8 Ways to Happiness by Dr. Marissa Pei (Book Excerpt)

Let Me Give You A “Peace” of My Mind

Perfectionism seems to work for many people for a few decades. You can see the tell-tale signs: super achievement oriented, busy, really busy, multi-talented, opinionated, constantly giving advice, constantly being asked for advice, is an expert in at least 2 things, burning a candle, or candelabra at all ends, multiple balls in the air, possibly ADD or ADHD but not in the right generation to have been diagnosed, going, going, and gone!

Usually around mid-life crisis time, which I’ve renamed to mid-life opportunity, there is a breakdown. Sometimes it follows what I call the Perfectionist Slide…Perfectionism, Procrastination and then Paraly- sis. We want to do everything perfectly… and when we don’t think the conditions are right, we procrastinate. Aside, I’ve always wanted to be a procrastinator but I never got around to it, ha! Sorry, that is one of my favorite quips from Steven Wright. And then when the consequences of procrastination catches up with us, we end up in Paralysis… so far behind that we stop answering phones, opening mail, caring at all.

So how do we get trapped into this box called Perfectionism? Let’s take a look at each of the sides that keep us trapped in a limited space of happiness. Are you ready to open up?

Foundation Peace: Perfection and Validation

Perfectionism Box Side 1: If I am perfect, I will get the love that I didn’t get growing up.

Many of us grow up being criticized over and over and over and over again. Nothing we say or do is ever enough good enough or perfect enough.

Maria: I tried so hard to please my mom. I remember as a child being in the kitchen after dinner… I think I was 7 or 8 years of age, and I cleared the table, washed the dishes, wiped down the stove, put the leftovers away in the fridge, swept the floor and cleaned the countertops… all by myself. I rushed upstairs to ask my mom to come down and say the words I would spend a lifetime yearning to hear “Wow, that’s wonder- ful Maria…I’m so proud of you!” She came down the stairs, inspected the kitchen and said, “You didn’t push in the chairs,” then turned around and walked back up the stairs.

Like Maria, many of us carry that desire to please from childhood into adulthood like a bad habit. Then, throughout our lifetime, we attract people who are difficult to please over and over again. Many of my cli- ents move from an un-pleasable parent to an un-pleasable spouse to an un-pleasable boss and so on, always hoping to hear those magic words, “You’re beautiful, you’re precious, you matter, you are enough,” and not receiving them. So, perfectionism becomes a default habit, and we may or may not be conscious of it, but the underlying desire is to get it right so that we can finally be given the love that was never there for us. If this sounds like you, you might want to try the following Balance Tool.

Learning in Action with Balance Tools

Balance Tool: Don’t Go to the Tractor for Milk!

Take a breath. Think about all of the people in your life who you stand on your head for, and it still isn’t enough. A friend, a boss, a coworker, a family member, a partner, a wasband, an insignificant other…anyone who is INCAPABLE of being responsive, respectful, caring, gracious no matter how kind, responsive, caring, respectful and gracious you are. People who you stay up at night writing a perfect letter to, hoping that when they read it, they will finally understand you and change. You know who I am talking about… we all have at least one tractor in our lives! The good news is we attracted them to try to resolve the unfulfilled love in our past and the bad news is we will keep attracting them until we can stop trying to get milk from a tractor and find the cow that is actually us!!

Take a minute now to stop and take the Tractor Oath:

I, _____________ (your Balanced Centered Self name) promise from this moment forward to stop looking to _______________ (the name(s) of your tractors) for appreciation, recognition, approval, encouragement, understanding and validation which for whatever reason, they are not able to give me. I take responsibility for attracting them into my life to resolve unloved issues from the past or because I like feeling unfulfilled and in drama. I will use the Balance Tool from Chapter 6 to Bake my own cake so I can give myself the approval that I’ve been hoping for. I am a beautiful cow with a limitless supply of milk. And so it is!


Consulting Psychologist Dr. Marissa Pei is author of the newly-released title, “8 Ways to Happiness from Wherever You Are” that outlines eight ways to transition from sadness to being happy 88% of the time. Dr. Marissa has been speaking, coaching and facilitating to hundreds of Fortune 500 companies for nearly three decades.  Visit www.8WaysToHappiness.com.