Do you hate it when things veer off your plan? Do you like to have control over your life as much as possible? Do you have a perfectionist streak in you?

I have struggled quite a bit with perfectionism over the years, and I never knew if it was a positive trait of mine, or a negative one. Then I watched Brene Brown and Oprah during the live broadcast of the taping of their upcoming Life Class. It seems Oprah has had the same debate stating that she is not a perfectionist, she is only striving for excellence. Hmmm… maybe that’s it. Maybe I just have very high standards. Then Brene explained that perfectionism is when you are worried “What will people think?”


Do you keep a clean house because you care about sterility and coordinated throw cushions or do you (like me) go into a mad cleaning frenzy when someone is coming to visit? “What will people think?” Do you want to melt into the woodwork when your toddler throws a tantrum in public? “What will people think?” Do you hold back from following your dream career because it isn’t anything your family has ever done before? “What will people think?”

Then I looked at my own life… I am married to a retired military officer. Marching orders are a common thing in my home. I give him his marching orders (it was agreed upon when we married that I had more stripes on my sleeve by virtue of my ovaries) and he gives the children their marching orders. Another common phrase is asking if something passes inspection. Passing inspection—is that not the pinnacle of “What will people think?” My husband and I suddenly realized what we have been teaching our children!

I am the first one to admit that I strive for excellence. I am renown by my clients to be a coach that encourages achievement. When I was young, my mother always said I must have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth to explain my expensive taste. But I can honestly say that while writing Being Human, I reconciled a lot of my perfectionist tendencies.  So now, how can I continue to pursue excellence without instilling a false perfection into my kids?

Dancing will get you across an open floor just as easily as marching will.

Dance or March

I can choose to dance, to be more creative, more fluid, and still move forward and strive for excellence. When I dance with my husband we are both participating in the steps, sometimes he steps forward and I step back, and sometimes I step forward and he steps back. No one is the superior drill sergeant and no one is being inspected. Instead, we glide across the floor and get to where we have to go in a much more pleasant way. I’m not worried what he thinks of me when we dance, I am too busy enjoying the music. And if we stumble, we are in each other’s arms and we laugh while help each other back up. We have decided it’s time to dance with the kids too, and to dance in our careers, to dance through life!

How are you getting through life? Are you always preparing for inspection at muster, or inspecting others? Or do you dance through life deliberately moving forward as you step?