.

Take the challenge to keep the stories and lose the stuff.  Reduce the clutter, reorganize and change the way you think about the things. Recycle, repurpose or donate.

Do you have rituals that help you let things go?  Share in the comments.

Rewriting your story.

As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back….

That is how Marc Chernoff starts his powerful article on 30 Things to Stop Doing To Yourself.  Marc and his partner, Angel Chernoff,  started their popular personal development  Life Hack blog in 2006 and now have more than 130,000 subscribers.

Everyone has days when they want to shake things up and make a new ending.  Sometimes it is hard to find the strength or the direction.  If you are looking for a great resource, pop over and visit Marc and Angel’s extensive library of articles for inspiration and motivation.  You are sure to find something to help you rewrite your own story.

 

Long time listener…

…first time caller.

I heard this on a radio call-in show when I was driving this afternoon.  I don’t often listen to call-in shows but it seems whenever I catch one, at least one person makes this comment to begin their conversation.  Today it occurred to me that is a bit of a rallying call for action – a decision to do something more involved.

Almost two years ago (is it really that long already??), I  decided to cut way back on my time on line.  I was spending much of my working day on the computer for my job at a not-for-profit, and more hours weekly for client work on a small home business.  To find some balance, I wanted to spend more of my own time on other projects so I stepped away from some forums, shut down my blog (no loss as I hadn’t really built much of a following) and drastically reduced my other social media time.  It was not a difficult transition but life changed, as it continues to do.  My work responsibilities evolved and I had less computer time so I renewed some of my online contacts.

I started Keep the Stories to promote an idea that I had had in the back of my mind for some time.  It related to my business and some personal challenges to organize and reduce.  I started with enthusiasm, a growing list of ideas – and the best of intentions.   I did the first few posts and was getting a rhythm, building to more frequent posts but then lost any momentum while I was waiting.

Waiting to resolve some technical issues… waiting for the ‘perfect’ idea …waiting for the right picture for the header… waiting for enough time to write extra posts to catch up on missed days …waiting for the brilliant idea to launch with a bang … waiting for things that were not going to happen.

It is time to stop waiting – time to stop just listening and make that first call.  Time to start with one post and then the next one.  To write when the mood strikes and not wait for some big inspiration.  To tackle the technical issues – or not – as they come and do what can be done.  AND to not worry about gaps in the posts but to plan to write with some regularity and consistency.

It’s a perfect day to start

Long time reader, first time poster?   Well, not exactly first time but first this time.  As the Chinese proverb says “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The next best time, is today.”

Fall is here, leaves are changing.  It is a perfect time of year for new beginnings.

Are you ready to make that first call?    Perhaps it will be to literally make a call but maybe your call to action will be to write a letter, take a trip, clean a closet, end a bad relationship, look up an old friend….   How will you take action today?

Write a new story

On my last post Preparing to ‘let it go’, I wrote about approaches to get a realistic assessment of a situation in preparation to let go of lasting regrets or self-recriminations.

Easier said than done

If I express regrets, friends often advise me to ‘just let it go’ or ‘move on’.  Unfortunately, I have  that suggestion rarely, if ever, is accompanied by any strategies for doing that.  Those of us with the tendency to hang on know that ‘just letting go’ is easier said than done. It isn’t like you can hit the delete button or even more simply, just stop thinking about it. I wish that I could easily do that. Believe me, I have tried! But my success rate is, at best, mixed and usually short lived.

I have tried asking people what they do, how they ‘just let it go’.  The usual response is “I don’t know, I just do”.  Not really too helpful as a learning tip.  My husband, who, at least on the surface, is able to put things behind him, expressed some confusion at the question.  When I asked him how he moved on from something, he replied with “I don’t understand how you can’t.” He did have interesting observation though.  He said the difference between the two of us is that I still think that I can fix it while he feels that it is past and finished. Hmmm. Actually makes sense, though might not get me closer to a strategy.  I do hate it when he makes me think like that.

I did get some more direct responses to asking people what they do. One friend told me, she repeats this little mantra to herself: “quack quack – like water off a duck’s back” to help gain perspective.  It might sound to simple but that is the beauty of it. It doesn’t have to be a complex solution, just something that reminds you of the goal to let go of the negativity and prepare to move forward with more positive energy.

Rewrite your story

I have used some of the information that I gathered to create my own simple 3 Step Strategy:

STEP 1: Describe the event. Be realistic.

