This story shows this pyramid you HAVE TO LEARN if you want to overcome perfectionism and anxiety, and create success and wealth instead:
I felt like I was flying a rocket around the colorful planets in my dreams, when suddenly I felt like I crashed into the moon. The alarm clock went off. It was 6 AM. I opened my eyes from the deep sleep. Down the hallway in the kitchen,I heard my wife screaming at me:
“You didn’t listen to me again! You didn’t buy enough mushrooms for my pot luck party!”
I reached over and turned off the alarm clock. I felt like I was still floating in space because it was still dark out. I rubbed my eyes and put my glasses on. I grabbed a t-shirt and yelled back down the hallway.
“What are you talking about? I bought you the mushrooms yesterday, exactly as you asked!”
My eyes adjusted to the darkness. The lights in the hallway turned on. Even though it was early in the morning, I prepared for an argument the size of World War 3 as I heard my wife walk down the hallway toward me.
The bedroom door swung open and she barged in. I swear, if I hadn’t seen my wife’s face in the hallway light, I would have thought I was still dreaming and this was an alien boarding my space ship.
My wife stormed across the room and yelled at me as she quickly got dressed. “Those mushrooms may not be anything to you, but they were important to me! They are for the big pot luck party at work! Now I won’t have enough. I asked you to buy a double batch because both departments are going to be there! I told you this all yesterday. Why weren’t you listening to me?”
I’ve learned not to argue with my wife when she’s as angry as a wolverine caught in a bear trap.
But since we were already both awake and yelling at 6 AM, and I hadn’t had my coffee yet, I didn’t really care, or think ahead about how my wife would respond. I yelled back at her:
“If you wanted your mushrooms done perfectly, you should have gotten off your butt and gone to the store yourself!”
I saw that comment strike a nerve in my wife. I am not sure if our bedroom lights were on, but the fire I saw erupt in her eyes blazed so brightly that I had to look away. In fact, the blaze was so strong that I bet the entire north metro area woke up that morning wondering if a nuclear explosion had gone off outside.
She pointed her index finger at me, “If you could listen better than a 5 year old, maybe you could hear the things I tell you better!”
With that final statement, she grabbed her jacket and rushed out of the door. She got into her car, and she was gone.
I was stunned. I sat in a daze for a few minutes trying to figure out how a couple packs of mushrooms for a pot luck party could have caused us to act like that. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fall back to sleep after that so I made a cup of coffee, and watched the sun rise out of our bedroom windows. I went to God and asked him for insight into the real reason why this argument happened.
Thirty minutes later, my phone rang. It was my wife.
I drank a huge gulp of coffee before I answered it. “Hello?”
I heard my wife crying on the other end. “I’m so sorry I made such a big deal about the mushrooms. I wanted everything to be perfect at the party. My perfectionism and anxiety got the best of me again, and I’m sorry. We didn’t have to argue like that.”
A few possible responses jumped in my mind as I thought about how to respond to her. Replies like: Yeah you’re right, you should have done it yourself. Or, next time we confront each other about something stupid, can we at least try to schedule a better time for it than 6 AM?
But I didn’t say any of those things. The timing wasn’t right.
“I’m sorry too.” I said. “I didn’t know you had everyone coming to the party. I should have listened better and I am sorry.”
She stopped crying. “I’m sorry my perfectionism got in the way again. In the big picture, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s just a pot luck. I just wanted it to be perfect. Look how foolish this all is. We’re arguing and fighting over a pack of mushrooms. There’s got to be bigger things than this that we should be fighting for, rather than fighting against each other.”
That’s it, I thought. That is the point of this story. This article is really about the evil roots of perfectionism and anxiety, and how these roots grow weeds in the garden of our lives and the ugly, unquenchable, uncontrollable wrath it can inspire inside us.
