On Not Being Perfect



The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.                                    ~Anna Quindlen

Being PerfectThe notion that we grow the most—personally, professionally, and spiritually—when we step outside our comfort zone has been central to my life and central to what I have chosen to write about over the last decade.

Quindlen’s message is that much of the heavy lifting in the matter of personal growth comes through the often exhausting, sometimes frightening effort, step by small step, to find a new approach to getting through the day. It requires a conscious effort to step outside our psychological comfort zone as well as our external or environmental one.

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To read more,  check out my blog on Becoming Yourself, a guest post of Gwen Plano’s lovely website “From Sorrow to Joy — Perfect Love.”


Neophilia: Love of the New


NeophiliaI learned a lovely new word—neophilia—over the Christmas holidays.  Based on my youthful exposure to foreign languages, I knew immediately it was a word I could find a use for.  Neo is the Latin for “new.”  Philia is the Greek for love, particularly love relating to ideas or activities.

There you have it: love of new things.  My handy Merriam Webster dictionary confirmed my off-the-cuff translation. Neophilia is the “love of or enthusiasm for what is new or novel.”

The word neophilia allows me to put a positive spin on an aspect of my personality that has been problematic for years. For most of my adult life, I’ve been relatively comfortable living in a world of uncertainty. Uncertainty about the weather. Uncertainty as to where my next consulting job would come from. Uncertainty about the nature of God or the existence of an afterlife. Many of my friends think of me as a risk-taker.

Having spent most of my career in finance, my concept of risk came from the study of statistics. Risk, from that perspective, is the likelihood that the outcome of an investment decision will differ from your expectations. That difference can be positive or negative, a gain as well as a loss. As a risk-taker, I could have a bad experience. But I might also have a good one.

In the everyday world, however, risk-taking is almost always viewed as bad or unpleasant. Recognizing this bias, I tend to describe myself as judicious or thoughtful, as someone who takes “reasonable” risks where even a negative outcome has some compensating benefits. 

Invariably, people shake their heads, unpersuaded that being judicious, thoughtful, or reasonable is sufficient to make risk-taking appealing.  But over the years, I’ve found that a lot of those head-shakers share some or all of the characteristics that qualify me a risk-taker.

  • I’m relatively adaptable in the face of change, whether imposed by people or by Mother Nature. (I admit I do get grumpy when I think decisions have been made carelessly or without thought.) 
  • I enjoy the challenge that comes with new customs and alternative approaches to getting through a day. It is why I was so willing to give up my career and set sail around the world on a small boat at age 40. It is why I was thrilled to be a caregiver on a trek in high Himalayas at age 69. Neither expedition was a complete success in conventional terms, but both were life-affirming journeys from which I am still reaping the rewards.   
  • I abhor tasks that are repetitive or routine. I will do almost anything once, most things twice, a few things three times, and after that, I start looking for something new to do.  This is why I loved being a consultant. Each client company was unique, and I spent most of my time on the job learning about a new culture, a new array of products, a new set of goals and strategies, and of course, a new stable of personalities. Most days I went to bed knowing more than I knew when I got up that morning. And once I’d learned enough to complete the assignment, I was on to a new client. I never got bored.

How do you deal with uncertainty? Do you love learning and want to continue to grow intellectually and emotionally?  If so, welcome to the world of neophilia.

This blog continues the series of discussions on key themes from my upcoming novel, A Fitting Place. If you’d like to join the discussion, please contact me here.