All too often, we use the word “perfect” to describe an experience, a person, or an intangible aspect of our lives. I am guilty of it as well, often reacting to a good situation by exclaiming, “That’s perfect!”. However, focusing too much on perfection can make us unhappy. It was Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in the novel, Anna Karenina, who said,
“If you look for perfection, you will never be content.”
Perfectionism sometimes seems like an admirable thing to strive for. Why wouldn’t we want to be great at everything all of the time? But the ugly truth about perfectionism is that it is an attempt to avoid rejection, mistakes, and failure. Metaphorically speaking, perfectionism keeps your head above water but it never gets you swimming forwards.
We don’t always get to chose what life throws our way, but we chose how to react to it, and perfectionism is not the right reaction or defence. So how can we let go of perfectionism?
There are of course a myriad of ways to begin to let go of perfectionism – what will work for some people will not work for others. Thomas Flindt, Scandinavian laughter guru, believes in the power of laughter as one way to let go of perfectionism.
Thomas confesses in his book, Happy Lemons, that he was once strongly influenced by the desire for perfectionism. Eventually, after constantly trying to always project a perfect self-image, Thomas let go of the control perfection had over him. He let go of perfection and embraced laughter instead. When your mind is constantly caught up with thoughts of perfection, there is little room left for laughter.
Laughter is all about loosening up, something which is hard to do when you are clinging to a perfect self-image. Sure, polite laughter is controlled but true laughter, laughter which takes over our whole bodies, opens us up like nothing else can. When we laugh whole-heartedly, our chests extend forward, our mouths open wide, our ab muscles start to work a little harder. During a laughing fit, our brains let go momentarily and you are able to live in the here and now. For a short while, you lose control – it’s in these moments that we are able to start to let go of perfectionism. Laugh at your mistakes, laugh to forgive yourself, laugh to find happiness.
“Laugher loosens up those psychological bonds that have inhibited or restrained your happiness over the years.”
Since giving up perfectionism, Thomas believes in the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule means, quite simply, that it is OK not to be perfect all the time. 80% of the time, it is OK if you strive for perfection in your personal or professional life. But 20% of the time, it is also OK to be less than perfect and make mistakes. Going for a 100% success rate will work for no one in the long run.
If the power of laughter has resonated with you today, check out Thomas’ book, Happy Lemons, for more insights into the power of laughter and ways to introduce more laughter into your life.