Preparing for an out of the ordinary training, I had worried myself into a state of anxiety I hadn't experienced in quite a while. Thank goodness my husband Jim noticed and asked me: "If you didn't feel you had to be perfect, weren't preoccupied with flawlessness or being wonderful enough, would you enjoy your work more?"

And the answer was, of course, I'd derive much more enjoyment from the whole delightful process.

This discussion brought to mind Thomas Crum's Perfection/Discovery model. Tom is a dear friend and the author of many wonderful books and tapes on centering, like The Magic of Conflict, Journey to Center, and Three Deep Breaths.

In Tom's model, perfection is all about being right or looking good, often at the expense of other more important factors, like the relationship or solving the problem, and sometimes to the detriment of my own well-being. I'm more interested in whether I measure up than in the purpose behind my actions. While there may be external judges, the one inside my head usually carries the most weight.

Discovery is a lighter place. I'm present, connected to purpose, and moving in a useful direction. Sudden changes or unanticipated outcomes become an invitation to see something new. I'm more spontaneous, playful, and fascinated with life.

When I need to be perfect, I second-guess myself at every turn. The inner critic stifles free flow, and I gradually lose connection with my purpose. In a presentation setting, this can be deadly. Perfection's not a fun place to be.

The key is to take a Discovery Pill. "If only it were that easy," you say. Well, it kind of is. If you've read my book Unlikely Teachers, you know the story about the "Lucky Baby Planet," when Jim and I transformed a difficult situation into a lovely evening by changing the way we thought about it.

All it takes to move from Perfection to Discovery is to notice yourself trying too hard, criticizing too much, or just not having fun. As soon as you notice, you can smile, regain the present moment, and watch as you move from anxiety to fascination; from frustration to curiosity; from the weight of Perfection into the lightness of Discovery.

The need to be perfect and control everything keeps the Universe from coming to my aid and from magically stepping in with the unimagined manifestation of true perfection.

So, the moral of the story is, it's up to you. Take a moment now to jump into Discovery and lighten up, live, and laugh at it all.

Author's Bio: 

Judy Ringer is the author of Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict ( and the award-winning e-zine, Ki Moments, containing stories and practices on turning life's challenges into life teachers. Judy is a black belt in aikido and nationally known presenter, specializing in unique workshops on conflict, communication, and creating a positive work environment. She is the founder of Power & Presence Training and chief instructor of Portsmouth Aikido, Portsmouth, NH, USA. To sign up for more free tips and articles like these, visit