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How to make decisions as a perfectionist

I’m finding recently that my old battle with perfectionism is resurfacing. It comes out in being noncommittal and staying in the possibilities. Possibilities are great, but not if they are used in a way to make the perfect decision. You see, there is no perfect decision. For me, I have been chasing a decision right now in my life that once I am making it will feel right and I have no doubts. Yet, if I were to ask myself what my history is with decision making it would be that I ALWAYS HAVE DOUBTS! Why? Because I’m a recovering perfectionist. Perfectionists want everything to be lined up, have the least chance of something going wrong, and to control the outcome as best we can. Either we stay in possibilities or we continue to find something wrong with every single option. It’s our way of staying safe. If we find something wrong, we never have to move forward. But that path JUST LEAVES US STUCK.

So, anyone else out there a recovering perfectionist? I’ve been reading from Brene Brown recently and here’s some keys she said about perfectionism:

1) “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence…perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.”

2) Perfectionism is not trying to improve yourself in a healthy way. You can live a life trying to perform your way to approval.

3) Perfectionism does not create success. Actually, it’s strongly related to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities.

Since perfectionism can do more harm than good, why don’t we move forward with Voltaire’s advice…”don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Nothing in life is perfect. Cracks are where the light gets in- it’s what makes us human.

How will we do that? Well, here’s what I’ve found has worked for me…

Step 1: Bring awareness to the need for perfection. Perfectionism clings to stress, so the more stressed you are in life the more you’re likely to revert into a perfectionistic thinking pattern. Be aware of that tendency.


Step 2: Be clear on the information you're gleaning from your head versus your heart. Identify what is your head response and what is your heart response. The head response is often those initial reactions like fear, anger, racing thoughts. Take 30 seconds to shift your awareness to the area of your heart, breathing into that space. Think of a positive time in your life and keep your focus on that event. Try to re-experience it. This act of shifting from stress to a positive emotion puts our body in alignment to receive wisdom that is a bit more helpful. Then, once you’ve shifted to a new, more helpful emotional state ask your heart, "what is a more helpful, efficient way to move forward in your situation?" (this is all from “The Heartmath Solution”…click for the next book club details!)


Step 3: Practice self-care. Do things like getting enough sleep, eating well, and moving your body. For me, art is so helpful to help slow down my monkey brain. Yoga can also be great. Find what works for you.


Step 4: Loosen your grip. Realize that life is more fun if you live with an open mind and open heart. Don’t try to control every outcome or you’ll miss some fun, unexpected opportunities. If this is hard for you, close your eyes and open your hands…picture releasing the situation out into the wind. You might just take that as an invitation to live more lightly and let go of controlling what happens.

This week as I have been practicing these very things, here is the wisdom from my heart: “Don’t chase perfect. Perfect decisions don’t exist. All is well, all will be well. Comparisons steel joy. Go with what life brings. The more you clench, the harder this will be.”

How about we all just unclench and open our minds and hearts to the good that is right in front of us. Let’s not miss any more good opportunities in the impossible chase for perfect. Happy rooting, everyone!

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