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The problem with extremes

June 07, 2011

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Hand-drawn award ribbon icon that says '99-percent perfect' on it.

Are you a perfectionist? Do you give something either everything you have or nothing at all?

I ask because that's how I am, usually. I have to make conscious efforts to do less-than-perfect on anything I do. I have to say "That's good enough" to myselves, quite frequently. If I'm not super-vigilant about accepting less-than-perfection, then I often throw in the towel on things that really are OK even if they're not 100%.

Let's take cleaning my house as an example. My inclination is to want the house completely 100% clean and tidy. Since that's generally not possible, what I ended up doing for years is just letting the whole thing go to pot. Now, I have 2 ways I can mitigate this issue: first is breaking down the whole into smaller parts. So I used a system at and shined my sink to perfection. Just the sink. That's what I started with. Since then I've tackled very small areas at a time, and the whole house got cleaner. The second thing I did was tell myself it was OK if it wasn't perfect as long as it was BETTER. It's very tough for me, but this is necessary for my sanity, otherwise I try to ignore the whole issue and my home becomes a health hazard. Really.

It's important that you figure out whether you have this issue when it comes to dealing with your guests and residents. That's one place where I do NOT have this issue. But I know people who do, and that causes the whole system to go to pot.

Here's some extremes in multiplicity: They want to know everyone in their head at once. They want total communication. They want everyone to go away, now. They want everyone to stop misbehaving. They want total privacy. They want total transparency. They want everything to be communal. The list can go on and on.

Any time we want it "all" or we want "none" we're being extreme. I want my whole house to be clean. And I want the level of clean to be "able to eat off the floor." It's pretty easy to see that I'm setting myself up for failure and disappointment. The more often I fail, the more disappointed I am, the more anxiety the situation causes and the more my overall behavior degrades, to the point that I run away from my problem -- in this case, mentally running away from my house, all the time.

So here's where we have to mitigate the extremes, similar to how I work with my house:

  • Set small goals. If that goal is not possible, break it down even smaller. United Front helps you tackle small goals.
  • Accept improvement as perfection. Progress is perfect. It's exactly what we're looking for in this program. Baby steps are just fine.
  • Give yourself time. Make incremental change, because it all adds up over time.
  • Building new habits. Once you get into the habit of respecting your fellow guests & residents, you'll wonder how you functioned any other way. When you have a habit of voting, people have less reasons to act out. When you have a habit of listening to one another, you can address problems before they get out of hand. United Front helps you build new habits.

Now, some of your residents may be more extreme than others. Some may be flexible, others rigid, etc. So you may want to come back and re-read this page several times during the program when you feel like you're not getting anywhere, like your progress is too slow, or if you find yourself rushing through the process trying to do several exercises a day, sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the next lesson, etc. Take it easy. It took years and years for your internal situation to get where it is now. If you push too hard, you may end up quitting and then you won't get anywhere at all.

Progress is perfect.

Other Posts in June 2011

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I really like this, 'specoally the part about progress.bein' perfection. : )

Comment by Heather Rose on December 14, 2012, at 10:07 AM

"progress is perfect" is something we really needed to read and easy to remember too!!! thank u

Comment by bee on August 06, 2020, at 07:35 PM

Wow, thanks folks — we'll have to do a podcast episode on that : ) since we wrote this in 2011 and life changes and we could definitely introduce that idea to others with a podcast episode too.

Comment by Crisses on August 07, 2020, at 08:14 AM

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