Red Green Meets Martha Stewart 7/08

July 2008

martha food

When my husband Ken recently suggested we host a staff party for a retiring colleague, I agreed. I knew it would mean a little work, but I was okay with that. Ken has always been great about doing his share. So I left the planning to him; they’re his colleagues, after all.

One week before the party date I felt it was time to get involved, so I started cleaning house and asking questions. It was only then that I learned the party was actually a dinner party, and so far, 36 people were coming. Gak!

This little detail changed everything in my mind. Read on to learn what happens when Red Green meets Martha Stewart.

Barbecued burgers would be our contribution and everyone would bring appetizers, salads and desserts. Ken tried to assure me that everything would be just fine.

FINE? FINE? All I could see were problems. How will we fit 36 people for dinner in our small house? Where will we put all the food? How do we cook 40 burgers at once? What about plates? Cutlery? Martha Stewart doesn’t settle for "just fine" or forks of plastic. We have a problem.

The next few days were riddled with tension as Martha and Red discovered their polar approaches to party hosting. For every problem Martha could see, Red had a duct tape solution, which only made matters worse to Martha.

I see in Martha, and myself, the same ‘all or nothing’ approach I see in many of my clients. "If I don’t do it nearly perfectly it won’t be good enough or worth doing at all." An ‘all or nothing’ approach can keep us stuck, or at least prevent us from throwing more dinner parties.

Just how deeply and how frequently we fall into this trap varies widely. I believe it depends on how much we feel the need to protect our egos. Who am I if not this?

Here’s what I often see. We give up on our goals because we aren’t able to keep to the plan. "I can’t do it, so I might as well not do it at all. What’s the point?" we ask ourselves.

Most people set their goals too ambitiously to start. Small steps are easier to integrate into our lives and are more likely to be maintained. And they do matter, because they add up to make a difference. For example, even ten minutes of physical activity makes a difference, bringing an increase in energy and a decrease in stress and fatigue that can last for up to two hours afterwards.

Anyone who has ever dieted understands the ‘all or nothing’ thinking associated with eating. When you inevitably stray from the diet you feel you might as well throw in the towel because you’ve blown it anyway. A rebellious binge often follows, complete with guilt and shame. The assumption is, "Diets are good and necessary and I can’t follow one, therefore I must be bad. There’s no hope for me." In reality, it’s the diet that has failed, not you. If you need convincing, just look around. You’re in good company of people for whom dieting has also failed.

I see my clients disregard all their good work because of one wrong move, as though the good work never happened. If balance is the goal, versus perfection, we can live with our choices, and ourselves. Small changes in balance with the rest of our lives are achievable and sustainable. Perfection is not.

Consuming 100 – 200 less calories each day adds up to 10 – 20 pounds weight loss over a year. Giving up the right calories ensures you won’t even miss them. The choice is yours. It’s totally personal.

There is value to the gray area between ‘all or nothing.’ The key is to keep adjusting the plan to one you can follow, versus having too big a plan that you can’t. Never give up. Just readjust.

The ability to do something less than perfectly has many advantages. It allows us to try new things and make mistakes, creating a foundation for learning and growth, potentially opening up new worlds. As far as entertaining goes, a less than perfect performance makes others feel quite comfortable.

And speaking of entertaining, Red and Martha’s collaboration was a big success.

While Red Green doesn’t know so much about food or flowers, he’s good for a laugh, and even Martha Stewart needs a handy man. Martha isn’t so funny, but her guests feel pleased and pampered. Together Red and Martha throw a great party, somewhere between Red and green. They’re both nice colors.