Not if we have ADD. That was on the notes home from school, "Johnny needs to try harder." Then we had to deal with the reaction from home. "Why don't you try harder?" (the underlying meaning of Wilton's "You can do better." ) This had a significant effect on us, on our self-image, self-esteem, morale, and eventually on our personality. Are you beginning to see how all of this ties together? And I wouldn't ask for any help - "You mean you did that all by yourself?" I have never had a guitar lesson. I've had people show me things on the guitar and recently I found some courses from the internet, but I've never had a lesson. I'm not very good, but "You mean you have never had a lesson!?" I'm actually thinking of taking some lessons. There are some things I want to learn now that I just haven't been able to get on my own. But as soon as I take that first lesson, I will have lost my face saving crutch, "Well, no, I pretty much taught myself." There is a close analogy between being addicted and demanding perfection. In both cases, you have an unrelenting demand or craving. As with the temporary fix of alcohol or a narcotic, you may feel satisfied when you think something positive is at hand. But then you find a flaw, something missed, a failing, an indelible spot, or something fell short of the perfection you demanded. This insatiable and ever-present demand can, like a substance addiction, affect how you live and what you do. So, while the addict's life activities may revolve around drinking or drugging, a demander of perfection may also: Demands for perfection can lead to personal and interpersonal problems, much like an addiction to alcohol or drugs. They can destroy intimate relationships, lead to divorce, thwart job success, or otherwise defeat the very goals that you may have set for yourself. As with an addiction, you are also subject to relapses when you are "on the wagon" from demanding perfection. That is, in working through your perfectionism you are always subject to lapses of demanding perfection. This means it's not a good idea to declare yourself "cured"--for as soon as you do, you are likely to start demanding perfection again, and make excuses for doing so. As with an addiction, there is also a tendency to deny that there is anything wrong with demanding perfection; and like a social drinker, you may find yourself claiming that it is socially acceptable--even admirable--to be a perfectaholic. And of course you may think you can quit any time you want.

Wrong! I'll explain why in the next section. Anxiety hijacks this God-given fear-threat system and causes us either to fear things that could be good for us (e.g., new opportunities, commitment in a healthy relationship), experience disproportionate responses (either in intensity or duration) to actual threats, or suffer feelings of panic when, in fact, no danger exists (e.g., panic attacks). In short, fear, as unpleasant as it may be, can be a great gift, a servant of our physical, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being. But anxiety represents a threat to our physical, emotional, and spiritual integrity that, left unchecked, can tear our lives apart. People often say they feel "burned out" by their struggles with anxiety, but most are unaware of the deeper truth behind this metaphor. Imagine soaking your hands in bleach for several hours, even days. You would get a chemical burn that left your skin severely raw and irritated. Even brushing up against something afterward might hurt tremendously. In a similar way, the chemicals (glucocorticoids) produced by the brain's fear response are caustic. When persistently stressful or traumatic events trigger prolonged or too intense exposure to these chemicals, they create something like a chemical burn on your amygdala, the CEO of the fear/protection system. At the very least, this can cause us to feel every stressor more acutely, making it harder to respond in a calm, rational way. If anxiety persists, the amygdala blasts chemicals at another part of the brain called the hippocampus, which stores emotional memories. If the amygdala is the CEO of your fear/protection system, the hippocampus is the board secretary. While the amygdala is triggered in the presence of a threat, it's the hippocampus' job to "take notes" and remember that a particular event was anxiety-producing in the past. The next time you encounter that same event, or even something remotely similar, the hippocampus triggers the amygdala and reminds you that you "should" feel anxious -- even if there is no practical immediate threat present. In the face of long-term stress, or an unusually traumatic stressor, the amygdala can blast so many stress chemicals at the hippocampus that it can cause it to shrink (like you might curl up in a ball if someone was yelling at you for a long time). When this happens, we tend to become less emotionally flexible and more easily stuck in unpleasant emotional states. In a sense, as the hippocampus shrinks, the secretary loses the notebooks filled with our happy memories and resourceful ideas and retains only the notebooks filled with frightening, scary, and traumatic experiences. Although this is not a pleasant experience, our brain responds this way to constant or overwhelming stress so that we can always be ready to respond to whatever new threats come our way.

