I am surrounded by perfectionists.
We want it ALL: make the company millions of dollars, have the next great idea, challenge our intellect, create a new product, find a new recipe, raise the geniuses who will make a positive impact on the world. We are goddesses on a hill, orchestrating our world with the wave of an omnipotent hand, bright blue energy surges out of our hands, all is in our power and under our command!
(Sound effects please.)
What? You know you have thought the same thing. Wouldn’t 100% perfection be the very best thing in the whole world?
What does 100% mean anyway?
If you are a 100%-er, here is what I think you are striving for:
Happiness as a result of maximum control of the Universe.
Happy spouse, happy kids, happy boss, happy in-laws, happy house.
But in order to have all of this, you are expecting 100% cooperation from all of the elements that you have no control over. Yeah, that is just mathematically impossible.
I mean, I know I’m good, but I’m not that good.
Here’s the thing about perfectionists. You think that you should be able to control things like the weather, like cats, like projectile vomiting. You say to yourself, ‘If only I thought of this in advance…If only I had stopped to think out every aspect of the plan and had a contingency for everything, then I wouldn’t have been surprised by this.’ Sound familiar?
You know the scenario.
When perfectionism strikes: It’s Sunday morning, the day you have been waiting for all week. You remembered everyone’s Sunday breakfast favorites. Nobody asked for anything that you forgot to buy. Check!
Then all the kids are showered, nails cut, hair combed, looking like angels, and all done with minimal tears. Check!
You get everyone into the car using your Supermommy voice. You know the one: ‘Does anyone want to hear my story about the magic dragon who sat in the car seat just like you? Mommy loves you!’ Check.
And holiest of miracles, you are 4 minutes early when you pull out of the driveway. Happy face in place. Check!
Heart racing….toes curling…knuckles white….you tell yourself….It’s perfect. It’s perfect. I did it. It’s perfect.
And then, in his exuberance and excitement, as soon as the car door opens, your son runs ahead and accidently swipes the side of a dirty pickup truck. Your perfectly presentable, 6-year-old angel is now covered with dust all down the side of his perfectly ironed khaki pants. ***!!!!!***
The worst part comes now when the self-doubt begins. ‘If only I held his hand! If only I was a better parent, he would know not to run from me! If only I had considered that yes he would run from me, then I would have put him in the grey pants that don’t show the dirt!’ All the good parts of your day are forgotten.
This is simply no way to live.
The secret to staying zen.
On a good day, women say to me, ‘You are so zen! With 4 kids? How do you do it?’
I am happy to share with you my secret:
I know even when everything is going perfectly perfect, there is always at least a 10% chance of crazy, unpredictable, Hollywood-worthy, I-never-ever-could have seen it coming … something.
One of the gifts my four kids have given me is the understanding that control is relative. My belief that I am in control, is just a feeling I get when all the parts of the wheel are running smoothly and in tandem.
My kids are little universes unto themselves with minds and intentions all their own, to say nothing of the spouse.
Does this make you feel better?
Here is what I am proposing: Give yourself a 10% buffer to perfection.
Look at it this way: When you make a budget, you wisely included a 10% buffer to make sure you are always accounting for unknown expenses, right?
When you make a time schedule, you wisely incorporate 10 extra minutes for the long traffic light, right?
Of course you do! Because with time and money we understand that these areas are not absolutes. As excellent as we are at planning and budgeting, there will always be something.
It’s the same with life in general. When surprises hop up in your life, repeat after me: ‘This is part of the 10%. No problem! I have already made space in my life for the UNKNOWN. I fully understand that this is just a part of the mathematics of life.’
Acknowledge that the unknown is inevitable and you will not be (as) shocked when it arrives.
I propose today that you stop requiring yourself to have x-ray vision, iron-trap memory (how many times do we beat ourselves up for forgetting something?), perfect health, smooth hair, reptilian reflexes, the list goes on.
Question: When the taxi driver reads the address wrong and drives you an hour out of your way? Answer: 10%.
Question: When the chocolate you just bought is grey when you open it? Answer: 10%.
Question: When your child licks a park bench? Answer: 10%.
I hope the 10% rule will help you to relax a bit. I’m not telling you to stop striving for perfection. Just tell yourself that 90% perfection is pretty darn good.
Feel free to send me your story of when something messed up your attempt at perfection. I love those stories!