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"If you're going to do something, then do it right."

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"If you're going to do something, then do it right."

I remember hearing that a lot when I was growing up. There was a correct way to do everything - mash potatoes, make a bed, trim the garden bed - you name it. My parents were both undiagnosed OCD, and order and organization were de rigueur. I didn't think it was odd because I knew nothing else. Didn't everyone have a lacquered basement floor which was clean enough to eat off?

Because my room was often a war zone, I always figured that I was polar opposite of my parents. Granted, some bizarre organizational ability allowed me to reach into the middle of "a pile" and find exactly what I sought, but I definitely couldn't identify with being a neatnik. Even so, the same "messy" person could not begin her piano practice until all the music was perfectly lined up with no offending pages sticking out, and still spends an inordinate amount of time organizing her backpack items into color-coded storage cubes which are always put into the exact same spot in the backpack. Given my druthers, I actually would rather live in perfect order. When my house was on the market a few years ago, I dearly loved that fact that it resembled a designer showcase by 9 AM each day, while my husband and sons found it inconvenient and unnatural.

In my later years, I've realized that this dichotomy is actually not unusual or unrelated. I would prefer to have perfect order and organization, but it doesn't usually fit into my lifestyle. So, what happens? When I look at a simple task such as organizing some papers that ended up on the kitchen counter top, it's like a domino effect in my mind: It begins in every other room in which those papers might go, which must be cleaned from top to bottom and organized, so that the counter top items can be put in their proper place. I don't have time for that!!! So as a result, I'm often "all or nothing" in that regard. I am overwhelmed by the thought of doing it "right" and decide to put it off until later. And thus I come back to the title of my blog.

I went to a seminar on Time Management a few years ago. In the first few minutes, the instructor brought up the phrase in my blog title. He asked if we were told that growing up, and most of us nodded. He said that it was DEAD WRONG. He suggested that instead we should substitute the following: "If you're going to do something, then do it." Leaving off the "right" alluded to the fact that it's better to get something done than to leave undone just because you can't do it "right" or perfectly. One would hope that this epiphany would have changed my life, but old habits die hard.

You probably think this blog relates to the idea of being less than perfect with nutrition and fitness. Accepting the idea that 10 minutes of daily fitness creates routine that is more successful than goals of 60 minutes per day that die in a month. Or that I refer to the idea that you can recover from a less-than-perfect day of nutrition without destroying your weight loss goals or feeling the need to binge. Nope. I have actually embraced those concepts really well through practice, over the course of my Spark life. So although they relate precisely to this blog concept too, my blog is about a different challenge I face.

I realized that I've been falling victim to this "all or nothing" mentality with the simple act of Sparking. I spent thirteen months with a targeted focus on my preferred Spark activities, in support of my weight loss, fitness program, and then maintenance. I hesitate to use the word "obsessive," but would be less than honest if I admitted otherwise. In my THETURTLEBEAR world, I had to read EVERY friend's blog, comment on most, read every friend's status, "like" if appropriate, etc. etc. If on a challenge team, I felt that I needed to be on top of every challenge or expected daily posting, or else I wasn't doing it "right." So what happened when I took a break from doing those things in mid-February while I went to take care of my mom for ten days? Well, I got overwhelmed with the idea of what I needed to do to catch up with my Sparking once back home. I felt the only "right" way for me to Spark was exactly as I had in the past. But I couldn't. So I mostly didn't Spark at all. I turned off everything except blogs in my Friend Feed, and then I even stopped reading blogs. I missed many days of nutrition and fitness tracking. I didn't remember to spin the wheel every day. None of this stuff is a big deal, except I let it build up in my head. I was doing the all or nothing thing again and it was filling me with anxiety.

Last week, after about six weeks of being a drive-by Sparker (or less), I vowed to at least come on the site each day. I started to read some blogs and send goodies. After a few days, I turned on status and fitness minutes in my Friend Feed. Knowing I wouldn't really be back to being "me" without some self-analysis via blogging, I wrote a blog about winning the lottery that had popped into my head on a walk a while back. But a week into the process, I still was not perfect. Over the weekend, I missed reading some blogs and statuses, and didn't comment on all I read. I started to feel that same anxiety building up again, wondering when...or if...I'd be able to go back and "catch up," i.e. make things perfect. And then I shouted, "STOP!" to myself.

It is OKAY if I can't always Spark "right" by THETURTLEBEAR standards. In fact, I probably need to revise the standards. It's better to participate at a level that is appropriate for the moment - a level that will be in flux - than expect that I can put Sparking at the same level of priority every single day. If my Spark program participation is not sustainable, then it's not realistic. I think this is another aspect of the learning curve of being in maintenance.

