We are told that failure is an essential part of growth. It is something that we need to accept. If we are not failing often enough and hard enough, then we aren’t making progress. While it is wonderful to be able to make that argument intellectually, it is another thing entirely to respond to it personally. Our obsession with the negative isn’t about embracing failure; it’s about avoiding it. Perfectionism doesn’t reflect an obsession with excellence so much as an intolerance for mistakes. Our brains actively work to avoid situations where there is the possibility of failure, and discourages taking action that might result in pain. Actually embracing failure is directly contrary to that outcome, which means that we’ve got our work cut out for us.
I have been participating in the Ride for the Breath of Life for more than 15 years. For the last 10 years, that’s involved getting myself back to Edmonton from my home base in Ontario. This year’s ride was theoretically easier, in that because of the pandemic it was once again virtual. In other ways, that makes it much harder.
We are hardwired to look for and emphasize the negative. This is what gives rise to our perfectionist tendencies; perfectionism sounds positive, but is in fact an avoidance and intolerance of the imperfect. While it is easy to be negative, it isn’t necessarily very productive, though. And while optimism to some might represent an unrealistic and impractical viewing of the world through idealistic rose-coloured glasses, there is a great deal of insight to suggest that highlighting the positive makes a world of difference. Optimism might not be innate, but for your future success it might just be vital.
Perfectionism is an awesome thing in theory. It produces work with exceptional results, delivered well, with few if any errors. At least, that’s the promise. The reality is something altogether different. Perfectionism is frustrating, can be debilitating and is more often than not exhausting. Behind the striving for excellence is the anxiety of not quite being good enough, of not measuring up and clearing the bar. That has a number of negative consequences, not just for the perfectionist, but for those around them. Moving past it requires understanding first off where perfectionism comes from and why it exists.
Yes, you can design your new normal. You can also work towards realizing it. That doesn’t mean it is always going to be fun, easy or enjoyable. That is probably the most important thing to contemplate as you consider what you want your new normal to become. For whatever you are leaving behind and changing, what you move towards will have its own challenges. For all that you dream and aspire towards and envision your optimal, desired future, there are aspects that are going to suck. Going in with eyes wide open can help you get past the obstacles. Being prepared to do that is absolutely essential.
It is one thing to design what you want your new normal to look like. Getting there is a different matter, and one that is important to acknowledge. You may feel completely confident about your decisions and choices in the moment. Enacting them, communicating them and sharing them with others can be its own challenge. Whether you are trying to make changes at work, personally or in your relationships, part of getting what you want will involve negotiating with others. There is no one more challenging to negotiate with than yourself.