I remember the day my first dog died. Her name was ‘Lady’, of course. She had wandered onto our property when I was about one year old and despite our efforts to find her owner, no one ever claimed her. I can’t recall my childhood without including her because she was with me for the first 14 years of my life. On that day when we finally put her to sleep, I remember shutting down in an effort to avoid the pain.
People wear the badge of ‘perfectionist’ with pride. They believe that if they call themselves a perfectionist they have already attained a sense of worth. This is crap thinking. Just plain crap. The only thing being a perfectionist will guarantee you is that you will never have the kind of freedom you want and you will be stuck with a tremendous amount of shame. Every perfectionist that I’ve worked with has wanted to attain a certain amount of freedom. Financial freedom. Freedom from the expectations of others. Freedom to travel. Freedom from their scheduling. Freedom from _________. Freedom has actually been a goal for these people. The irony here is that they have chosen perfectionism as a path to freedom. You cannot get to freedom by trying to be perfect. It’s like trying to hate your way to love. Or like trying to mitigate your way to success. It just can’t be done.
Where does the shame come in? Well first of all, can we all just admit there is no such thing as perfection, in the traditional sense? No one is perfect. No one can be perfect. Aiming for perfection so that you might land on something good is also a trap. In trying to be perfect we say no to a ton of opportunities because all the stars aren’t ‘aligned’ perfectly. And when we do say yes to a few opportunities we end up disappointed that things didn’t turn out ‘perfectly’. At that point we find ourselves holding a bag full of shame for how we failed in this way or that.
The real kicker is that calling yourself a perfectionist brings about a certain sense of pride because we get to project a certain persona of elitism. “I want to do things perfectly because that’s what I demand of myself. I have high standards.” But you can have high standards and not be a perfectionist. This false sense of pride allows you to be ok with never accomplishing what you want because you can always throw out your project and declare… “It just wasn’t perfect.” Being a perfectionist affords the perfect opportunity to make excuses and partner with resistance without being aware of it.
Perfection NEVER equals freedom.
But if your intention is truly to experience freedom, why not substitute the word ‘adventure’ for ‘perfection’? Adventure certainly leads to freedom. Adventure allows you to take calculated risks. And while these risks are loaded with the potential to make mistakes or even fail, it’s totally acceptable because some of our most adventurous moments come from failures. Not the kind that end our lives, but the kind of failures that allow us to learn incredible lessons and move beyond our comfort zones. When you aren’t afraid to make mistakes you not only find yourself ready to move forward in a project with more boldness and zeal, you will also find yourself succeeding where you thought it wasn’t previously possible.
Substituting adventure for perfection allows you to take a risk. And the only way to really succeed is to find a way to become comfortable with risk.
Substituting adventure for perfection will release you from the paralysis that comes from over-analyzing every single decision. If you’re an over-analyzer, and you find yourself in the paralysis trap often, I can almost guarantee that you consider yourself a perfectionist.
Substituting adventure for perfection will immediately help you to live into the feeling of freedom. Why? Because you will actually be free from the shame, second guessing, and potential excuses that might have previously been created.
So let me ask you. What sounds better to you? What sounds like more fun? What sounds like a healthier way to live your life? Being an adventurer, or being a perfectionist. If you still think being a perfectionist is a badge of honor, maybe you need to find a new stylist. Choose adventure. It makes for a much better story.
Doing the work is rarely sexy, but it has teeth. Many people have talked about what it means to ‘do the work’. When we talk about ‘work’ we are talking about so much more than you ‘job’. The work is anything that needs to get done, by you, in order to move from where we are to where we want to be. And its rarely easy. The work is rarely glamorous but it moves us forward.
Work takes discipline. Work takes energy.
Work means changing your schedule and getting up early doing the cardio routine you don't want to do. It means sitting down to write the pages you don't feel like writing. It’s having the difficult conversations that you just don’t want to have.
Work means making difficult choices. It often times means simplifying and sacrificing now for something greater in the end. You can tell who does the work. They are the ones who began living their lives on their terms and they haven’t regretted it for a moment.
Work means saying no to so many other things so that you can say yes to the things you truly want. And those things that you say no to immediately often times make us feel better right away but leave us wanting and far from our goals.
Work means keeping an open heart when all you want to do is close down. Work means being vulnerable when all you want to do is hide.
Work often means ignoring the criticism of others and not pleasing the masses. Work can often times feels lonely even though it isn't.
Work usually happens in the midst of crippling fear, not without it. It means moving forward with the plan even when we're scared to death of being rejected, failing, or more likely... scared of succeeding.
This is why it's called work. But doing the work makes all the difference. It allows us to sleep at night with a clear head. You already know it but I'm going to say it anyways. Nothing comes easy. But all things are possible, with the Divine and some work.
If you've done any self-reflecting, you probably are aware of some of the work in your life that you need to do. Now get to work.