Perfectionism, Incremental Improvement and Happiness

A person has recently told me that he is a perfectionist. I instantly remembered a time when I was proud of being one too, and then I remembered I actually was quite unhappy at that time too…

Have you been in a place where although nothing was “wrong” per se, you had this continued feeling of not being good enough, not having done enough, that every little thing could have been better than it was? This is a negative spiral and is a powerful trap. It might seem to lead you to excellence, however what it truly achieves is the exact opposite.

If we focus on what is not done, what is not enough and what is not perfect we doom ourselves to never be able to improve. For achieving excellence we need a certain mindset that cannot coexist with feelings of lack and limitation. It is biologically impossible! If we constantly compare ourselves with others we will underestimate our own achievements and our own qualities, so we will start running strategies that neurologically cannot nurture improvements. This has been richly researched and we have marvelous studies published on this subject in highly regarded fields like epigenetics and positive psychology.

When we decide to compare ourselves to us only, and to act towards improvements, then we start building a healthy mindset. By asking ourselves “how can I …?” we will find useful, practical ideas that will enable us to become better and better each day. When we  plant in our being this search for incremental improvements we are in congruency with the biological makeup of our body. There is an incremental improvement principle at work in our inherent healing mechanisms, whether it is a surgery scar or an internal organ that needs to be healed. And, even better, incremental improvement does not necessary require a long amount of time! Our mindset is the most powerful environment that is decisive in this matter and we need to carefully monitor it.

Next we need to ratify the change by keeping track of the daily improvements that we see. These constitute evidence for your unconscious mind and work as fuel for our newly designed mindset. All of a sudden we will know we are on track towards our specific desired outcome.  Any deviation you recognize should not cause any concern. All planes in the air are 90% of the time off-track, however they usually arrive at the destination just because during the entire flight the deviation is monitored and corrected (“course correction”), increment by increment in the direction needed. Therefore – all is in good order and you are on your way!

How does it feel to be a man/women on a mission?! Do I sense sparks of happiness? You chuckle, and for good reasons: happiness is produced by having simultaneous two ingredients: present pleasures or enjoyments (like a daily log of incremental improvements) and a meaningful goal we work towards (our specific desire we want to accomplish). And trust me, I am studying this fascinating field of happiness for four full years now! Happiness is what we were built for! Let’s honor it!