On the Discovery/Health website there is a test to determine whether or not you are a “perfectionist.” The preface to the tests asks: Are you putting unreasonable demands on yourself by setting the bar too high? Do you expect too much from your children or lover? Or do you feel that the world is exerting pressure on you?
- In general, the prospect of making a mistake angers me.
- I am frequently disappointed in my mate, friends, kids, co-workers.
- I get impatient with people around me – they always screw up in one way or another.
- I believe that if I do things badly, others will reject me.
- When my plans don’t go as I envision, I get extremely stressed out.
- Being ‘average’ is a terrible thought for me.
It’s easy to see why a perfectionist is regarded as Type-A, meaning they produce an extreme level of stress that, over a decade or two, is likely to ravage their cardio-vascular system and threaten their life. There was a time when the unreasonable demands I placed on myself at work meant I didn’t get home some nights until midnight. It’s telling that I cannot remember one thing I did that seemed so important at the time. But I do remember the toll it took on my mind and body. There is a lot to be said for making it home for dinner with enough energy, mindfulness and good heart to make the evening pleasant. Those evenings we do remember.
Ralph Waldo Emerson advises to do this: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.”
Ernest Holmes is also worth quoting. Here is his perspective: “What we demonstrate today, tomorrow, and the next day is not as important as the tendency which our thought is taking: the dominant attitude of our mind. If everyday things are a little better, a little more harmonious, a little more health giving and joyous; if each day we are expressing more life, we are going in the right direction.”
Ask yourself, which do you want? Do you want an attitude that berates you for a mistake, obsesses over details that hardly matter, and causes you to criticize and distance yourself from people, especially those you love. Or do you want an attitude that sheds your mistakes along with your old nonsense in exchange for a new day filled with new possibilities that each day increase your capacity to generate new life. We choose, and as we choose we create our life.