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How to Overcome Perfectionism

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Perfectionism is a trap.

Though it may seem like perfectionism has your best interest in mind, it plays out much differently in the unfoldment of life.

Perfectionism can be stifling. Though the drive for perfection can sometimes push you towards your goals, it most often creates delusional expectations, paralyzing procrastination and harsh self-criticism (as well as external criticism).

We all know (on some level) that perfection doesn’t exist in this reality, so there is an inherent chasm of doubt whenever we chase perfection. The chasm of doubt and subtle anxieties of cognitive dissonance put us on the operating system of fear, where fear becomes the dominant motivating force. This is how perfectionism can make us hyper-critical (to both ourselves and others) as well as prevent us from even starting things (because of the fear that it won’t be perfect).

Nature is imperfect, yet the imperfection of nature is what makes it beautiful, unique and ever-changing. Perfection is stagnation. Perfection is static. Perfection is permanence, which defies the very nature of our impermanent Universe. The only constant is change (in this reality at least), so you might as well embrace the paradoxical perfection of ever-changing imperfection. Imperfection is a gift, as it allows for uniqueness and the potential for perpetual improvement. Forgo the pursuit of perfection, accept where you are in each moment and strive for continual improvement.

Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.
~ Gerard Way

 
Overcoming Perfectionism Through Belief Transmutation

One way to overcome perfectionism is to replace limiting beliefs with new, more empowering beliefs. This is the alchemical art of transmutation.

Examples of limiting beliefs regarding perfection:

  • I have to be perfect in order to be worthy.
  • Everything has to be perfect for me to be happy.
  • Everything has to be perfect for (insert any hope or dream you want to come to fruition).
  • I’m afraid of doing this because it might not turn out perfectly.
  • I want to achieve perfection now.
  • Substitute those old, limiting beliefs for new, more empowering beliefs.

    Examples of more empowering beliefs:

  • Perfection doesn’t exist in this reality, but I achieve excellence.
  • I’m continuously improving and fueled by self-love.
  • I accept where I am in each moment, while always moving forward.
  • Imperfection allows for uniqueness and continuous improvement. I embrace my uniqueness and I’m endlessly evolving.
  • I always try my best and leave the rest up to the Universe/The Process of Life/God.
  • I’ll start now. I can always change, refine and improve things later because nothing is permanent.
  • I embrace the journey and find joy in continuous improvement.
  • Listen closely to your self-talk regarding perfection. Be particularly aware of your self-talk when the urge to procrastinate arises. What beliefs are you holding? What are more empowering beliefs to replace them with? A belief is simply a pattern of thoughts. Change your thoughts and you will change your beliefs.

    Overcoming Perfectionism Through Action

    If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.
    ~ Margaret Atwood

     
    Perfectionism has a component of fear to it, particularly the fear of not being perfect. And since nothing in this reality is perfect, the perfectionist often chooses inaction over the possibility of trying and not achieving perfection. This creates an incapacitating state of constant procrastination, which is an insidious byproduct of perfectionism. Building a habit of taking consistent action deprograms the perfectionist mindset.

    The unachievable expectations of perfectionism can be paralyzing, preventing you from even starting things. But taking action overcomes the rigid inertia of perfectionism and starts a snowball effect of empowering momentum. By flexing your action muscles, you break through the chains of perfectionism like the incredible hulk ripping through a shirt (except you probably won’t be angry).

    When you build a habit of consistent action-taking, procrastination becomes a distant memory. You’ll learn to find fulfillment in the process. Perfectionism will be re-programmed into the mindset of embracing the journey of life.

    A strategy often discussed in entrepreneurial circles is that of releasing something, or taking action, before you’re fully ready. This idea is not about releasing an unfinished or half-assed product/service, but in accepting imperfection and building the habit of taking action. Remember, nothing is permanent and you can always tweak things later.

    Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.
    ~ Napoleon Hill

     
    In the book The Motivation Manifesto, Brendon Burchard discusses defeating your personal demons. One of these demons is called “Defiance,” whose sole purpose is to delay your actions. How do you defeat this demon? You defeat Defiance by transforming delay with action. Decisive action, in the face of fear “sets off an internal tidal wave of power that subjugates our meeker impulses,” according to Burchard.

