Recently, I heard a woman talking about her young adult son who was despondent, not because there was anything fundamentally wrong in his life, but because he's a perfectionist. "You should see this kid," the woman said. "He's good-looking, musical, smart--he's the total package. But because he's a perfectionist he can often only see the ways in which he is falling short."
After listening to him complain one day about how terrible his life is, she pulled him into her room and asked him to play a gratitude game with her. With in a few minutes, his attitude had changed dramatically.
When I heard about her success, I decided to try this method on my own perfectionist, Nathan (8). Tonight when he was complaining how everything doesn't go his way, I asked if he wanted to play the Gratitude Game. He agreed and we began.
"So what's one thing that you're grateful for?" I asked. He sat. And thought. "There are no wrong answers," I prompted him. "You can say anything." At times I could see his lips pursed to say a word then swallow it.
At long last, Nathan said, "Trees."
"Great," I said. "Now my turn. I'm grateful for you."
He grinned, "And I'm grateful for you."
"That was quick! OK, I'm grateful for ice cream."
"I'm grateful for cheese balls."
And on we went spouting gratitude for the beautiful day, air conditioning, fans, cheese, pickles, Dad, etc. It worked. In just a few minutes his whole demeanor changed. He was smiling, happy and up-beat! And so was I.