Letting Go of Perfection Once Again

two tracks in a grassy field

Nothing causes me more stress than being presented with two diverging paths.

Two Is My Least Favorite Number

And so is three, four, five, etc. In fact, the only number I’m really comfortable with is one. It’s probably just my brain. I don’t multitask well.

But when I look more deeply at it, the reason why I don’t multitask well is that I am a perfectionist. I want to do a really good job at everything I do. I’d rather not do something than do it poorly.

And underlying my perfectionism is my desire for approval, starting originally with my mom when I was a young boy in school. My mom, rightly, expected me to do well in school. But I—wanting her approval so dearly—made it my mission never to disappoint her.

As a result, I did very well in school, but I planted the seeds of stress for myself. Especially when diverging paths have presented themselves and there is not enough time to go in both directions fully.

One of those Seeds Planted in Youth Sprouted Last Weekend

It was a tough week in my family. First my step-dad died. And then the day of his funeral, on the other side of my family, my step-mom’s mother died. My partner and I have been doing a lot of traveling as a result.

But here’s where the two diverging paths presented themselves for me. The conflict for me was between family and work. On the one side, I wanted to just be with my family during this time of mourning. And on the other side, I had an unusually large workload implementing changes to Inquiry Circle and The Work 101.

Either one, family or work, could have filled my week completely. But when both presented themselves at the same time, I experienced stress. Because I didn’t want to compromise with either.

In the End, I Found Ways to Make it Work

But I see now that I have some ongoing work to do now that the crisis has passed. Here are some ways I can do The Work on this situation.

1. Identify stressful one-liners (individual stressful thoughts to question).

Here are a few that come to mind.

I don’t want to compromise.
I want to spend the week exclusively with my family.
I want to spend the week exclusively with my work.
There’s not enough time to do both.
It’s more work if I delay The Work 101.
I will look bad if I delay The Work 101.
I will look bad if I leave Inquiry Circle in a state of transition.
I will look bad if I don’t show up fully for my family.

These one-liners can be questioned directly, and they also lead to the second way to do The Work on this situation.

2. Write some Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets

The last three statements on my list above point towards some possible Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets. For example, I could write a worksheet on The Work 101 course participants as a group. My Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet line 1 would be, “I feel bound by them because they expect the course to start on time.” And I could go on to fill in the rest of the worksheet based on what I wrote in line 1.

Likewise, I could write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on Inquiry Circle participants. In this case, I have one particular person in mind. My line 1 statement is, “I am anxious with him because he expects me to be organized.” And I can go on to fill in the rest of the worksheet from there.

Finally, I can write some worksheets on my family, or family members, in different situations. For example, I can choose the moment when my step-brother said that he had hoped to hang out with me during the week. My line 1 is, “I am sorrowful with him because he hoped to hang out with me.” And I can continue writing the rest of the worksheet on him in that moment.

That’s the Cool Thing About Last Week

There are a lot of good angles for doing The Work that came out of this situation. It reminds me that every stressful situation is really just an opportunity for self-inquiry. Because, if it came up in this situation, you can bet it has come up before, and that it will come up again.

The Work is about getting stronger, and clearer—finding new ways of being in all the different situations that life presents.

I can guarantee that I will be presented with diverging paths many times again in my life. By working my stressful thoughts about this situation, I am laying the groundwork for a less stressful experience the next time it happens.

Have a great weekend,

“The job you do out there in the apparent world is secondary. It’s only a place for you to judge, inquire, and know yourself. Your true job is to appreciate what is; your primary profession is to be clear.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

  • Carmen says:

    My condolences Todd and thank you for sharing. I also did some work on perfection last week and for me the TA: ‘I need to make mistakes’ was very liberating!

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