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The Stress of Perfection

By Blogger
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I like everything to be “just so;” do you?

Here’s a good example: when I was writing my book, Cancer for Two, I hired a book consultant to help me do it right the first time. We spent (are you ready for this?) FOUR HOURS on the phone, fine-tuning the wording on the back cover. This wasn’t starting from scratch, but rather with the result from the previous conversation about the back cover!

I have spent hours and hours working on the wording for a tri-fold brochure about The Patient/Partner Project, and even more hours on the wording and format of “Coping Guides,” which are in the form of bookmarks that I provide at no cost to cancer clinics around the country.

Gee, do you think that’s stressful? Uh… yes, it is!

A lot of us tend to put way more energy into things than we need to. I have a friend who used to date a woman that wouldn’t allow anyone to see her without her makeup… including him! How stressful it must have been for her to get up in the morning and run to the bathroom before anyone saw her.

Let’s get a grip, people! If you are in a stressful situation such as dealing with a serious illness, you need to shed as much baggage as possible. Let’s start with this obsession we have with making everything perfect.

The good news is that it is something over which we have control. When dealing with a life challenge there are things you can control and things you can’t. When we worry and focus on things we cannot control, the stress we generate is gi-normous. Perfectionism is something that we CAN control, so control it!

It is very common to get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture. Remember that the 80% rule applies to most of these situations: 80% of the result will only require 20% of the effort; the remaining 20% of the result ends up requiring 80% of the effort! Alan Weiss, a world-famous consultant and mentor, deals with this sort of thing with his clients. He says, “Life is about success, not perfection. When you’re 80% there, stop and move on. The extra energy you spend will only result in a 20% improvement.”

When you really start getting into it, who’s to say when you are 100% there?

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.