Being honest about personal weaknesses can be some of the best medicine for making positive life changes. The acknowledgement of shortcomings and committing to improvement, however, isn’t easy and requires daily diligence.
If you ask the person who knows me best — my wife — to describe me, I’d bet that along with flattering descriptors such as loving and kind, she’d also include some words like compulsive and perfectionist. If I’m being truly honest with myself, she’s right. Compulsion and the unrelenting quest for perfection are two detrimental elements of my personality and regular sources of friction in some of my most valued relationships.
According to GI Joe, knowing is only half the battle. Taking action is the other. After realizing the areas in which we’d like to improve, how can we combat our self-acknowledged personal weaknesses and start making positive changes? I don’t claim to have the prescription, but here are some methods that work for me as I struggle with two personal flaws.
I am extremely compulsive with respect to workflows and lifestyle habits. A few weeks ago when I started on the Paleo, I jumped in feet-first reading as much information as I possibly could and immediately tried to implement the lifestyle into all areas of my life. The instant and complete immersion into a significant lifestyle change not only created internal tension, but also created a somewhat tense environment between me and people I love.
For example, once I decided to committ, I was all-in with 100% dedication. I started cold turkey by eradicating processed foods such as bread, dairy and sugar from my diet. Meals at home proved to be difficult, as did meals out. My wife couldn’t understand why I wanted to make a separate dinner from the meal the rest of the family was eating. Why couldn’t I just participate in moderation or ease into it, she would ask.
My compulsion doesn’t exclusively relate to my dietary habits, but it also touches nearly every other aspect of my life from producing this website to home improvement projects. It’s something I’ve been struggling with for as long as I can remember.
Combating Compulsive Behavior
My biggest difficulty when combating compulsion is the acknowledgement that progress can be made through moderate, incremental processes. Being a results-focused and goal-oriented person, my fear is that if I don’t act on something immediately, I will never act. The truth, though, is that I don’t need to completely and totally give up eating bread to make a positive change. Rather, if I moderately limit my intake, over time I will see results.
Similarly, it is unnecessary to stop everything I’m doing and begin crafting an article for this website at the instant inspiration strikes. I’m making a conscious effort to eliminate compulsion by introducing heavy doses of purpose and balance. If easy and efficient processes are in place to capture tasks and ideas for action at a later, more purposeful time, I can act with intention instead of reaction.
The Quest for Perfection
Like compulsion, I find my pursuit of perfection has negative impacts on both internal piece-of-mind and external relationships. My professional pixels must always be in their right place and my personal ducks must always be in their respective rows. Anything less is unacceptable. If I fall short of my perfect goal, I beat myself up beyond belief.
I also have a hard time collaborating or letting go of projects, even with highly capable and extremely intelligent colleagues. I would much rather take something individually from inception to fruition, than relinquish even the smallest portion of control that could impact the outcome of said creative project. This is the case even if it creates an enormous and unhealthy workload.
Admitting Perfection Doesn’t Exist
In order to combat the detriment that is perfectionism, I first need to acknowledge that it is not an absolute. It’s subjective. My concept of perfection varies greatly from your idea of perfection. Realizing this and regularly reaffirming the subjective nature of perfection is the first step in moving toward letting go of the feeble pursuit.
Perfection is a myth. You are chasing a ghost.
I now challenge myself with respect to perfection by actively sharing and asking for input on work that’s in-progress, and participating in collaborative endeavors like the Static Made Artist Series and a new project I will be sharing with you tomorrow.
By challenging myself in these areas, I feel I’m growing. For me, fighting the grips of compulsion and perfectionism is an every-day struggle. However, through actively letting go and focusing on elements that truly matter (moderation, intention, balance and truth), I am making incremental steps toward individual progress.