Tag Archives: perfectionism

The No-Fail Resolution

I am a woman of many words. Just ask my husband.

Usually this is a good thing, my ability to smooth out the awkward in conversations, to fill the page as a student, and to speak publicly with ease. But it can become a burden. I’m not just a talker you see, I’m a planner and a perfectionist.

New Year is like Mardi Gras for my type. We’re good at it.

We enumerate countless flaws and faults which NEED to be addressed immediately. We craft a lengthy list of high-minded goals and measurable outcomes. We paint a grand and glorious vision of our future (and yours).

In the beginning, this seems so productive, so motivational. In the beginning, it fills me with energy and hope. In the beginning, those words are perfect. And for a few brief moments, so am I.

Until I’m not.

The weight of all the words begins to drag me down. By mid-January my new expectations and obligations stop pointing the way and start pointing their fingers. Enter frustration, self loathing and complete surrender. In the long run, resolutions have done more harm than good for me.

New Year’s resolutions are like heroine for my type: thrilling, addictive and horribly self destructive.

A few years ago I discovered One Word 365. Participants choose a single word to represent the year to come. It is more of a mantra than a goal. A touchstone to focus, guide, and comfort on the journey.

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I still want to do all the things, to learn all the lessons, to make all the changes, to reach all the goals… but I don’t perform better under pressure, I perform worse.

In 2012 I traded my laundry list of resolutions in for the word “Dream” – a word I disliked at the time, but felt compelled to choose. That year I learned to take risks, to embrace creativity and to see hope and blessing when life was overwhelming. So many dreams came true that year, ones I had all but given up on.

2013 was the year of “Today.” I’m not sure I would have survived without this focus. It was the most overwhelming and challenging year of our lives for a number of reasons, which were exacerbated by ongoing lack of sleep. Jesus said that “each day has enough trouble of its own;” in 2013 it also had just enough joy, help and energy to get us through. Barely.

I’ve been praying, talking to friends, and weighing my options this year. “Sleep” seems unreasonably optimistic. “Write” appeals to me, but would undoubtedly become another guilty burden when we downshift into survival mode. Glen thought I meant “Right,” exclaimed he wasn’t surprised and had a good laugh at my expense.

Instead, my One Word 2014 is:

breathe

When I’m overwhelmed, reacting with emotion and outrage and the fearful certainty that this small frustration is the first domino in the complete breakdown of civilization as we know it… Breathe.

When life is happening all around me, precious memories coalescing before my eyes and the treasures of this unique moment hang heavy in the air… Breathe.

When I lock my keys in the car, run out of gas, lose the entire paper I JUST finished writing, publically embarrass myself (because, let’s face it, this stuff ALWAYS happens to me)… Breathe.

When I pray, when I dream, when I speak thoughts into words, when I need to expunge the poison and inhale the good… Breathe.

When I don’t have time for conscious prayer or true meditation, when I am drowning in my many words, when I need a physical reminder of my spiritual goal… Breathe.

So here’s my resolution. Barring death, I can’t possibly fail this year. What’s yours? If you had to pick one word for the entire year, what would it be?


Embracing the Raggedy Edges

We have a family motto that my Mom-in-law finds deeply disturbing: “It’s not great, but it’s good enough.”

It started one year as we tried to put the star on the Christmas tree. The slightly less than straight, but definitely much beloved tree our girls had picked out. Pretty soon we were saying it all the time – hanging a banner, decorating a cake, writing an email…

I didn’t set out to make mediocrity my goal. It’s hardly the stuff inspirational speeches and parenting books are written about. I do want my children to be wholehearted and hard working; to “work as if for the Lord and not for men”.

Yet I can’t bring myself to mold them into ideal Stepford children. Not only does it require enormous amounts of energy, but it sucks the joy out of life. As a recovering perfectionist I can tell you that the mindset is both exhausting and paralyzing. It’s hard to get anything done, when every little thing has to be done with excellence.

Instead I will train them to pick their battles; to save their time and energy for those things that are most important. I want them to know that they can do anything, but they can’t do everything. Hopefully I will teach them this while learning it myself.

It is hard to accept that I have limits and to live within those boundaries. So when the ghost of Martha Stewart (I know she’s not dead, but she does seem to haunt all women from time to time) peers over my shoulder with a disapproving look, I just say that motto out loud. It’s not great, but it’s good enough.

So here’s us, where life is messy and somewhat crooked… and good enough.


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