Of these, belief in a higher power is the most important. Faith can come in many forms. For me, it has always been trust in God. For someone else, it might be faith in a parent, a teacher, a friend, or something beyond himself. Honestly, I think that if you were to stop and examine your expectations and look at where they come from, you would find they are deeply rooted in a devotion to something that transcends yourself. Expectations based on a perspective of faith are inherently positive, optimistic, and constructive. When you a have an upbeat outlook and worthy goals, then good things have the potential to reinforce each other. In other words, having faith and laudable aims help you create a virtuous cycle. Conversely, fear undermines positive expectations, and ultimately success. In other words, fear engenders a vicious cycle. That's because fear always causes hesitation and consternation; it blocks the potential for positive thinking and causes the human mind to falter and question its capabilities. When you start questioning and hesitating, it compounds into a million excuses to not take action that is positive. Self-doubt creeps into your mind until it paralyzes you. There's too much information in the world for our brain to process. So, we're forced to filter it. If we don't, we go nuts! And in that filtering-process, we develop shortcuts to ease the cognitive load of making decisions. These shortcuts are called heuristics. A heuristic is a strategy we derive from previous experience with a similar problem. One heuristic that everyone knows is "trial and error," a strategy for finding answers to problems we face.

It's also a way of thinking. But trial and error is not always the most practical strategy. If we would rely on trial and error to build a career, we would probably die before achieving that goal. Life is too short for applying trial and error to everything. Another heuristic that's not practical is "social proof." We often make decisions based on what others do or say. And my favorite heuristic is "familiarity." It says that past behavior that led to good results is not a guarantee for future results. The familiarity heuristic also explains why we favor things and places we know over novelty. It's one of those things we see every day. We eat the same things, we walk the same route, we make the same mistakes, and we complete the same tasks at work. Over and over again. And then, we complain that our lives are stuck or boring. No wonder, you're making decisions based on familiarity. But who says that familiarity is always a good thing? It's good for certainty. But to achieve a breakthrough, you need something different. We've talked about facing your fear, sitting with vulnerability, and trudging through grief to freedom. Now it's time to allow the power of that awareness to spur you into action--if you haven't already done so. Remember, insight is wonderful and very helpful. But where you get hope is from new action and from behavior change. It's time for that action.

What do you as a perfectionist fear the most? Being seen as incompetent, caught not looking put together, or worse, disappointing to those who you believe expect perfection from you. If something is not perfect, that equates with failure. Now, this may not apply to everything in your life. You may be able to go to the grocery store without makeup. You may be able to talk to your boss about certain problems. But for the things that matter to you, really matter, your yardstick changes. That critical voice inside stands ready to judge harshly and plunge you into shame. So, let's start changing the behavior of self-shame. Begin by doing small things that your critical voice would tell you aren't "important" or "productive enough" or "not part of the plan for the day." You want to honor whatever mood or feeling you have right at that moment. Drive straight past the dry cleaners (where you need to pick up clothes) and go get some ice cream. Get up and do something on Saturday morning that's completely spontaneous. Take a mental health day off from work and don't fill it with tasks but go do something nice for yourself. Okay... start with a mental health afternoon if you can't swing the whole day. Your inner critic is what has prevented you from being in the present because you think you have to keep things going in the "right" direction. Just get in your car and literally drive in whatever direction you want to in the moment. Go see what you can see. And if you drive into a rainstorm, laugh and decide that a rainstorm was exactly what you needed. Start practicing how to catch that critic (better known as "Bob") that looks up at the storm clouds and says, "This was really stupid." Since it is a law of life that you cannot change what you do not acknowledge, it is important that you learn exactly, precisely what your current concept of self is made up of and what you are doing to either contribute to or contaminate that concept, every day, all day.

Just as you've examined the external factors that have impacted your concept of self, now it's time to do a detailed audit on your internal factors: that is, how you have reacted internally to those key events, as well as how you tend to approach the world generally. As I have said, you respond not to what happens in the world, but instead to your interpretations of it. Those interpretations--your perceptions and reactions--are the stimuli that you actually respond to, as opposed to what events have actually taken place in your life. Those interpretations take many different forms. They can be immediate and transient and they can be deeply ingrained and long lasting. Either way, they contribute to that chain of events that leads to your present self-concept and you must understand that, in examining your self-concept, you cannot skip a link in the chain. Suppose, for example, that you were fired from a job. That was an external event to which you had some internal reaction. It is that internal reaction to the firing that impacts your concept of self, not the actual firing itself. Let's say your internal reaction is, Hey, I really hate getting fired; not good, not good at all. But, I know in my heart I did a good job and I'm a talented person. This just didn't work out. It was, however, a good learning experience and I will use it to my advantage so I don't screw up my next job. You're being realistic, yet you're not likely to suffer a huge blow to your self-concept. On the other hand, maybe your internal reaction is, I am such a loser. I blew it and got what I deserve. That job was too good for me and I was in way over my head. They just saw right through me. Now, with that internal reaction, your self-concept will definitely suffer. Slowing my busy thoughts now I deepen my breathing.

Breathing in and breathing out completely, deeply, slowly. On my next in-breath I let a thought come to mind, whatever it may be. I let myself think this thought fully. Inhaling right to the top of my breath now I pause and let my thought go, seeing it float up and out through the top of my head like a cloud. I see my thought floating, weightlessly, effortlessly, up, out and away. On my next in-breath I let another thought come to mind, whatever it may be. Perhaps it is a stressful thought. Perhaps it is a happy thought. Perhaps it is a funny thought. Perhaps it is a tender thought. Inhaling right to the top of my breath now I pause and let this thought go too, seeing it float up and out through the top of my head like a cloud - floating, weightlessly, effortlessly, up and away. Now there are two clouds of my thoughts, floating free in space. Might there be any other thoughts I wish to send up and away while I am here? I take a moment to think about any other thoughts I have now, letting them go, one by one and seeing them float up, out and away. Flowing with each inhale and exhale now, I notice that each and every thought is like a cloud. Floating in and floating out. Changing and shifting. Nothing is forever. The sky is never the same. I am free to think my thoughts.