    I’ve also touched on the topic of overcoming doubt, defiance and delay in the article 8 Ways to Transmute Self-Doubt into Faith.”

    The practical how-to aspect of action is simple. Take small actions consistently, preferably every day. Break big tasks or big goals into bite-sized chunks. Create a system to bring you in the direction of a goal and stick to the system. Taking small actions on a daily basis allows you to avoid being overwhelmed and strengthens your action muscles to the point where procrastination doesn’t stand a chance.

    How I Overcame Perfectionism

    Though I still have perfectionist tendencies from time-to-time, it no longer has me in its clutches. Changing my perfectionist beliefs and taking consistent action were invaluable solutions for me.

    My journey progressed based on those two strategies. Firstly, I realized (conceptually, at least) that perfectionism is not attainable in this reality. After some time I was able to accept, feel and deeply understand that truth. Viewing life as a video game greatly aided this understanding as well. From that point, I was able to transmute my perfectionist beliefs into more empowering beliefs (meditation and mindfulness helped with being able to notice limiting beliefs I was holding onto).

    Action was the ingredient that completed the recipe. The most predominate action-based habits I built were publishing blog posts and recording videos. Since I started Feelin’ Good, Feelin’ Great in September 2012, I’ve written a blog post every single week (with a few exceptions). Creating that commitment to action played a pivotal role in breaking out of the paralysis of perfectionism. If I had waited for myself to write the perfect blog post, I would’ve never released anything. It was in choosing to just put myself out there that catalyzed the process of becoming an exponentially better writer. By committing to continual action, I’ve practiced writing far more than I would have if I was stuck in the paralysis of perfectionism.

    More recently, on top of the weekly blog post habit, I’ve been releasing one video every day (on YouTube and Facebook). I record the videos in one take, and they’re unscripted except for jotting down a few bullet points beforehand. Executing the videos in such an impromptu fashion has improved my speaking ability, spontaneity, self-confidence, memory and mental clarity by leaps and bounds. Additionally, recording a video every day has “greased the groove” of my action-taking ability and has allowed the bright light of unconditional self-love to scatter away the shadowy phantoms of perfectionism.

    Dear Human: You’ve Got It All Wrong

    Dear Human. You’ve got it all wrong. You didn’t come here to master unconditional love. This is where you came from and where you’ll return. You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty Love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up. Often. You didn’t come here to be perfect, you already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And rising again into remembering. But unconditional love? Stop telling that story. Love in truth doesn’t need any adjectives. It doesn’t require modifiers. It doesn’t require the condition of perfection. It only asks you to show up. And do your best. That you stay present and feel fully. That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU. It’s enough. It’s Plenty.
    ~ Courtney A. Walsh

     
    Embrace imperfection, and accept where you are, while enjoying the journey. Live, learn and grow.

    You are worthy, no matter what.

    You are love.

    – Stevie P!

     

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    Why Learning is like Jet Fuel for Happiness

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    I found myself wading into the alluring blue-green Caribbean Sea, with my right hand on a surfboard and my eyes fixated on an immense wave approaching. I’ll admit, it was a bit intimidating: an ominous undulation, already taller than me, quickly rising out of the infinity of liquid power. But the fear within, which had risen along with the wave itself, was immediately transmuted into childlike excitement as I snapped into action, spinning the surfboard around and hopping on, belly first.

    Exuding exuberance, I glanced over my right shoulder to see the wave swiftly advancing toward me. My warrior ethos kicked in and I paddled with powerful, staunch strokes, building just enough momentum right as the wave tasted my heels. The wall of water surged upon me, thrusting me into a realm of slowed time and total focus. The board was no longer a lifeless object, but a kindred spirit, conspiring to maximize my moment. It was a beautiful communion between beings, conceived through coalescence and driven by synergy.

