Tag Archives: perfection

25

img1320

The Serenity Prayer is For Everyone

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” –A version of the Serenity Prayer

I’m not religious, nor am I in AA, but I find this quote very valuable in my life.

Serenity

Before I discovered this quote, I thought I could do everything, and that I should do everything. I thought that I could make the world a better place if I solve everyone’s problems for them and give them advice before they had to ask. I thought that if I could dissect past incidents of rejections, failures, and embarrassment enough times and replay them in my head in different ways, I could suddenly find a nugget of validation that would turn the story around in my favor and vindicate me. I thought that if I was more skilled, more hard-working, with the proper tools and correct time estimates, I could always complete everything perfectly and on time.

But over time, I realized many things:

  • Because I know how to solve my problems better than other people do, other people would likewise know how to solve their problems better than I do. Therefore, it would be intrusive to get in other people’s business without them asking.
  • Until a time machine is invented, the past is permanent; whatever happened happened. I can either dwell on it and feel helpless, or learn from it and do better next time. And experience proves that doing the latter is more productive and more healthy.
  • Since 1) some things in life matter more to me than others, 2) some things require a higher standard of quality than others, and 3) the amount of time that I have left in life is less than the time it takes to do these things at the same high standard of quality, logic and math would prove that I simply cannot do it all. Therefore, I must choose and prioritize by what is important to me and what needs to be done well. Everything else, I will only give enough attention to get the job done to keep things going.

In addition to other people, the past, and limitations of everyday circumstances, I also realized that I cannot change biology and genetics, the weather (short term), laws of physics, time, and death.

Courage

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, the combination of becoming more independent as a young adult and soaking up all the empowering messages from successful people like Oprah led me to take more control of my life. From my mind to my body, I examined every part of my life that I could improve so I could increase my chances for success: my attitude (always try to find the positive in situations), my emotions (identity the root causes of my feelings and neutralize them if they’re hindering me or recreate them if they’re helping me), my health (eliminate as much processed foods as possible, isolate foods that upset my body, and make time for exercise), and my actions (be aware that I, and only I, always have the power to decide what I do next). In just a few years, all of these realizations physically and psychologically transformed my life.

I used to be very rigid and stubborn, but since it dawned on me that the only thing I can change and have control over is myself, I actually became more flexible and forgiving when responding to any external force in the universe, including and especially other people.

Wisdom

At the same time, I admit that there still remain parts of the stubbornness (or “determination” depending on how you want to put it) that makes me me. I’m still figuring out where to draw the line between things that I can and cannot change. My exercise routine, for example, has evolved over the years as I learned more about the science and techniques on fitness. But even with the best routine, how likely will I reach my goals? Are my goals aligned to what I’m physiologically capable of? Are their limitations to my body type and genetics that make it more difficult?

Also, I am aware that I cannot change time, but I still have the tendency to underestimate how much of it I need to get things done. I often have a backlog of things I wanted to complete, if only I had enough time. But whenever I do have a chunk of time to myself, I often procrastinate and put it off, especially if the tasks seem difficult. What sort of mental and behavioral changes do I need to make so I can feel like I am doing everything I’m supposed to without feeling behind? Should I improve my working habits to minimize procrastination? Should I make peace with the fact that many of my backlog items will forever stay in the backlog, and that I should drop them?

Finally, I still want to make an impact in the world by changing everyone’s lives for the better, but I want to avoid intruding into other people’s business. When I see someone having a difficult time, regardless that they’re a friend or stranger, I quickly think of ways to help them, or at least how I would like to be helped in that situation. But who am I to judge someone’s state of being or their story based on the few seconds that I’ve witnessed, even if it’s someone I know? I know there is a right time and a wrong time to offer help, but I’d like to be better at knowing when exactly that is. It depends on the person, as well; some people readily welcome help, while others are more sensitive to being perceived as weak or would prefer to figure things out on their own.

I suppose I could initiate a dialogue and begin a relationship with the person, get a better understanding of their situation, and then offer help as necessary. That is probably where I need to improve my interpersonal communication skills. Maybe then would I know how to tell the difference between people learning to be self-sufficient and people needing help.

See

6, 7, 8, 9, 17, 18, 21, 22, 24, 26.

17

img360

Perfection is Only a Guide.

In my senior year of high school, I was voted Perfectionist. I was sort of proud of being one, as annoying as it was for everyone around me. I fondly remember that every year all my textbooks were wrapped in the same way with brown paper grocery bags, marked and labeled in a consistent, branding-like format, which also applied to my matching binders. I had a vision for how certain things should be, and I did everything I can, even at the expense of my time and energy and my friends’ patience to achieve it.

Since then, through countless trials and errors in life, and partial successes and failures, I’ve come to realize that perfection is rarely needed in most tasks in life, and it usually has a low return on investment, offsetting any happiness I’d gain because of how much more work it needs. Therefore, I’ve accepted many realities of life and have become more laid back about a lot of things, especially when they are out of my control. It also took away some of the stress I had been carrying constantly.

