Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Improving our perfectionism

Let's keep in mind that whenever we realize that something is not perfect, we have to be carrying around in our head a notion of perfection.  That notion may be wrong.  Maybe perfectly straight lines aren't perfection.  Maybe something else is, for one purpose or another.

Our idea of perfection may be limited or out-of-date.  We might do better to expand the idea to include more characteristics or pare it down to fewer conditions.  It might have been a fine guide five or ten years ago but not now.

It is not especially comfortable to question our idea of what is perfect.  Doing so opens our goal to examination and possible change. We can't tell if we are winning if we don't know what the goal looks like, where it is.

We can't tell if we are being virtuous if we aren't able to recognize the virtuous state, the state of propriety.  Questioning what exactly the perfect state is can create anxiety.  If we aren't sure which way is perfect, maybe we will get totally lost, abandoned, headed to oblivion.  To avoid that anxiety, we may shy away from considering alterations to our blueprint of what we are aiming for.  Reading Prof. Chris Argyris years ago, I learned that he had found that people are much more able to evaluate progress toward a goal than to question or change the goal.  

It is understandable to be reluctant to modify our goal.  If we show up on the building site after the crews are halfway done with the job and explain that we want to modify the overall plan, there is going to be disappointment, irritation and expense.  It is probably going to be easier to live with our original plan and so we continue toward the same end.

We are usually better off if we can discover the truth and work with it.  That is not easy since we have internal truths, such as how we are feeling now and what sort of mood we are in today, as well as external truths such we are having an earthquake or drought.  We can't stop the quake or bring rain on our own but we feel we really ought to be able to control our internal feelings.  To a large extent, we can but beyond that extent, an early measure we can take is a gentle meeting with our minds and feelings.  

Periodically having a cup of coffee with ourselves, our whole internal group of feelings, memories, hopes and fears and taking notes on their positions and statements, we may be able to face the fact that our best version of perfection has changed or needs to.  Maybe we do want to become pet owners or we do want to divest ourselves of that property.  Our best interpersonal conferences may yield logic, evidence, needed and possible experiments and challenges that we actually do want to take into ourselves.  Tim Ferris is young and may be too much so to impress older people but he is very popular with people all over the world.  He emphasizes in his "The Four Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich" that bigger, more challenging goals can be much more inspiring that smaller, more easily attainable ones.

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