Make a perfect mess

Striving for perfection won’t help you achieve your goals. Taking committed action and doing what you believe in will help you to live the life you want to lead.

‘Your day’s work might turn out to have been a mess. So what? Vonnegut said, “When I write, I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” So go ahead and make big scrawls and mistakes. Use up lots of paper. Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.’

Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird.

Make a perfect mess
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In ACT, we don’t spout perfectionist slogans like ‘never quit’, ‘never give up’, ‘always do your best’. They sound good in theory, but in reality, no human can possibly live up to these ideals. The philosopher Haridas Chaudhuri said it succinctly: ‘The greater the emphasis on perfection, the further it recedes.’

In ACT, we encourage acceptance of the reality that we’re all imperfect – and yes, there will be times that we quit, give up, or get lost. And at the same time we also encourage commitment: to get better at staying on track for longer periods, better at catching ourselves when we go off course, and better at starting again from where we are.

Russ Harris. The Confidence Gap.

The perfect personality

The best stories describe a character’s struggle to overcome the flaws in their personality. In reality, perfection doesn’t have to be so difficult to achieve.

The perfect personality
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‘In most modern stories it is the Hero’s personality that is being recreated or restored to wholeness. The missing piece may be a critical element of personality such as the ability to love or trust. Heroes may have to overcome some problem such as lack of patience or decisiveness. Audiences love watching Heroes grapple with personality problems and overcome them. Will Edward, the rich but cold-hearted businessman of Pretty Woman, warm up under the influence of the life-loving Vivian and become her Prince Charming? Will Vivian gain some self-respect and escape her life of prostitution? Will Conrad, the guilt-ridden teenager in Ordinary People, regain his lost ability to accept love and intimacy?’

Christopher Vogler. The Writer’s Journey.

It can be worthwhile to tell the client about the etymology of perfect. The first part of the word (per) comes from a term that means “thoroughly.” Fect comes from the same root as the word factory and means “made.” In normal language, wholeness and perfection seem to be issues of evaluation. If to be perfect is to be thoroughly made, perhaps perfection is more a matter of presence or wholeness. The idea “I am missing something” also comes in a moment that is always absolutely whole. No second contains more life than any other second, even the seconds that are filled with thoughts of how incomplete we are. The experience of that very thought can be complete.’

Steven C. Hayes, Kirk D. Strosahl, Kelly G. Wilson. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change.