When Perfectionism Doesn’t Work

Well, I’ve still never been to California without being cold! Five days in San Diego and it was mostly chilly and rainy. All of which is a blessing for them, but not quite what the Chamber of Commerce promised!

I spent so much time locked in a hotel meeting room, learning cool things about publishing, that the weather didn’t really matter all that much. Food, however, was a bigger challenge!

No meals were provided with the meeting, and not many breaks, which meant mainly grazing my way through the hotel. Trying to stay in my normal, mostly organic, local food, I know the names of the hens who laid my eggs mode didn’t work very well!

While people juggling urgent health problems and specific medical orders might need another yardstick, lots of folks who talk about good, clean, healthy, sustainably raised food are also fond of what’s called the 80-20 rule. Intended to recognize that sometimes we choose to eat far from the kitchens we work so hard to make full of what we believe in, and bare of our own particular “evils,” the 80-20 rule suggests that if we hit about 80% of our food according to our plan and don’t beat ourselves up over the other 20%, we’re doing pretty well.

If you figure 3 meals a day, that’s roughly 16 meals a week we would choose according to our dietary principles and 5 meals we choose for other reasons. I didn’t do nearly that well in San Diego! Exhibit 1…the breakfast photo above!!!

I’m not beating myself up over it, though. Nor have I given up and decided all is lost. You see, those are the thoughts of perfectionists and perfectionism just doesn’t work! Perfectionism is simply a huge opportunity to fail over and over again.

There’s an old legend about Middle Eastern rug makers who intentionally tied at least one incorrect knot in each rug. Their belief was that only God—or Allah—is perfect and we should not attempt perfection. Some Asian cultures have a similar notion of wabi sabi, which is the practice of appreciating something in all its organic, hand-made uniqueness.

I find those thoughts really helpful, especially when I’m eating anonymous hard boiled eggs out of a plastic bowl with suspicious mayo-like dressing and random veg slices, washing it down with the famous coffee that tastes even better with some chocolate and a little mystery dairy.

It is worth noting that, in many areas, Starbucks gives away used, dried, and bagged coffee grounds for garden composting! That’s something I can feel good about!

So, I’m home again, steaming my jet-lagged eyelids open with cup number two of organic green tea, and getting it back together. There’s homemade, very organic soup thawing on the counter. Bill even cleaned the kitchen before I got home! I’m back on track, and I’m really glad.

I do remember, though, that the publishing wizards in San Diego also mentioned that perfectionism often holds us back from accomplishing anything meaningful. That just might have been worth the whole trip!

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity®
Color of Woman Teacher & Coach