"The way to be happy," said Winston Churchill, "is to find something that requires the kind of perfection that's impossible to achieve and spend the rest of your life trying to achieve it." I've always liked that idea--it's one of the main reasons why painters keep coming back to their studios and squeezing out.
But, as most of us know, perfectionism has its problems. Some of us don't handle it very well. Current study identifies some folks as "adaptive perfectionists" while others are "maladaptive perfectionists." It seems that some of us use the ideal of perfection as a healthy route toward excellence, while others are stymied and made dysfunctional by the thought of it.
- Accepting the inevitable proposition that striving for your own idea of perfection is going to take you down a long and bumpy road of frustration, here are a few ideas:
- Turn on your experimental mind. Everything is an assay. Be inventive and prepared to be surprised.
- Do not at first commit yourself to onerous or impossible projects with too many potential pitfalls.
- Be aware that disappointment and failure are stepping stones to satisfaction and success.
- When something you do gives you joy, go once more (and perhaps again and again) in that direction.
- Do not beat yourself up when you fall down. There is no vendetta. Dust yourself off. Be practical.
- Know that perfection is just an ideal and that notes, colours, forms, designs, etc., can only approach that ideal.
- Avoid exposure to potential critics until well along on a project. Don't let anyone prematurely pop your balloon.
- Be philosophical. The happiest people take an "agnostic" approach where curiosity and questioning give more joy and stimulate more wonder than pat answers. We live our short spans in the vortex of a miracle, and while we may not be the center of that vortex, it is magic to be anywhere in there. Be happy! The gods insist on it. The philosophers can find no higher ideal. The pursuit of it is written in the US Constitution. It's the pursuit that matters.