Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Photo of the Month:
Horizon, Gulf of Mexico, December 2007

Quote of the Month:
We are victims of the rules we live by.

The quote above was given to me by my good friend, Debbie. This quote suggests something that my mother has said throughout my life..... we tend to place our own limits on ourselves. There are lots of rules we live by... some are useful. We all drive on the same side of the street for example. Can you imagine how chaotic it would be if there wasn't a rule about that?

There are other ideas or beliefs we hold that may not be as useful. They guide our decisions in life and may be limiting us in some way.  Much of what I write on this blog is aimed at looking at things from a different perspective.... or at least considering that there may be more than one way to look at something. During the last several weeks, I've had various conversations with different people about perfection in different areas of their lives.  So that seems an appropriate topic this month.

What is it to be perfect? It is defined in the dictionary as conforming absolutely to an ideal type. It also says entirely without flaws, defects or shortcomings.

Is perfection attainable? It is an ideal. Is it possible to reach an ideal?

Have you ever been by the ocean, as in the photo above?  Or, maybe on a cruise ship? Or driving on a flat area of land? As you move towards the horizon, you get the sense that you are going towards it. In ancient times, when the world was believed to be flat, it was thought one would arrive at the horizon and then fall off. But what really happens? As you approach the horizon, it moves and in reality, one can never reach the horizon. It is somewhat like this with perfection. That as an ideal, it is something that can never be reached.

Some of you who have known me for a long time know that in my former life, my first real job out of college was as an auditor for the IRS... really! I know it doesn't seem to fit, but it's true! It wasn't my favorite job, but I did learn a lot there.

When looking at an issue, say charitable contributions, I would ask to see the taxpayer's receipts to verify the expense claimed on their tax return. Sometimes, the receipts would not exactly match up with the amount claimed, sometimes there wouldn't be enough receipts or sometimes the receipt may not be allowable. (Can you imagine that?) I don't want to turn this into a desertion on tax, but I want to use this example because it applies to what we are going to talk about next.

Most taxpayers wanted me to assume the number on the tax return was accurate and start from there, only subtracting from that a receipt that the taxpayer could not verify.

What my job required me to do was use zero as the starting point and only add to it what the taxpayer could actually verify.

A Simpler way to look at it is the analogy of the glass being half full or the glass being half empty.  One can either choose to see themselves as "half-full" by acknowledging all that they are or "half-empty" compared to some perfect ideal.

So, if one holds a rule or belief that they must be perfect, it is somewhat like starting with the full amount.... or holding the ideal image and then subtracting your "flaws" from it.  That is, comparing yourself to the ideal it and noticing all of the ways where you fall short or considering oneself as "half empty." Generally this type of comparison makes one feel bad about themselves. Feeling bad about oneself often makes people feel less energetic and like they want to do less.

Instead, I suggest that you "start from zero" and add to that all of your positive characteristics. Then look how far you have come. Look at where you are today and compare that to where you were last month, last year or 10 years ago. You may in fact find that you have grown and changed more than you have realized and see the glass as "half full." This type of comparison generally makes one feel good about oneself. Feeling good about oneself often makes people feel more energetic and like they want to do more.

**Important point here - you are in the SAME place no matter which way you decide to look at it. The only thing that changes is your rule.... or your perspective and your state of mind.

If you have trouble looking back or remembering, my Simple suggestion this month would be to write or journal, even if only a few lines once a week or once a month... when you have time. Looking back at this periodically can give you a better perspective on how far you have come. Sometimes even looking back at an old letter or e-mail might do this for you... or even look at your high school yearbook. See what you wrote about then or what you thought was important.

It is important to make a distinction between doing our best and being perfect. As Don Miguel Ruiz suggests in The Four Agreements, "Always do your best." What your best is will change over time and be different under different circumstances. As long as you have done the best that you can, you will have peace of mind.

For another perspective to consider.... in a post called Whole and Complete I suggest that if you can bring yourself Present, here and now, nothing is really missing in this moment.  You may also enjoy, You Can't do it Wrong.

I would love to hear your feedback as well as any comments or questions you may have.  Maybe you have a quote you would like to send for future use! You can do this by clicking the "comments" link below, at the end of each post.  If you prefer, you may also send comments to me directly at penelope@simplyspirituality.com.

Until next month....
Keep it Simple!


Anonymous said...

Great site and article!
What are your thoughts on:
why some people seek perfection
(either in themselves by holding up to ideals or mythical prototypes or in seeking it in other aspects) and how it can be recognized,put in perspective, and avoided.

Anonymous said...

This is Awesome:


We do it to ourselves!
and on so many levels!

It would be interesting to hear of more rules others appropriate uwittingly, subscribe to and then live by whether consciously or unconsciosuly.

Laura said...

Love this one Penelope. The photo is also incredible!

Anonymous said...

**Important point here - you are in the SAME place no matter which way you decide to look at it. The only thing that changes is your rule.... or your perspective and your state of mind.

...it's incredible how it's all in our thoughts...