Be realistic and objective about the event / issue / comment.  Give it a name. Get more detailed steps in Preparing to let it go.

STEP 2: Replace regrets with positive action.

Can you ‘fix’ it? Should you try? Is there something that can or should be said or done now?  Would it be possible to clean up or backtrack?

This is not the time to do something that will stir up old anxieties, regrets or rivalries so before you say anything, ask yourself is it true? is it kind?  is it helpful? If you answer no to any of these questions, do yourself a favor and make it part of what you are letting go.

If you believe you can still do something positive, do it.  Don’t hesitate.  Take action now. Pick up the phone, write a letter, send a text  or extend a hand. Make the first move. You’ll feel better for taking action, especially if it has the potential to make a difference.  Even if you are not successful at driving change, you can tell yourself that you did what you could and accept it as done.

If there is nothing that can change the source of regret, learn from it. What will you do differently the next time or with the next person? How can you share with others and help them avoid the same mistake?

Replace regrets and self-doubt with something more positive. How can you break the pattern? Try to move from regret to learning, from a holding patter to action, and from recrimination to forgiveness  -of yourself AND others.

STEP 3: Create a ritual.

Give yourself a signal that it is time to let go. Don’t worry if it seems silly or too simple or a waste of time. It is just for you and if it makes you relax, forget or laugh, all the better. Here are a few ideas.

  • Write it down using the name you gave it in Step 1. Tear or shred and recycle it, throw it to the wind or burn it.
  • Write your story in a journal – and literally close the book on it.
  • Write it on sand and let it go as the waves wash it away.
  • Talk or shout it away.  Tell your persistent issues that you are through thinking about them and are moving on.   You might want to do that on your own where nobody will hear you or you might decide to share it with friends. Maybe share a meal or a few drinks and make it an event.  Needless to say, don’t make a public showing if it is later going to cause you regrets.

Today I close the door to the past,
Open the door to the future, 
Take a deep breath
Step on through
And start a new chapter in my life.

Author Unknown

Those are my three steps. The process is still evolving so let me know how it works for you. And please feel free to share any suggestions for modifications.

Good luck.  And here’s to fresh starts and new stories.

Keep the stories – Lose the stuff!

I’m a collector. Some might say pack-rat is more accurate but, to be clear,  I don’t keep everything indiscriminately; I am big on recycling, reusing and donating. My problem is that I keep too much because I struggle to part with things that were gifts or that are associated with a trip, event or occasion.

For years, I have most often captured memories pictures and memorabilia. I am able to evoke many wonderful experiences – and some not-so-wonderful ones – by looking through these collected photos and artifacts. This can be nostalgic, even comforting. But there is a huge downside to this approach in that it tends to make it hard to let go of things because they evoke memories of people, places and activities that have been important.

In the past, I would start with the best of intentions to par down the various flotsam and jetsam accumulated through my life, an effort that more often than not ended with me traveling on a trip down memory lane perhaps making, at best, a small reduction in the amount of stuff.  Sometimes I convince myself that I might use /display / repair / re-purpose some particular item but usually it just went back in the box.  Which inevitably meant that I still needed to keep the box, even when I reduced the number of items it contained. I was eager to get more space and clear the clutter but struggled with letting go.

Recently, it hit me.  It is so simple! I don’t know why I didn’t realize this years ago.  In fact, I did realize that but didn’t take action on the connection.  What I am really collecting is stories.  I don’t need the stuff to keep the stories.  Instead, I need to make sure that I record the stories so I can release the associated things, hopefully to a new life out of storage and to use as intended.

And from that  realization, the origins of my Keep the Stories project.

Welcome to [the new] Keep The Stories

WELCOME

Welcome to my new – or more accurately new again – blog where I plan to challenge you to keep and share your stories while simplifying life by reducing the amount of stuff.

I originally started this blog a few years ago and was generating content regularly for almost two years when other projects took priority and this was put on the back burner. I continued to integrate the core ideas of Keep the Stories with other projects, always with the thought of turning this idea into a more vibrant entity. A couple of months ago, I decided that it was time to build on this foundation and get back to this idea that has continued to be a passion.

It is time to take action.

 

 

To begin, I have cleared the previous content.   Some of the posts are no longer relevant to my goals for this site.   Others will be archived or used in a different context.  Still others will be revisited, revived and republished with new content.

I’m looking forward to new adventures and learning and I hope you will join me on the journey.