I want to use my final post featuring ideas from Tal Ben-Shahar’s book The Pursuit of Perfect to explore how an open, curiosity-driven and appreciative approach can be applied to understanding our resistance to change. As Ben-Shahar focuses on perfectionism, I will use it as an example, however I believe that the method he has suggested is much more widely applicable.
“Once I define those areas where I want to change and those where I do not, I am likely to be less conflicted and consequently more ready to change.” p. 171
Like many of our characteristics, perfectionism both helps and hinders us. If we fail to investigate its helpful aspects, we may miss valuable information about what makes us effective, and, at the same time, create larger barriers to changing those aspects of perfectionism that hinder our ability to perform at our best.
“Why was it so difficult for me to change my perfectionism, even though I knew that it was making me unhappy? Because although I saw perfectionism as problematic, I also associated it with being meticulous and driven. And because I didn’t want to be sloppy and lazy, I chose—or my subconscious chose for me—to remain a Perfectionist, despite the price I knew I was paying. To be able to change, we need a nuanced understanding of what exactly it is that we want to get rid of and what we want to keep.” p. 171
To find the energy and courage to change, we must remain open to the possibility that all of our characteristics offer something of value. We need to undertake to embrace rather than demonize those imperfect or unloved parts of ourselves. To sustain change, we need to work with rather than against our natures in the effort to create new ways of being. How might we achieve this? Ben-Shahar suggests using the process of unbundling, and offers a series of questions designed to help us implement this process (he credits Dina Nir with the basic form of these questions). Here are his questions (p. 171), using perfectionism as the example:
What does perfectionism mean to me?
What do I gain from being a Perfectionist?
What aspects of perfectionism am I proud of?
What price do I pay for being a Perfectionist?
What price do others pay for my perfectionism?
Which aspects of perfectionism do I want to keep?
Which elements of perfectionism do I want to get rid of?
By unbundling, we move from a fearful, all-or-none view of perfectionism to one that is more balanced. Getting curious about what perfectionism offers that is good and striving to appreciate its beneficial aspects can allow us to reframe these positive qualities in ways that unhook us from the other elements of perfectionism that diminish and derail us.
Tal Ben-Shahar. (2009). The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life. New York: McGraw Hill. Or the 2010 paperback Being Happy: You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life.
The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.