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Is Perfect Possible?

Imagine a field of red tulips.  If you’d prefer, make it a field of yellow tulips.  In your mind’s eye, see those tulips of a single color for as far as you can see.  Then, imagine there’s one white tulip in your field of red.  Or, see a purple tulip in your field of yellow.  Long thought to be the perfect flower, tulip folklore tells of growers planting one bulb of another color to prove the field was planted by man who isn't perfect. 

Many of us seek perfection every single day.  We don’t plant that extra bulb in our lives.  We don’t allow for the purple amongst the yellows or the white amongst the reds.  Instead, we wear the mantle of perfection, seeking to “have it all” and do it right. 

It’s a hallmark of today’s life.  We pack our lives with work and family and a load of commitments.  At the same time, we won’t settle for anything less than doing it all perfectly.  That’s the challenge.  Without a staff, without a team of helpers and assistants, it’s never easy to take on a heavy load of commitments and expect perfection. 

Taking on an extreme load can lead to an imbalanced life.  While we can manage an extreme and imbalanced load for a time, maybe a year or two, often there’s a point when one or more of the commitments suffers from our depleted energy.  

Where do we get this inclination to over-commit and then expect perfection?  Often, it comes from fiction.  That’s right, we see movies and television shows, we read books and magazines, all loaded with stories that glamorize extreme commitment making it seem possible.  It’s easy to absorb the message and expect extreme perfection of ourselves. 

It is also human nature.  We naturally want to do everything well.   Instead of chastising yourself, consider ways to moderate your demands for perfection.  Here are some considerations:

1. Reconsider your life's timing.  If perfection is your preference, emphasize chosen life goals at different stages in your life.  If, for example, you want to have a family and a terrific career, consider gaining strong career experience before you start your family.  Then, reduce your career commitments during your child-raising period, returning to heavier career commitment at a later point.  You’ll find your need for perfection is more easily managed when you aren’t trying to do it all at the same time.

2.  Be certain you value the commitments you’ve taken on.  Many of us are inveterate yes-sayers.  When asked to help out, to lend a hand, it's hard to imagine a response other than yes.  Review your commitments annually.  Hold on to those you value but, if they are consuming more time than you have, find a new or different way to express your commitment.  Weed-out or reduce your engagement in areas where you feel luke-warm.

3. No one knows what you’ve planned.  Your vision of perfection may not be the same as others.  Your expectations may exceed those of many.  Whether they do or not, keep watch on meeting extreme expectations.  At the same time, infuse the commitments you do accept with your personal style.  Your spouse or partner, your children, your family and friends, even your employer understand the essence of you.  If you take one item off your “must do to be perfect list”, it will not change your essence.  Besides, it's likely they won't notice that one item on your mental list of musts is missing – only you knew it was there. 

4. Add the bell-shaped curve to your thinking.  That’s right!  You remember, the bell-shaped curve showing that a tiny number of people are at the “best” and “worst” ends of any question.  Most people, about 96%, will usually fall into the center.  It’s okay to shoot for the upper end without maxing to the extreme of perfection.

5. Remember to take a breath, smile and appreciate the white tulip in your field of perfect red.