    With a blast of pizzazz, I popped up onto my feet, landing in the classic surfer stance (totally, dude). What a feeling! The inner child within me was jumping for joy as I cruised towards the shore with a beaming smile on my face.

    That was the conclusion of my very first surfing lesson. It was a true climax of bliss, fueled by the magical phenomenon of… LEARNING.

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    Learning is an integral element of the human experience.

    We came into this life to learn and grow. And without learning, no growth is possible.

    All inhibitors of learning and growth (stagnation, monotony, boredom, fear, comfort zones…etc) drain the joy out of life and deaden the spirit. On the other hand, learning, growth, progress and perpetual new experiences infuse life with a euphoric vivacity. This feeling of elation is a tell-tale sign that you’re in alignment with your inner truth.

    “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

    Life’s tendency is toward progression. Life is defined by growth. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

    Learning is a precursor to growth and an undeniable catalyst of happiness.

    The act of learning doesn’t have to be strictly intellectual either. If it’s something physical, like surfing, your mind and body work together in the learning process. This weaves threads of cooperative harmony through all levels of being.

    It is undeniable that learning is crucial to the human experience. Learn to love learning and your life has no choice but to change for the better.

    Think about how good improvement feels. Think about how good personal evolution feels. That feeling is the child of learning and growth.

    Be Willing, Eager and Open to Learning

    Willingness to learn is as equally important as the learning process itself. If you’re open and eager enough, you will learn anything you wish to.

    Three Manifestations of Willingness that Will Greatly Accelerate Your Life Learning Process

    1. Embrace curiosity – Einstein put it perfectly when he said, ““I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
    2. Listen – Listen to what other people have to say, instead of talking all of the time. Listen intently, listen with curiosity and listen with an open mind.
    3. Ask questions – Question everything and entertain any idea.

    Be willing, eager and open to learning and the doors of understanding will eagerly open to you.

    There are, of course, ways to refine and streamline the learning process as well.

    An effective model for rapid learning is Tim Ferriss’ D.S.S.S. strategy from his book The Four Hour Chef. The acronym D.S.S.S. stands for Deconstruct, Selection, Sequencing, and Stakes.

    Deconstruct
    “What are the minimum learnable units, the LEGO blocks, I should be starting with?

    Selection
    “Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?

    Sequencing
    “In what order should I learn the blocks?”

    Stakes
    “How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantee I follow the program?”

    Read more about Tim Ferriss’ D.S.S.S. strategy here.

    Another Useful Tip for Learning

    The human attention span is not very long, so learning in short stints (30-60 minutes at a time, with short breaks in between) is a great way to leverage this. The percentage of information you’re able to retain drops in the middle of any learning session. This is why most people only remember the beginning and end of a long, study marathon. So instead of trudging through things for hours, engaging in short sessions with breaks allows you to function at maximum capacity and actually get more done. Plus, it just feels better (which is a subtle hint itself).

    This is why many schools found it more effective to have 50-minute classes, because after that point, kids stop paying attention.

    I personally thrive off of getting things done in 20-30 minute chunks, followed by breaks. This is a great strategy for learning, writing and really accomplishing anything.

    Tim Ferriss (again) beautifully charts this phenomenon in The Four Hour Chef:

    4HC

    Why Surfing is the Perfect Medium for Learning

    Surfing is both physical and mental – Surfing simultaneously engages the body and mind, and is healthy for both. You use both simultaneously, which creates harmony between the two. Plus, it’s a form of exercise (which, as everyone knows, has a ton of benefits itself).

    Nature therapy – You’re outside and connected with nature while you’re learning. You get your feet in the sand (grounding/Earthing), the sun on your face (Vitamin D), the breeze in your hair and you’re in the water (which comes with benefits too). It’s a beautiful, healthy combination of learning and the four earthly elements.

    Surfing engages the warrior ethos in a healthy manner – It’s a positive outlet for your warrior spirit. Surfing is both a physical battle and a cooperation between you and the ocean. For those like myself who have a deep connection with the warrior archetype, positive expressions of it are necessary for your well-being. For too long, the warrior ethos of humanity has been relegated to war and other forms of senseless violence. Learning to surf is also learning to bring out your warrior ethos in a healthy way.

