Sometimes, life gives you exactly what you want. Sometimes, things turn out exactly the way you imagined. When that happens, everything is right with the world.
But that’s not what happens most of the time. Most of the time, life is a whirlwind of happenings, like a shaky rollercoaster on old creaky tracks that goes way too fast or way too slow, with deep dives where you’re holding your breath while slipping a quick prayer under your tongue, and high peaks where you feel like you’re ruling the world.
Life is not clean. No matter how rigorous you are, how manicured your lawn is or how clean your house is, you can’t fit life into a neat, clean, organized mold that you can control. No. Life is messy. Look at children, and you will see life. They’re messy, all over the place, and go from bliss to terror in 0.2 seconds.
How do you take life? Are you able to just go along with it, allowing yourself to break down when you can’t take it anymore and live it up when things are good? Do you just trust that it will take you where you need to go even if the road is rocky? Or do you get frustrated, and end up trying to fit your life into the clean image you carry around in your dreams?
As tempting as it may be to ignore it or call it “good work ethic”, perfectionism is far from being good for you. It puts undue pressure on your soul and prevents you from fulfilling your potential and enjoying the wonderful, if messy, journey that is life.
Here are some techniques that will help you let go of your need to make everything perfect and learn to just enjoy the ride.
- Let your artistic side out
Art of any kind is not only messy, it comes from the soul. Perfectionists, with their burning desire to control everything, keep a very tight leash on their soul. But in order to be happy and live a truly vibrant life, you have to allow yourself to take off your masks and be naked, authentic. Using your artistic side is a very good way to allow your true nature to come out.
Don’t look for the artistic activity that feels comfortable. Instead, look for something that excites you but intimidates you at the same time. The combination of excitement and slight fear is a perfect sign of something that will help you grow by pushing you out of your comfort zone just the right amount. As a general life truth: If in doubt, always choose the option that is exciting yet slightly terrifying.
Go out and find an artistic activity that freaks you out but makes you feel kind of excited as well. Use your intuition and try to not let the fear of others’ judgment hold you back. Then do it at least twice a week for at least a month, focusing on feeling it rather than getting the technique down.
- Embrace failure
As a perfectionist, I bet you already feel your pants on fire. Before you close this page, hear me out.
Failure is the bread and butter of growth. In your clean and controlled expectations, failure doesn’t have a place. But guess what? Like I said earlier, life is messy. One of the most important parts of enjoying life is learning to enjoy the failures along the way because of what they represent – growth lessons.
You can’t make your dreams come true without failing. Failure is an essential building block of success. If you want to be successful and live a fantastic life, you’re going to have to not only accept failure, but embrace it and actively look for it.
Let me give you an example. I am a relatively young life coach. Yet, for the past 10 years I’ve actively sought out my fears, doubts, and inner demons. I consciously put myself in situations where I might make a fool out of myself, get angry, or get frustrated. By doing this, I acquired the life experience that many don’t get until much later in life. By doing this intentionally and always looking for the growth lessons, I was also able to extract priceless wisdom from those failures very early on. Was it tough? Hell yeah. Was it worth it? Oh yes. Would I do it again? Most definitely.
Designate one day as your “brave day”. On this day, seek to fail. Engage in personal conversations, be silly, don’t clean the house, and order pizza for dinner. Put yourself in tough situations and don’t do the things that you normally do for control comfort (like compulsive cleaning). You will learn some valuable lessons, not the least of which will be the fact that failing ain’t so bad after all. Repeat periodically until rolling with the punches feels like second nature.
- Make gratitude a part of your life
You are blessed. Look around yourself. You have a place to live, and an amazing life. You might have expectations of what it should be like or different goals and disappointments. But that is just your perception of your life. Your perception is flexible. You can change it at any moment by choosing what to focus on. Instead on focusing on the fact that your daughter just threw a temper tantrum, you can focus on the fact that you have a daughter, that she’s beautiful, smart, and outspoken. You can marvel at her wonderfully strong personality. You can remember the days when she was as long as your arm, and think ahead to the days when she’ll be stealing your shoes.
Gratitude is about realizing that you have a choice. No matter what happens to you, you have a choice as to how you interpret it. Instead of being annoyed that your husband didn’t organize the dishes efficiently in the dishwasher, you can instead be grateful that you have a husband who did work you would have otherwise had to do. Every situation has a silver lining. Every. Single. One.
Gratitude is also about loving life as it is. It’s about realizing that you don’t have to change the people around you or to control everything. You can appreciate what happens to you just as it happens, and everyone around you just as they are. You can welcome every moment as a gift from life, rather than trying to shape it to fit the mold of your expectations.
Every day for a week, start and end your day with gratitude. Before you get out of bed and before you drift off into sleep, take a few moments to think of all the things that you’re grateful for. Don’t just list them out, actually take the time to go deep into the feeling of gratitude. Feel grateful with every fiber of your being.
In addition to this, schedule at least one day a month as a “gratitude day”. During this day, no matter what happens to you, find the reason why you’re grateful for it. On this day, don’t say anything negative to yourself or other people. On this day, be kind – especially to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up or blame yourself for anything. Practice being grateful not only for everything and everyone around you, but especially for yourself.
Before you go…
If you follow these three tips intensively over the course of at least one month, I guarantee you will see results. You will enjoy life more and little things will bother you a lot less. You will be more open, accepting, and loving towards yourself and others, and will see positive results in your life from allowing yourself to connect with your intuition and soul.
But before you start working on these exercises, I want to hear from you. Do you struggle with perfectionism? How has it affected you? What would your life be like without it?
Laura G. Jones helps creative grasshoppers find clarity around their purpose, get organized and focused, and fearlessly claim their potential. Click here to download her free training video on 3 key habits that can help you use your failure to fuel success. When not journaling, blogging, or making natural deodorants with her husband she can be found taking long walks in the forest and cudding with her two kitties, a good (non-fiction) book, and a warm cup of herbal tea.