Being a 'Perfectionist' never leads to Freedom

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.


"Jazz stands for freedom. It's supposed to be the voice of freedom: Get out there and improvise, and take chances, and don't be a perfectionist - leave that to the classical musicians." - Dave Brubeck
"It's a way of thinking that says this: 'If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, I can avoid or minimize criticism, blame and ridicule... All perfectionism is, is the 20-ton shield that we carry around hoping that it will keep us from being hurt." - Brene Brown
"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a (crappy) first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it." - Anne Lamott

What Kind of Life do you Want?

Our quality of life is dependent on many things.  Amazingly enough, our quality of life is not dependent on the circumstances of our world.  It isn’t dependent upon your spouse or significant other.  It isn’t dependent upon how well our children behave or if they meet our expectations.  Our quality of life isn’t dependent up on our job or our income. I believe our quality of life is determined by how we respond to life circumstances and the meanings we attach to what is happening in our life.  I’m not talking about being a ‘glass is half full’ kind of person.  I’m talking about attaching real meaning to what occurs in life and choosing to respond in a way that helps us live the kind of life we want to live.

What kind of life do you want?  How often do you think about what kind of life you want?  The question isn’t ‘what kind of life did you parents want for you?’  or your friends, or the culture you’ve been surrounded with or the particular faith tribe or political affiliations you have.  The question is ‘what kind of life do YOU want?’  Only you can answer that question.  And your answer to that question will determine your quality of life.

Lets say you’re in a job that leaves you completely unsatisfied.  Maybe you hate it or maybe you’re simply… unsatisfied.  You could spend the next 5 years (which would be way too long) complaining, wishing, hoping for a new job.  One that aligns closer to your purposes and the intentions you have for life.  If you’ve spent a fair amount of time and work, thinking about, meditating and praying about what kind of life you want to live, then the direction forward will be much more clear to you and you will be 10 steps closer to landing the kind of job you feel is aligned with your purpose on the planet (Full disclosure:  I believe everyone’s purpose involves adding value to the lives as others).

Discovering what kind of life we want isn’t impossible.  Those answers are lying there deep within us.  At first we may just have some general ideas.  I want to feel loved, I want to feel connected, I want to feel freedom, etc.  But as we do the work and process and dig to the core of who we are, these general ideas will get more and more specific.  Doing this work often times will reveal a road map, so to speak, of how we move towards the kind of life we want.

Some of you reading this are saying, ‘duh’ Brad.  That’s a no brainer.  But some reading this have had vague ideas of what they want, but have never clarified and done the work to get clear on what kind of life they want to live.

Some of you may be saying, ‘that’s too much focus on me’.  Well that’s a whole other issue.  But suffice it to say, if you can’t focus on what you want in life, you’ll only be able to give to others at a fraction of your potential.

So I ask you… what kind of life do you want?


Today I will take the time to begin to do the work to get clear on what kind of life I want.  I will carve time out of my schedule and get silent, meditate, pray, do the things that make me come alive, so that I can get in touch with my core, my heart.  The answer to this question lies within me and I am capable of getting clear on what kind of life I want.