I stumbled upon Padgett’s poem as I was skipping around “The Writer’s Almanac” site and thought it was too good to not pass along. It’s taken me many years to realize that perfection is a moving, ever-changing target, but I still found myself smiling at many of his suggestions.
Do any of the below stand out to you? Do you have any suggestions for the list?
Excerpts from “How to be Perfect”
Get some sleep.
Eat an orange every morning.
Be friendly. It will help make you happy.
Hope for everything. Expect nothing.
Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.
Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.
Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass
Wear comfortable shoes.
Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.
Plan your day so you never have to rush.
Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if
you have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.
After dinner, wash the dishes.
Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want
Don’t be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.
Don’t think that progress exists. It doesn’t.
Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do
anything to make it impossible.
Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not
possible, go to another one.
If you feel tired, rest.
Don’t be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel
even older. Which is depressing.
Do one thing at a time.
If you burn your finger, put ice on it immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for 20
minutes. you will be surprised by the curative powers of ice and
Do not inhale smoke.
Take a deep breath.
Do not smart off to a policeman.
Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.
Do not go crazy a lot. It’s a waste of time.
Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to
drink, say, “Water, please.”
Take out the trash.
Use exact change.
When there’s shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.
Excerpts from “How to be Perfect” by Ron Padgett, from How to be Perfect. © Coffee House Press, 2007.
Source: The Writer’s Almanac
Edited to Add on 9/6/12: The full version of his poem may be found here.