If I'm going to do something, then I need to just do it, including Sparking. My Spark friends don't hold me up to the standards I expect of myself. I certainly don't hold my Spark friends up to those standards. So why create unrealistic expectations for myself? Well, NO reason, as a matter of fact!

Okay...I am done with today's self-analysis. Did I ever mention how many blogs I write to myself and then erase without posting? Those help too!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    This is great! Slow and steady is the way to go. I know you posted a long time ago, so I hope you're still going strong...
    1675 days ago
    Hi! I know that you wrote this blog awhile ago, but I wanted to let you know how important it is to me to have read it. I have been in a slump for a really long time now. I completely relate to your all or nothing mentality in every aspect of my life. I struggle with not just my weight, but sometimes even the most basic of every day duties. I'm not sure why, but something in your blog resounded with me and even though I can't explain it, I suddenly feel a million times better. Thank you for sharing this and shedding a little light in my day.
    1929 days ago
    We have many similar issues!!

    We're not alone!!

    Wonderful blog!

    It's Just Right!!!!!

    2002 days ago
    emoticon emoticon
    2035 days ago
    2137 days ago
    Oh my goodness! this is sooooo me! I'm in the midst of moving right now and having a terrible time with myself and trying to do it all or feel guilty. I'm trying to just make sure that I do my workout in the a.m. and record my food, but when I miss something I beat myself up over it!

    I'll try harder this week to let the obsessing go and just make sure that I eat healthy and exercise each day even if it doesn't match my plan exactly!
    2161 days ago
    Wow this really hit home. I have been in the all or nothing mentality and the e-mails have been stock piling and I have bitten off more than I can chew and now I just feel overwhelmed but I can't delete them all because what if there is something important. One thing I did do...I made a decision to not look at stuff posted before I joined a team. I will get back on track but I won't set my expectations so high. Thanks for the words of encouragement.
    2181 days ago
  • MARTY32M
    I just "just did" something and I did it wrong, so I had to do it over. I "just did" it over and I did it wrong again. There isn't a simple choice between "doing it right" and "just doing it." The middle choice is "do it now and don't mess it up."

    I won't say what I did wrong, but think about diet and exercise. You want to lose weight, you "just go" on a diet, and you mess it up. Most "diet plans" are not sustainable. Should you put off dieting until you find the perfect diet? No. Should you start and stick with the first diet you find? No. Just start a diet and then make sure it's the right diet for you.

    Exercise? same thing. There are exercise plans that are wrong for you, but waiting until you find the perfect exercise plan is a recipe for never exercising.

    Marriage ... just do it? Of course not! Wait for the perfect partner, and die single? Marry the first person who strikes your fancy, and regret it for the rest of your life? Ask one question: is this someone I would want to live with for the rest of my life ... and once you have found him or her, never let him or her go.
    2191 days ago
  • SALLEN111
    It's so strange to stumble upon posts at just the right time.

    I am going through a bit of this "obsessive" Sparking, and I really appreciate you discussing it as you did. I guess we all have to "do" what we can.

    2202 days ago
    If I love it ...I do it
    If I dont....well
    2204 days ago
    Wow! I was just going through my 684 unread SparkPeople emails and came upon this. You have just inspired me to start over, rather than try to catch up! There are so many great inspiring stories I've missed, but this is the one I needed today. Today is the 1st day of the rest of my Spark life. Thank you.
    2204 days ago
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts
    Gained a lot from your blog
    Am glad have not achieved the "Perfect" and never will
    One day at a time
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2208 days ago
    emoticon I needed to read this today as I can totally relate. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am finding this out also. There is hope for all of us!! Thank you!!!
    2208 days ago
    What a message! My Dad always used this phrase. I now see the results - procrastination! My new phrase - Anything worth doing is worth doing well enough. Cleaning doesn't have to be sterilizing. Exercising can be all those steps I do when working on the laundry.

    Best of all - you posted on my birthday! What a gift!
    Blessings to you and yours.
    2210 days ago
    This came at just the right time for me, as I was "behind" in my Spark "duties" and not catching up to my liking. Had stopped pretty much everything but reading e-mails here and there. Thank you.
    2213 days ago
    Thanks for posting and sharing. You are an inspiration. emoticon
    2215 days ago
    And here I thought I was the only one . . . .