The drive is still there; my vision is still there. This is undoubtedly true at work, where my eye for visual and experiential detail as a UI and UX designer is sharper than ever. And because I work in very fast-paced situations, I have also learned to better discern which less-than-perfect detail should be fixed and which are “shippable” due to time and/or resources. It’s a compromise, but it still reaches the highest possible level of quality based on the given circumstances, and that’s how I approach what I do these days. Perfection is a fantasy, but “really really really good” is still achievable. As long as I shoot for the moon, I will still be among the stars, as they say.

So for things that I can control, I still want the best that I can get. I still have visions to make my home look like they do in home decor magazines and catalogs. I still have a vision of being in the best physical health that I can possibly get. I still have a vision of being the best human being that I can be to my world and to the world. I want to live my best life.

See

1, 3, 16, 25.

16

img_195_b

I Do What I Need to Sleep at Night

The Origin

A few years ago, I attended a Financial Planning Day event to learn how to manage my money. Despite hearing advice for many years to start saving for retirement early, I had been putting it off because it all felt very complicated. But as I headed deep into the second half of my twenties, I knew I knew I had to start getting my finances in order.

One of the financial planning concepts repeated many times at the event was to invest retirement fund in a combination of stocks and bonds, and that young people should be more aggressive and invest more in stocks than bonds, because stocks can grow more than bonds, though they are more risky. Being young risk-averse, how aggressive and at what percentage of stocks should I invest? The answer, also repeated many times at the event, was, “Whatever you need to sleep at night.”

That advice unleashed the power and motivation for me to actively take charge of my finances. Eventually, it spread to the other areas of my life, because after all, from a day-to-day perspective, that’s what really matters: What will it take to give me a peace of mind every day, to reach the lowest level of continuous stress and worries, allowing me to spend my time being happy and enjoying things that I like?

Making Up for Past Mistakes

To start, I forgot to add something to the photo in a previous Thing, so to satisfy my need to complete what I started, I had to create a way to make that up. It’s less than ideal (which would be to do it right the first time), but I’m accepting the facts and doing what I can to make it work. This has little effect on my sleep, but I do think about it often enough while I’m awake.

Inbox Zero

As I strong advocate for GTD, I try to write actionable thoughts down as soon as I have them so I can free up my memory for other, potentially more important thoughts. There’s more achieving a free-mind than writing things down, but it gets me more than half way there. Therefore, knowing I am on top of my life helps me sleep at night.

Taking Care of Myself

Instead of waiting longer for my recent (and still happening now) toothache to go away, and knowing how excruciating toothaches could get, I called my dentist the second day of the toothache and saw him the next day. Knowing it was just a minor issue that will go away in a few days helped me sleep at night. Ice packs and painkillers helped with the rest.

Click for full size

anot16-150113

See

2, 9, 17, 25.

Was Math Discovered or Invented?

I just listened to a podcast episode of the Design Matters with Debbie Millman, with guest Natalia Ilyin. This was a particularly interesting episode for me because of the amount of philosophical questions posed, like the time when Jonah Lehrer of Proust Was a Neuroscientist was the guest.

Mathematics

One of the topics they talked about in the beginning was whether humans discovered mathematics, or did they invent it? While there are arguments for both sides and the discussion would go on forever, they pointed out that humans point out relationships of things (such as seeing one planet next to another planet means that there are two planets, hence mathematics! But if you don’t see the relationships of those objects, no math occurs).

Symbols and Answers

Before they started talking about the mathematics topic, Debbie and Natalia discussed the theory that that are two types of people in the world, the kind that asks for meaning in everything in life through symbols and things, and the kind that are, I guess, more objective and follows a specific path and looks for the correct answer and that’s it.

This to me is sort of a left brain, right brain question, and it got me thinking, where do I fit? For a good chunk of my life, I’ve been dedicated to finding the right answer, because math, a favorite subject of mine, typically has one right answer. But at the same time, I’ve been told by some and have realized myself that I often have so many ideas in my head, and that’s where the creativity portion and the practice of graphic design come in.

So I often see myself as being in the middle: I enjoy the creative arts and graphic design, because of the enormous range of possibilities and opportunities, but I also get excited about math and programming, as I am comforted by the fact that following a particular set of direction gets me a particular answer or outcome.

So in situations where I am undecided, which happens often, I reach for the middle ground and ask, “Can’t I be both?” This is why I’m getting comfortable with where I stand right now: sort of one foot in the graphic arts, and the other in web programming. I’d love to do both at the same time, so let’s see how that works out.

Perfection=Completeness

Another topic that came up during the interview was the idea of perfection. Natalia believed that perfection is about completeness, and design is really good for people with OCD, because designers usually follow a grid created by modernists a hundred years ago dreaming of creating Utopian societies and no one has since figured out a better way to teach design. I just can’t help but agree and put myself within that group.

There are many other topics that they’ve covered that I do not have time to cover here, such as what “home” really means, and how semiotics affect us. So if you’re a neurotic, and/or math-loving, and/or philosophical type like me, this podcast is worth checking out. The Design Matters podcast is available on iTunes.

Flush.

Punished with the Persistent Pusuit of Perfection

I thought of this last night while falling asleep after an all-nighter from my freelance gig: My life is pretty much a punishment of the persistent pursuit of perfection. I’m not necessarily unhappy with that, but there are times when I wish I weren’t being punished. Haha.

(I only mentioned this for the alliteration.)

Flush.