Here are three great ways to ruin your life.

1. Expect perfection of yourself and everyone else.

Make sure that you settle for nothing less than perfection. Make sure everyone knows this about you. Demand others follow you example.

2. When you don’t achieve perfection, be immediately disappointed and allow it to color even the good experiences in your life.

If some thing is nice, but not up to your standards, make sure you focus on the flaws and allow them to entirely overshadow any success you may have achieved. When looking back on past events, only focus on the things that didn’t go well and entirely forget any positive aspects.

3. Keep always looking forward to the next thing. Hang all of your hopes on what is to come and tell yourself “My life will be finally have meaning if I can just get to _____”

Never engage and live in the moment. Always stay one step ahead, planning for the next thing. If you have time to stop and enjoy yourself, you obviously have too much free time and need another project to tackle.

Yes, I meant this to be sarcastic. But I also wanted to highlight some things that I’ve struggled with. Having high standards isn’t inherently bad. But it can keep us from being able to see the success we’ve had, even within our failures. If we are always looking forward to the next thing it can cause us to miss out on where we are right now.

For a few years when my older two children were tiny I literally lived for the weekend. Each day was a count down to nap time and bed time. I realize that is pretty typical of stay at home parenting. But for me it was almost pathological. I would text my husband dozens of times throughout the day in desperation, wondering how I was going to cope. I didn’t think I was depressed but I knew I wasn’t happy. When my son was around 18 months old, he was finally a healthy weight and I was finally free of the nurse, pump, repeat cycle. Finally, I could just feed him and not obsess over how many calories were in every bite. But my husband commented that I didn’t seem very happy. I thought, well so what. Life isn’t about always being happy. But I wasn’t enjoying my life either.

So I went to counseling for a while, and my counselor and I concluded that I needed time to invest in something mentally stimulating that fed my creative side. For a while, that looked like regular nights at Panera to focus on my writing. During a very stressful week if all I did was read a good book (preferably fiction) that was Ok too.

Hubby walked in after work and I walked out, not to return until after the children were in bed. That was the key. At first it was difficult to concentrate. Some nights it seemed like more work to go than to just say home and deal with stuff that needed to be done. The key was that it be as regular as possible so it was something I could count on. But also have low expectations of the time. The goal was enjoyment not necessarily efficiency.

We are again approaching a season where I could use a regular night off. Not sure yet how I’m going to manage it, but I feel the bone weary, soul tired exhaustion that lets me know I need to find an outlet soon. I’m someone who generally has high standards, though I’m not usually a perfectionist. Yet I always tend to look at what could make something better. When looking forward, this allows me to continue learning and growing. But when looking back it can rob me of the ability to rejoice in my victories and leave me feeling perpetually inadequate.

Find a way to enjoy at least some things about your life as it is, even as you plan for a time when it will hopefully be better. Some struggles, like a baby who doesn’t sleep, will be temporary. Others may be long term difficulties, but even within those situations we must find a way to engage and be thankful. It’s Ok to look forward to the next big thing, but if we don’t learn to appreciate our lives now, we’ll always be chasing newer, better, different and wish away our lives.

kaboompics_Fresh lemons

photos courtesy of Kaboompics