    As you can tell, I love learning. And learning how to surf was a tremendous experience for me.

    Keep learning. Keep growing. Find happiness along the journey of continuous expansion.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!

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    The Challenge Perspective

    “The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”
    ― Carlos Castaneda

    There are no problems, only challenges.

    This is the lens through which I’ve looked at life lately. I’ll call it “the challenge perspective”; and it’s been utterly transformative for me.

    Viewing everything as a challenge closely ties in with the idea of life being a video game of sorts. Would you play Super Mario if all you had to do was just walk to the right the whole time, unopposed by any obstacles? Of course not, the challenge is what makes it fun. Pushing our limits makes it all worth it. We only grow when we’re subjected to resistance.

    How are you viewing and addressing “difficult” situations in life? Are you stepping into your inherent power and taking them head on? Or are you playing victim and wallowing in disempowerment? Your experience of life can (and will) vary radically depending on your perspective.

    When your significant other is angry or frustrated, do you react with similar anger or frustration? Do you run away because you think you can’t handle it? Or do you take on the challenge and embody love and lightheartedness in the face of fear?

    When you’re running low on money, do you dwell in self-pity and victimhood? Or do you embrace the challenge and work to better your situation?

    When you have to do something you despise doing at work, do you throw your hands up in defeat and complain? Or do you say “challenge accepted” and get it done, knowing that it will make you a stronger person?

    When you’re pushing your physical limits, do you succumb to fear and doubt? Or do you tap into your indwelling fortitude and power through?

    I had to tussle with that last set of questions recently while hiking Mt. Washington with the beautiful, wonderful Wander Woman (evidence below). She set a rigorous pace, to say the least, as we ascended the highest peak in the Northeastern USA (on its toughest trail too). We donkey konged up steep slopes of snow and ice, scrambled up rock faces, and scaled serious inclines for hours on end. There were points where I was exhausted and felt self-doubt creeping in, but I tapped deep into my reservoir of empowerment and pushed through. Because of that, I’m a stronger, more resilient person.

    When you break on through, a greater version of yourself appears on the other side.

    Mt Wash

    You see, it’s not really about what happens to you in life; it’s about how you perceive each situation and how you act based on your perception. That’s what determines your subjective reality.

    “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles R. Swindoll

    Life isn’t easy for anyone. But that’s the beauty of it. We all have our unique struggles which shape our character. We all have obstacles to overcome. We all face challenges that facilitate continuous growth and development.

    Diamonds are created under extraordinary pressure. Mighty swords are forged in fierce fires of intensified heat.

    Embrace the challenges presented to you. They’re perfect for your evolution into the best version of yourself.

    “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

    Learn, grow, persevere, and, most importantly, have fun.

    – Stevie P!

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    The Potent Secret About “Bad” Experiences

     

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    So… I recently came across this thought-provoking insight from Bashar that gave me an aha! moment…

    “Analogy: You have on your planet
    the occupation referred to as “piano tuners”.
    When you are playing your piano instrument,
    and you find the sound of the music pleasing,
    and then all of a sudden you come across
    what you call a sour note, “plunk… plunk… plunk… plunk”
    Do you run away in panic and go and hide in the closet?
    “I shall never touch my piano again!”
    No. You say, “Ah, I require to tune the piano,
    so that the note becomes harmonious with all the other notes.”

    Each key is like unto a definition… a belief.
    When you come across one that gives you the sensation of fear,
    all that’s telling you is, “Hey… hey, hey, hey, hey, hey… pay attention,
    you have a belief in this area of your song
    that is out of alignment with the whole rest of the piano”.
    Fine tune it… bring it back into harmony… don’t run away… explore it:
    “Bonk, bonk, bonk, bonk, bonk… what would I have to do to tune this?
    How would I have to redefine it?
    How would I have to tighten this string
    in order to bring it back into tune… into alignment?
    Play with it… find out until finally,
    “Bonk, bonk, bonk, bonk, bonk… it’s back.”

