How A Rigid Perfectionist Learned How To Let Go And Live In The Moment

by Francesca Zepeda

As I am a control freak, there is no such thing as "going with the flow" for me. The term "winging it" does not commonly fit into my vocabulary.

Every day when I wake up, I spend the first hour lying in bed, pondering my existence and deciding how I will spend every minute of the following 12 hours. It's difficult for me to restrain myself from planning out the next month in advance with every event that is to come.

I can't breathe without my calendar and agenda. Whether it's birthday parties, exams or even a night out with friends, it must be planned.

If this sounds like you, then you are a fellow perfectionist. You are not alone. The struggle is not something your friends understand, but I do.

Within our madness, there's a sense of comfort in knowing what's to come every moment of every day. But as is quoted by Robert Burns, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

In other words, even your most beautiful plans do not always play out as you'd expect them to. I may have my whole day planned down to every second, but just one nap can throw everything off. Although I cringe at the thought of this, sometimes, it's better to spend my days without any idea about what's in store.

Nothing can compare to the rush and terror I feel when my plans change from one moment to the next. For just one moment that's not going my way, my whole world seems to crumble.

As perfectionists, we live in a cycle that's constantly spinning on the idea that we can expect the unexpected. By running down on what's left of our sanity, we lose sight of the present.

Even though I'm saying this as an old-fashioned stickler, it's okay to break away from routine. Like everything else in life, it becomes easier with time. Each minute you spend less on planning and more on enjoying will result in a less stressful life.

Dare yourself to take chances. Explore the boundaries outside your comfort zone. For starters, try chocolate ice cream instead of strawberry.

The next move is to get into your car and just drive. See where the road takes you. When you look back at your day, you'll be surprised by how great the unexpected can be.

If you're up for the challenge, do something new every single day and keep track of it. In 2015, as a New Year’s resolution, I forced myself to break my perfectionist routine in the simplest way I could imagine: I bought a journal and wrote about the new thing I did each day in just one sentence. It started off with simple things, such as finally using the painting kit that was collecting dust at the back of my closet.

Then, it went on to getting over my fear of riding a bike (as silly as that may sound). I even took a weekend-long trip with friends to another city with absolutely no plans made ahead of time.

Reflecting on 365 of these memories made 2015 my most memorable year yet. Keeping track of these moments allowed me to get comfortable with the idea of spontaneity. Now, I enjoy the previously terrifying idea of “going with the flow.”

There is beauty in spontaneous behavior. Also, on a deeper note, spontaneity can help you with the challenges in life you'll never be able to plan for. Whether it's failing an exam, losing your job or even losing a loved one, life has many unexpected, sharp turns.

Not even the toughest perfectionists can be prepared for these kinds of moments. The only way to break the cycle is to take that chance. Just one step toward something new will create a path away from the one you've treaded on tirelessly.

After much thought, I have come to realize that while planning forces you to develop expectations, the expectations that are unmet can lead to disaster. Therefore, when you have no plans, you have nothing to expect, and when you have nothing to expect, you're ready to accept whatever comes your way.

In the end, spontaneous behavior creates a life worth living. But you will never know unless you try. Don't push something off for tomorrow because you've already planned out your today.