How to Be Less Frustrated by Whatever Frustrates You

dealing with perfectionism

“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!” My grandmother and mother said this frequently when I was growing up. It seemed odd, but I chalked it up to one of the things grownups say. Now, dealing with perfectionism as an adult, this phrase suddenly makes sense.

Oh, the Nintendo Switch has become a problem? Get rid of it!
Our daughter is crying about practicing the piano? This isn’t the right instrument!
My diet isn’t working within the first few days? Find a new diet!

Do you see it? Babies and bathwater flyin’ everywhere! When plans seem to fail or frustration sets in, my perfectionist side wants to ditch it all and start over. The problem is, it’s not embracing the art of tweaking. (No, not twerking—I’ll never embrace that!) Tweaking. In dealing with perfectionism, a person has to learn to tweak. Here’s how in 3 doable steps.

1. Make a list of pros and cons.

If we really stop to examine the situation, we can start to separate the baby from the bathwater. Make a list of the positives and negatives. You can do this on paper, out loud with your husband or a friend, or at dinnertime with the whole family. You might be surprised by the positives that emerge!

2. Give it a little time and light.

Woodrow Wilson said, “One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty counsels. The thing to do is to supply light and not heat.” Take the heat out of it by giving yourself a day, a week, or a month to think it over and see how things play out. Add light by getting other opinions from experts or people you respect.

3. Tweak, try, and repeat.

All bathwater is going to have some dirt in it. Now that you’ve had time to let the dirt settle, you can tweak the plan. That might look like this:

  • Instead of getting rid of the Nintendo Switch and deeming it evil, change the screen time rules so there is less arguing. Set the timer, take more frequent breaks, or have certain days with no screens. Take away the games you’ve found to be addictive.
  • Get a fun new timer and reward system for your daughter who doesn’t want to practice the piano. Try shorter practice sessions or certain days off. Find songs she really wants to practice.
  • Give the diet a little longer to show some results. Don’t weigh yourself every morning. Instead, maybe only weigh in on Saturdays. Find new recipes that adhere to the diet but actually sound good to you. Ask a friend to join you in the diet.

I’m going to be very honest with you. You will have to tweak it again and again. And that’s perfectly OK. Every time you “bathe the baby,” there will still be some dirt. But a little progress is still progress. I love this proverb: “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”

What do you do when your plans seem to fail?