Perfectionism and anxiety destroyed our happiness in this example. The perfectionism and anxiety we felt inspired ugly, uncontrollable wrath inside of us. This realization of how perfectionism and anxiety impacts our lives led me to think about issues much deeper than the packs of mushrooms that caused the disagreement between us.
This is a great place to take a break from the argument above. I want to examine the powers of Perfectionism and Anxiety that we each have in our human DNA, and how it can positively or negatively affect our path to purpose and wealth.
Our success all depends on how we choose to focus the perfectionist power inside of us, I realized. This thought is worth the time to dissect the trait of perfectionism, and understand how it can either help, or destroy, our opportunities to build happiness, purpose, and wealth. Let me explain further:
OVERCOMING PERFECTIONISM AND ANXIETY: THE PERFECTIONIST PYRAMID
I created this model to show what I’m talking about:
This perfectionist pyramid illustrates how you should prioritize your energy to overcome the ugly beasts of perfectionism and anxiety. Invest your time and effort in the goals at the top of your pyramid to grow your wealth.
This pyramid ultimately shows that, because we are human beings with limited energy, we can only try to be perfect in so many areas until we get burned out and frustrated. That’s because we’re ultimately each flawed and imperfect people. No matter how hard we try, we can never be perfect at everything.
This pyramid shows that to maximize your opportunities to grow wealth, the majority of your energy should be focused on the goals at the top of your pyramid to create the most value for yourself and others in the world.
Ask yourself: Do you want to waste your best perfectionist energy focused on the stupid mundane things in life on the lower base of the pyramid? Or do you want to save and focus your perfectionist energy on dominating the incredible, life-changing goals at the top of your pyramid? Usually the goals at the top of the pyramid are what I call your “dream life” goals, because those are the goals that will lead you to live your dreams.
For example, let’s say you only have one hour worth of perfectionist energy per day to invest building your dream life? Where should you focus that incredibly intense energy? What are your most important dreams and goals? That‘s where you should devote your perfectionist energy. Look to the goals at the top of your pyramid! Not at the mundane stupid stuff at the bottom!
For example, let’s look at the below scenarios to see where successful people devote their perfectionist energy?
1) Cooking a dish for a pot luck party that won’t add any wealth to your life?
2) Making sure your attitude, faith, and income-producing skills are as perfect as they can be to live your dreams?
The Perfection Pyramid I illustrated above should help you clarify your choices right away. In this scenario, an acceptable “Ok” pot luck dish will do just fine.
Focus your energy on all the things that make your life great. You might not turn out perfect, but at least your energy won’t be wasted on the things that make you average and frustrated!
I want my perfectionist energy focused on making my attitude, faith, and income-producing skills as great as they can be. These are the things that are going to propel me toward all of my dreams. This is where the perfectionist part of my personality needs to be working 100% of the time.
Here’s another example to illustrate my main points about overcoming perfectionism and anxiety. Which area should I strive for perfection to build wealth?
1) Do I stress over a perfectly organized office desk? And a micro-managed staff who must do everything EXACTLY as I say?
2) Do I focus my perfectionism on making sure my clients are having the best possible experience when working with me?
The perfectionism pyramid clearly points to where my priorities should be aimed if my goal is to build wealth. A perfect office desk, and over-micromanaged staff have never increased my bonus checks. It’s my clients that help me succeed. That’s why I make it my focus to make sure my clients are getting every ounce of perfectionist energy I’ve got in me. I am fine with my office desk getting the “good enough” treatment.
As you can see, I’m convinced that perfectionism isn’t a bad trait to have. If focused correctly, it can be used as an insanely awesome power to drastically change your life.
If you want to build your life full of more wealth and happiness, devote the perfectionist energy you have toward goals that will take you toward living your dreams. Everything else – All the mundane stupid stuff in life – should just get the “good enough” treatment.
Use the Perfectionist Pyramid to help you prioritize what goals should get your best energy to help you build your path to success and wealth. (Read more about money and investing here.)
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