Freedom from rules

One way to relax your rules is to create experiments aimed at doing things less than perfectly, that is, just doing well enough rather than to the standard you might like to achieve. In order to overcome perfectionism you have to be willing, at least to some degree, to accept not being completely satisfied with your performance. Learning to accept in a positive way that your performance cannot always be perfect, even with your best efforts, helps create a balance in your life and how you spend your time. 

Take the following example

Maggie is a 32 year old receptionist who takes great pride in her appearance. She tries to appear immaculate all the time, even on weekends, and believes she will be judged critically if she has not attended to her hair, make-up, clothes, and nails. She seeks reassurance from the attention her appearance brings and the comments people make about her outfits. She spends around 2 hours each morning making herself look 'presentable'.

Maggie's life of rules

I must always...

  • Make the bed each morning

  • Pick up clothes from the floor

  • Wash my clothes after I've worn them once

  • Wear perfume and deodorant when leaving the house 

  • Shower first thing in the morning and last thing at night 

  • Carry mints in my bag

  • Avoid all foods with garlic or onion

  • Comb my hair twice a day

  • Eat less than 1,500 calories a day 

  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day 

  • Pay at least 5 compliments to people I interact with 

  • Say 'good morning' and 'goodbye' to work colleagues 

  • Do something to 'better' myself each day

Doing things less that perfectly: Behavioural Experiment

Maggie's rule

Maggie's prediction

Specify the prediction

Her experiment



Revised guideline 

I must always look on point in public.

If I am not dressed to impress people will criticiseand judge me for it.

Unless I have spent time and effort on my appearance, people will think I've let myself go, that I am lazy, and will comment that I look bad. Belief in prediction: 90%

Meet with friends for coffee with messy hair and no makeup. 

Nobody commented that I looked bad. I felt uneasy to begin with but soon forgot about my appearance and enjoyed my friends' company.

I learned from my experiment that I do not need to have a perfect appearance to have a good time and my friends are more interested in what I say than how I look.

I will try to look presentable when I go out, but I do not need to have a completely perfect appearance every day.

Now it's your turn. Choose a rule of your own and conduct an experiment to challenge that rule.

Doing things less that perfectly: Behavioural Experiment

What is my rule?

What is my prediction about this rule?

Specify the prediction and belief in prediction (0-100%)




Revised guideline