At its best, this partnership between the amygdala and hippocampus enables us to anticipate and head off potential problems. At worst, it causes us to develop an anxiety disorder in which an undercurrent of constant worry or even bursts of terror intrude upon every aspect of our lives. Demanding perfection can be a way of life. It can affect virtually every decision you make and every action you take, leading to a life of perpetual stress, whereby you make unrealistic, self-defeating demands about everyday life matters, from the smallest tasks to life-altering ones. If this sounds a lot like you, then you have a bad habit! You have gotten yourself used to constantly demanding perfection in an imperfect world. Now you need to get yourself unused to it! How do you get into bad habits? You repeatedly do something. So how do you get out of bad habits? You stop doing the things that support the bad habit. Now, demanding perfection can be a very deep and pervasive habit indeed. It not only has cognitive and behavioral tentacles; it also has emotional ones. So you feel compelled to demand perfection. It feels right to you, and you may feel uncomfortable--very uncomfortable--about not having perfection, as though you have an intense itch that you are not scratching. This itch-scratch analogy is actually a good one, because there is a neurological basis to the discomfort of not having perfection when you are habitually disposed to demand it. Your brain and nervous system have been conditioned to demand perfection as a way of coping with stimuli from the outside world. Through various diet, exercise, and supplement changes, which were all approved by her doctor, she began managing her pain. Then we built out a realistic travel plan that would allow her to travel to Europe at a pace that honored her body and relied on public transportation to minimize time in cars. We worked on meditation techniques to help her manage stress and anxiety when she needed to take automobiles.

She learned that the key to achieving her purpose was to practice self-care. I cannot tell you what it meant to me when I got postcards from Paris, London, and Zurich, all with one single line: Living my purpose! Thank you! I could tell you story after story. And I suspect you would see yourself in many of them. The trick is to find your purpose and live it. Often people ask me, how do you know your divine purpose? The simplest way for me to describe it is as a feeling in your heart and soul that you just can't let go of. Many times, I've tried to walk away from my divine purpose, but it keeps drawing me back. Remember the words from my radio guest, fifteen-year-old Lashai from London, whom I talked about in chapter 3: My passion is my mission that my soul defines. To this day, those powerful words continue to resonate deep within my heart and soul. Even if we have ADHD, we don't have to do things sloppy and halfway. We can set our minds to doing it right, slow down, and make things turn out right, if we commit ourselves to that. The takeaway from all this is that even though fear and anxiety feel very similar to one another -- because they both are produced by the same fear-threat system in your brain -- they are very different phenomena. The person experiencing fear reacts because they are having a genuinely protective, biologically pre-programmed reaction to an imminent threat to their safety or wellbeing. For instance, if you cross the street and notice a car bearing down on you, fear causes you to run across the street to get out of the car's way. If someone was chasing you, intending to do you harm, fear would cause you to run faster to try to get away. If you were unable to escape, fear would enable you to fight back and defend yourself against your attacker. In the worst case, if you couldn't get away, fear would cause you to try to hide and be as still as possible in the hopes of escaping your pursuer. As distressing as all these scenarios might be, they make sense.

All these different responses to these various threats are adaptive. They are intended to preserve your life and safety. An immediate threat to your wellbeing provokes an immediate, defensive response. We can identify our strengths and our weaknesses. If we've never actually thought about it, it won't take much time to think about it now. Or we can ask someone who knows us. I bet they can tell us our weaknesses without any hesitation, especially if they live with us. They might even be glad we asked! Just steel yourself for the answer. We need to capitalize on our strengths and make them work for us. This principle is important in choosing our occupation. We need to work on our weaknesses some, but not much, because honestly, they're not going to get much better. My handwriting will never be pretty, or even tolerably good, but I am glad that it's a little more legible than it used to be. For example, someone acts unfriendly to you, and you immediately become apprehensive and demand that this person be accepting of you. In the language of brain science, a part of your brain called the amygdala springs into action. This is an emotive center of your brain that responds to perceived danger. If you demand approval of others, this part of your brain will go off when you perceive (correctly or incorrectly) that somebody has not approved of you. In this case, the part of your brain known as the neocortex--the thinking, practical decision-making part of your brain--lets the amygdala know that there is danger afoot, and the amygdala in turn signals other parts of your body such as the hypothalamus to prepare your body for the onslaught. So there are endocrine changes in your body (for example, increased stress hormones in your blood) and peripheral nervous system changes (your body readies to protect itself from the danger). If your neocortex has been conditioned to demand approval of others, this sets off a chain of bodily changes that creates a stressful emotional response, including uncomfortable sensations.