The Price of Perfectionism

“Perfection is the enemy of creativity.”
—Bangambiki Habyarimana

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I have been graced with the wonderful gift of a wise woman showing up in my life (by introduction of another brilliant woman) to guide me through a low point and onward to achieving something I wouldn’t have thought possible within the time frame it was completed in. Upon each visit with my coach/mentor, we normally begin with a list of what I’ve done since our last appointment and then we move onto what’s next on the agenda. A few months ago I quickly went over my lengthy checklist. As I launched forward with barely a breath, my coach Dianne stopped me.

“Wait a minute. Back up. Back up! Do you see what you just accomplished? Can you see how much you’ve done since we last met?”

I looked over the list. “Yeah. I got a lot done.” And off I went on a tangent.

She stopped me again. “Let’s acknowledge this.” We sat and reviewed the list. Still, I glossed over most of it and we carried on with the rest of the session.

That evening I received a notification of a new post from a practitioner I follow who specializes in finance and money (EFT, Margaret Lynch). Her post was called: Most Powerful Weird Thing You Can Do to Unblock Money. In the five-minute video, she spoke about the power of celebrating the small actions you take toward your goals and how this one thing can affect your income flow. She had witnessed this with hundreds of clients; the refusal to reward oneself, the refusal to feel good and accept accolades, is the refusal of reward via money as well. In the language of the Law of Attraction, what we are saying to the Universe is, I don’t deserve anything for this work yet. I had never considered the concept of a cost to this common habit.

As I listened, I realized that it doesn’t matter what I’ve achieved or done—if it’s not completed—and completed with excellence, then it doesn’t count. I’m always keeping my eye on how much more there is left to do. The celebration comes only when the job is done—signed, sealed, and delivered. I was surprised when Margaret suggested praising oneself for even the smallest steps, such as making a phone call, writing an email—any progress toward the goal, no matter the size of the task. It sounded a bit ridiculous. But she reminds us that the end of the project or goal may be far off in the distance and we could be waiting a long time for any self-acknowledgment. In turn, we place a big stop sign in front of ourselves, deflecting the outer reward of people to rally for a project, satisfaction to find us, or unexpected income to show up.

The message Dianne tried to impart earlier was outlined loudly in this short video. Stop. Celebrate. Validate the work you have done.

I immediately let the rejoicing begin. I mean, really? What feels better? Negating every bit of progress I make or giving myself a good pat on the back? A lack of validation is stingy. It made sense to me that being miserly with kudos along the way would cut off the flow of a lot of other gifts on the journey to the destination. I started disclosing my progress and celebrating with meals, a bottle of wine, a small gift to someone who helped me, or just a quick call to share a small victory.

What struck me as synchronistic was a comment Ms. Lynch made in her video: “Celebrate like you’ve just cured cancer!”

I was interminably blocked on my second travel memoir and one dark morning last November while in the awakening state I heard a voice say, “You are writing a book about cancer.” My immediate reply was, “No, I am not.” “Yes, you are,” I heard back. “That doesn’t sound like fun at all!” “You are writing a book about cancer.” Period, was the energy I felt in the air around me.

I reluctantly began “the assignment” and it flowed. When I started outlining the book, I asked myself numerous times, why in the hell am I writing this? There are scads of books on cancer by experts. But as I got closer to the finish line, I saw the inherent value of sharing my cancer experiences, my relentless research over the years, and my findings in a tireless pursuit to understand the meaning of life on Earth. I do not know how many, but I now know that the book will help guide someone somewhere who is hit with a frightening diagnosis.

Despite my qualms and writing around a job and other obligations, in under ten months, I have completed the manuscript. Countless hours of poring over my journals and doing research of all manner into the wee hours were logged. I know all too well the abject terror and acute sense of overwhelm that follows a diagnosis of cancer and with that in mind, I distilled a mountain of information into bite sized, easy to digest chapters. I celebrate with you the fact that my editor is currently working on my latest book, What To Do After “I’m sorry, it’s cancer.”

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I’m not curing cancer. But what I hear the world asking for at every turn—no, pleading for— is a new way. Through my unique story and perspective, I hope to shed a little more light on doing cancer differently than the antiquated path well traveled and on doing life itself in a more harmonious and life-affirming way. Making informed, intuitive decisions instead of ones based on propaganda and fear is empowerment. As I wrote the book, my underlying mission grew into giving those struggling in panic and pain a convincing reminder that impossible things happen every day.

I don’t know who or what gave me the directive last November. I do know it is based in spirit and was a labor of love. Once I heard Dianne’s wisdom and started acknowledging the work I was doing along the path, people began to show up in support. Just when I lost a small stream of income, another sprouted new wings, so that I had the time to write. And in an ironic twist, I have been invited to work on a dream writing gig that is far removed from the topic of cancer and will find me knee deep in the tropic of joy, if all is funded and Cuban visas are granted. (Margaret wasn’t fibbing.)

I now see the intrinsic brilliance of rewarding oneself for not just a job well done at the very end of the road, but also for the small strides along the way. There are precious gifts to be found in the thick of the minutiae by saying “good job” for even the tiniest work.

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If you are plodding through your projects with a shortage of self-appreciation and a theme of perfectionism, remember to laud any triumphs. The applause will bring pleasant pay-offs, big and small. And I’ll join you in the celebration by seconding the motion—that you rock!

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4 Responses to The Price of Perfectionism

  1. Teresa ferri says:

    Congratulations on writing your story in the hopes of helping others. Wishing you all the best.

  2. rita bercan says:

    If you are never satisfied with life and its offerings and how blessed we are to have so much talent we will hang on to the knapsacks. To celebrate is huge. I cannot wait to read your new book. Thank you Rita!

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