    2215 days ago
    I loved your blog. That is so me. I am going to put your words on my bathroom wall
    "It's better to participate at a level that is appropriate for the moment - a level that will be in flux."
    Words to live by. Thank you!
    2215 days ago
    Thanks for the blog. I used to do this until I "aged" a little and tend to be forgetful. SO I forget to do things and when I realize this or someone tells me, I don't attach as much importance to it that I used to. No one is perfect, not me. I sometimes still do get uptight about stuff but not nearly as much.
    2215 days ago
  • E7SARA
    You are not alone! I often get so overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done, that nothing gets done. I've managed to make some progress with my gardening. When I get one area the way I want it, I work on maintaining that area and reclaiming a little more each time I'm puttering. Inside is another matter. There's so much stuff that even when I get rid of a "huge" pile, it doesn't seem to make a dent. In my head I know I'm making some progress, but staying motivated is a full time job. Thanks for reminding me that I'm not the only one fighting her way through and that success does not mean perfect!!
    2216 days ago
  • JOANNA202
    I'm soooo with you on this one! I definitely let myself get stressed after a break from Spark because I have 'so much to catch up on' that it feels overwhelming. We definitely have to remember why we started this in the first place, because being consistent on a community was not anyone's number 1 goal at the start. My main problem with being more relaxed is that I really do want to know what everyone is up to - those that give amazing support, I want to give back and not just search them out in the bad times. But you're right that we all have higher standards for ourselves than others do.

    Maybe spark needs a button/status that says 'I stopped by spark today and didn't read everything: and that's ok!'
    2216 days ago
    Mimi, I'm loving this blog post!

    I can so totally relate.

    2216 days ago
    Good luck, and remember YOU CAN DO IT!!!! emoticon emoticon
    2216 days ago
    this blog really got me back on track. thanks. just what i needed.
    2216 days ago
    really great post for those of us who do the all-or-nothing thing and/or are competitive!
    2217 days ago
    I so get this blog...thanks for posting.
    2217 days ago
    Awesome! Thanks for the inspiration today!
    2217 days ago
    Oh my goodness!! This is me to a T!! The all or nothing approach to everything-which admittedly has only gotten worse with a spouse who has that attitude with our child-rearing. Instead of "practice makes perfect", it's "perfect practice makes perfect"-leading me and the kids to an obsessed perfection of living. Now, I am the balance to his strict standards (admittedly only to certain things), but it's developed this I must do it right idea instead of just doing IT! It's actually lead me to leaving Facebook for 3 months-to focus on what's important and stop obsessing over other's posts, blogs, etc. It was to center in on being healthy, focusing on my family, and prioritizing my work. One month into it, I have found time to return to my hobbies, develope a better cleaning regimine, and now I am readying myself to get back to healthy living for me and my family. I'm not perfect, I'm not going to get everything right every day-I just need to work on balance and being able to flex to the circumstances each day-maintaining focus on the important things to me. My family, myself, and our happiness (spiritually, mentally, & physically). If I have to avoid the computer all day just to zero in on those important things, or even if I can't get them all acheived in one day-it's okay. That is the ebb and flow of life :) In other words, we gotta quit being so hard on ourselves, worrying (for no reason), and just actually DO :)
    2217 days ago
    Thank you So much ! I have being trying to get back on track and it's been difficult logging in, tracking workouts and food as well as reading blogs. This happens every time i focus at work , I guess am beginning to understand that My strength may just be my weakness , When am focused on one thing then every other thing suffers I guess for me I need to learn to do the balancing act and draw up a routine for myself I guess once I make a routine then that would be my focus.
    2217 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/29/2012 9:04:16 PM
    Thank you for saying what I been thinking...
    It just made me feel less guilty for not working out today, for not making my house perfect before I left... I grew up with the same parent.. spent more time CLEANING AND ORGANIZING then anything else.. that OCD was passed down to my sisters but
    it has skipped me but it hasn't ... I have the need to have every thing clean and organized.. BUT I also know when to make my family first the house 2nd ..
    2217 days ago
    I can SO sympathize with you! That same quote was emphasized in my life, also, though my parents weren't diagnosed as OCD emoticon

