Now that we’ve dealt with the elephant (see my last post Gifted Shmifted) and you’re contemplating the possibility that you just may be g-g-g-gifted, we shall continue on our trek through the jungle–your wild, fertile and colorful rainforest mind.
I want to get back to perfectionism. The good kind. Yes, there is a healthy perfectionism. It can still drive you and your coworkers, friends and relatives a little crazy. It can still stop you from starting a project. Or stop you from finishing. But it’s not something to discard, destroy or disregard. It’s an inherent part of your nature. You were born with this.
Simply stated: You strive for beauty, balance, harmony, justice and precision in all things. (Well, maybe not ALL things. Maybe it doesn’t apply to your garage.)
I might add that this means you have extremely high standards and expectations for yourself. I say this with confidence because I’ve seen this intrinsic perfectionism in practically every rainforest-minded person I’ve ever known. And I’ve been hanging out with them since the mid-70’s. That’s a very long time. That’s a lot of people.
Tell me: Are you often obsessed with an idea? Driven? Researching incessantly? Do you keep raising the bar when you reach a goal? When you were a child, did you fail to turn in assignments when they didn’t meet your standards, even when you knew you’d get an “A?”
See? What did I tell you?
What about this: When you see perfection in an ocean sunset or in a star-filled night sky, when you hear perfection in the music that you adore, when you taste perfection at that restaurant in Paris, does it take your breath away? Or when you find the exact word for the story or when all of the elements of your experiment line up just right, or when the poetry of the mathematical equation sings to you, is there a sense of satisfaction that is deep and unmistakable?
Here’s the problem.
Other people don’t get it.
It looks neurotic, dysfunctional, excessive, and OCD to them. Maybe to you, too. It’s not. But it can get you kicked out of graduate school because you don’t hand in your poems on time. It can mean that your colleagues don’t invite you to join them at happy hour. It can mean that your taxes are four years overdue.
Did I mention that this might be a problem?
How, then, do you keep your vision, your idealism, your capacity for creating mental, emotional, spiritual or actual cathedrals and still do your taxes, maintain friendships or stay in school?
First, recognize that intrinsic perfectionism is part of who you are and it means that, with you, beauty happens. Quality is expected and produced. And this is a good thing.
Second, look for other rainforest-minded folks and appreciate their high standards. Invite them out for happy hour. Get feedback on your work from people with similar expectations and abilities so that you respect and believe what they’re telling you.
Finally, prioritize. Find the projects and activities that really don’t need to be exquisite or comprehensive or ridiculously awe-inspiring. Excellence can be enough. Good enough can be enough. On occasion. For the less important things. I mean it.
Note to blogEEs:
1. Thankfully, none of you have complained to me yet about the fact that my blog is totally anecdotal and not based on hard data and double blind studies. I’m quite open to your questions and concerns but just want you to know that I know that some of you may object to my nonlinear undocumented broad conclusions.
2. Along those same lines, I’m fully aware that the rain forest is incredibly diverse. So are individuals with rainforest minds. That said, I’m describing common traits and issues that I’ve seen in students, clients and friends over 30+ years. You may or may not share these traits and issues. You may or may not agree with me. I’m good with that. It’s what I love about you.
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