    (read the full version here)

    This is a fantastic analogy, in my opinion. And it reveals some secrets of the Universe as well…

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    1. “Bad” experiences are the best learning experiences.

    Everything is a matter of perception. Are you going to use “bad” experiences as an excuse to be a victim, feel guilty, or beat yourself up? Or will you use “bad” experiences as learning experiences to fuel your personal growth and evolution? The choice is yours.

    Think about it… You learn way more from “mistakes” than when everything goes perfectly. It is through the hiccups in life that we are nudged in the right direction.

    With everything in life, you start from square one, and progress through trial and error in order to improve over time. That’s what being human is all about.

    Going back to the piano analogy, you fine-tune your piano by discovering the disharmonious keys and correcting them. Just as no piano comes perfectly tuned to your liking, no human being is perfect. The beauty of imperfection is that it allows for uniqueness, as well as continuous growth.

    Here’s a personal example of this principle in action…
    One word that I never spell wrong is “committee.” Why? Because I misspelled it in my 5th grade spelling bee in front of the whole school (Seriously, who put that last “e” in there?). And because of that “mistake”, I’ve made a point to spell it correctly each and every time since. Lesson learned.

    You came here to experience, learn and grow (and have fun doing it). The “bad” things that happen are really life-changing learning experiences in disguise.

    2. “Bad” experiences are a sign.

    So-called mistakes that you make are actually hints, guiding you in the direction of learning and development.

    “Bad” things that “happen” to you can also act as tremendous learning experiences, and build a stronger character.

    Everything you experience is perfect for your personal growth. Pay attention to the signs.

    3. “Bad” experiences should be embraced.

    Your power comes with how you react to these so-called “bad” experiences. Your growth comes from how you view them. It’s all a matter of perception.

    Don’t ignore the “bad” things that happen. Don’t hide them. Don’t fear them. It’s when you cover things up or ignore them that they sabotage you. Everything you hold inside eventually manifests in some way or another. Don’t hold onto or bury the “bad” things that happen to you. Transmute them into growth and development.

    Story time:
    One of the “worst” (actually best, in hindsight) things that happened to me was when I was a 19 year-old college sophomore. I ended up in the hospital after drinking way too much one night. Yeah, it was really stupid, and I’m so grateful that I was able to walk out of the hospitable the next morning. So instead of marinating in guilt, shame, and self-pity because of this “stupid mistake,” I used it as a catalyst for personal growth. It was my sign that I needed to re-prioritize my life, and it became the spark for the development of my mind, body and spirit. I immediately began working out and making better food choices. I also started reading voraciously, mostly books on spirituality (notably Eckhart Tolle and Osho). I not only read them, but made a point to apply the information provided. Change came quickly. I noticed improvements in my body. I was happier. I was more positive, more confident, less stressed, and had less fears. I was in college, so I still partied. But it wasn’t my sole focus any more. My focus switched from partying (fitting in and trying to be cool), to personal growth. I used the “bad” experience of a drinking-induced hospital visit as the spark for my journey of personal growth and development. So in a weird way, it was the best thing to ever happen to me.

    4. “Bad” experiences forge an unshakable character.

    “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

    Diamonds are formed through immense pressure. Swords are forged in intense heat. The same applies to humans. Great men and women are defined by how they view and act upon their “failures.” They use “failures” as fuel for success.

    Build the resilience of a mighty tree. Storms will always come, but they will pass over you, and you will use the rain from those storms to sustain your tremendous growth.

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    I’ll leave you with a few quotes from Viktor Frankl, a man who completely embodies everything I’ve discussed in this post. He was a holocaust survivor and author of the classic book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” His horrific experiences forged a mighty and admirable spirit. Viktor transmuted his extremely difficult experiences to gain a new outlook on life, a deep sense of empowerment and the burning desire to live life to the fullest. The man is a true inspiration.

    “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

    “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

    “Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone.”

    “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

    So here’s the question: Are you going to use the “bad” experiences you encounter as catalysts for growth? Or an excuse to set up residence in victimhood?

    The choice is up to you.

    Stay awesome.

    -Stevie P!