    I am right there with you, though, trying not to miss anything and maybe offend my friends. (Though that "offense" would be in my mind, not theirs!) Spark Friends are the emoticon
    2217 days ago
    Loved this!! So true of me too - Often the fear of not doing it "right" keeps us from doing anything - Love this new perspective - THANK YOU!!! emoticon
    2217 days ago
    Thank you so much for posting this. I am brand new and I was very overwhelmed at first because I have an all or nothing attitude and I felt I could not possibly keep up with every blog and tracker and fitness goals and wheel spins. But I have had to give myself permission to do just a little, get on everyday, try to do one thing that is a good healthy choice for me each day. You have helped to inspire me today and I am so glad that I did not just give up because of my all or nothing attitude today. God bless you and best of luck.
    2217 days ago
    I read your message and found myself crying. Im not on doing thus spark site for the same reason as most of the people here. I never even wrote about myself, so there is no info for anyone to see. It's not because I don't want people to know me, it's just I feel out of place and my story is complicated and I this is a place for people to make others feel better not bring them down. I don't really even know my way around the site very well. I just wait for the e-mails and then read the articles and follow the links to get my points. I had been going on every day and reading everything, it was very therapeutic for me, but like you said, I got to the point where it was almost like I felt like I had to do it. I haven't been able to go on since last Monday. Its was hard for me. Especially dealing with all I am dealing with. But your blog or post or whatever you call it makes me see that it's not just me. Other people feel this way, and it's ok. Thank you.
    2217 days ago
    Thanks for sharing is just what I (and I'm betting soooo many others) needed to hear! I have had a all or nothing mentality all my life, and still struggle with it. Consistency is the key and I will continue to work on this, with the help of great Spark motivators like yourself!
    2217 days ago
    FANTASTIC BLOG!!! What you have said echoes what I have been feeling for the past couple of months. Thanks for giving me the new perspective I needed.
    2217 days ago
  • GTOMAR04
    hey turtlebear...thanks for posting this or blogging this, you said what i'd been thinking just before i opened this email. i had been going great guns with "sparking", but then i got distracted by life and didn't. it's been a while; not tracking food, not checking in on the site, etc. i'm wanting to get back on, and your blog gave me permission to do it. i don't have to do it "right" i just have to do it. (i want to, too!) emoticon
    2218 days ago
    It sounds like you have had an AHA! moment. Way to go! Use what you have learned.
    I may not be doing things perfectly, or even losing pounds at the moment (and I know why) but I know that I consume plenty of water and produce daily, exercise consistently and am changing my lifestyle.
    Congrats on making it this far and be so close to your goal.
    2218 days ago

    2218 days ago
    Thank you for your openness and honesty. I just joined Sparkpeople and have been too busy to really participate--so I was falling into the same trap! Reading your post gave me some great perspective. I know that this is about lifetime change, not the "hit and run" diet approach I've done all my life. Thanks again for a gentle (and necessary!) reality check!
    2218 days ago
    I can really relate! We're harder on ourselves than anyone else could imagine! I've got all these lifelong sayings going through my mind at the moment but you are right...they are NOT helpful and quite literally keep the perfectionist in me weary! Thank you for opening my eyes!

    Blessings and continued success!
    2218 days ago
    Funny......... I found myself reciting to my husband this morning my MOTHER'S mantra when I was growing up: "If you're going to do something, do it right!" ....... It was always spoken w/ a raised eyebrow and hands on her hips! .... (It did indeed produce anxiety to say the least! ....... Time to let go and lIVE........
    2218 days ago
  • HOUBL0
    Couldnt agree more, im an all or nothing personallity myself..things can get a little overwhelming at times and the anxiety that follows can be a bit much.. its nice to know im not alone! Your right tho sometimes we have to just give things ago even if we dont think we are going to perfect the end of the day we had ago and you feel empowered knowing you have done your best. This comes back to exercise, we all have good and bad days, knowing a bad day is just that and not going ohh well ive failed stuff it makes all the difference. Ive have been applying this to my fitness and diet the last 4 or so months and its amazing the progress you can make when you focus on the positives!
    2218 days ago
    Thanks for a great dose of reality. I tend to be an all or nothing kind of gal and it leads to lots of nothing and non-productive time.
    2218 days ago
    emoticon You can do what you need to do without doing everything! What a great reminder! THANKS!!
    2218 days ago
    Thanks. You're a good writer. I am also a victim of if the mentality that states, "If you can't do something right, don't do it at all. I liked your post & I needed to hear your words.
    2218 days ago
  • 4KWALK
    Thank you very much for putting into words what I was feeling but didn't know how to express. emoticon
    2218 days ago
  • DORY914
    emoticon Thanks for sharing!
    2218 days ago
    Way to go Thanks so much. good reminders

    2218 days ago
  • YICHE12
    That was a great read. Thank you for sharing. emoticon
    2218 days ago
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