Perfectionism Will Cost You Your Dreams
Sep 10, 2020
Are you a perfectionist? I was…at least much of the time. The definition of perfectionism is “the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection”. That may seem like a great way to be however, it can prevent you from moving forward in pursuing your goals. When you always strive for perfection, you may never actually make forward progress because you are always striving to learn “one more thing”, to make something better before putting it out into the world or to continue to plan something instead of executing it. When you strive for perfection, you are working toward an ideal that is unattainable and therefore end up achieving less than others who do not try to live up to a perfectionist standard.
It has been said, and I agree, that perfectionism can be a form of procrastination. If you keep looking to perfect something, then it actually never gets “done”. You keep thinking about it, tweaking it, and working on it without ever finishing it. You are constantly comparing yourself and your work to others which further drives the need to make something “better”. I have fallen victim to this so many times. I used to keep doing research and fine-tuning things until I had the “perfect” result…which of course did not exist other than in my mind. Typically, the reason for wanting things to be perfect is because you have attached your self-worth to the result. You are afraid of failure, judgement, or embarrassment by not having things perfect because you see it as a reflection of who you are as an individual.
There is a difference between striving for excellence and striving for perfection. Some individuals who are considered perfectionists strive for excellence and always work hard, however, they are also able to complete things because they know that they put in the work and did what they could, even if something is not perfect. Individuals in this category want ongoing growth and achievement. They also appreciate the process of working towards something and don’t focus solely on the end result. They also don’t always assume they will fail if something is not absolutely perfect, which is why they are able to execute and have an end result. For these individuals, it is important to give something their all and then feel good about themselves for doing so, even if they don’t believe the end result is perfect.
So, what do you do when perfectionism is preventing you from achieving what you want? The key is your mindset. You need to first figure out what thoughts you are having that are causing you to feel the worry or fear of completing something that is not perfect. Next, you must change those thoughts, which will create new feelings about putting something out into the world that is not one hundred percent perfect. You can go HERE to download the 5-page PDF guide I made for you to help you go through the following steps and increase your ability to get things done.
10 steps for perfectionists who want to achieve more.
- Identify the thoughts that come to mind when you think about doing something less than perfect. Spend some time on this since it will be the foundation for all other steps. Note that I am not asking you to identify the feelings…I want you to identify the thoughts. An example would be people will criticize me or people will see my flaws. For some it may be one pervasive thought and for others, you may have multiple thoughts. Write down as many as you can think of.
- Identify the feelings that come when you have these thoughts. Now is the time to write down the feelings. These could be worry, shame, embarrassment, anxiety, etc. Write down as many feelings as you can identify experiencing when you think the above thoughts.
- Write down the absolute worst thing that you can think of happening if you do not execute to perfection. Will you die? Will someone else die? Will others reject you for life? I know those are a bit dramatic, however, I want you to write down the absolute worst-case scenario(s) for you.
- How likely is it that what you wrote down for step #3 will actually happen? Be realistic and give it a percentage.
- Next, write down how much time you are spending perfecting something. Think about when you have had something that was really good but then you spent ____ amount of time continuing to work on it until it was closer to perfection. Write down that amount of time.
- Now, consider your worst-case scenario and the chance that it will happen versus the amount of extra time you are putting into things to get them closer to perfection. Really consider this and decide if the extra time is worth it. Think about what else you could do if you had that time for other things. Maybe it is to pursue your next goal. Maybe it would allow you to impact more lives. Maybe it is to have more time for relaxation. Maybe it is to have more time to spend with loved ones. If you have ____ amount of time back in your life each day, week, month, and year…what else could you do?
- Now, think of something you are working on and write down how long you think it should take you to complete. Once you have that time, add one more hour as a buffer in case you underestimated your time. Next, schedule in the time you will spend on this one thing. Commit to specific time each day, week, or month depending on how big of a thing you are tackling. Commit to a date and time when it will be done and stick with it. This will be the hard part so go back and review the work you did in the prior steps often so that you are reminded of why “progress over perfection” is better than perfectionism. When the time comes, tell yourself you are done and really be done.
- Did you do step #7 and stop when you came to your end date and time. If not, try it again. If you did, congratulations! Now I want you to evaluate what happened as a result. Were there any negative consequences? Were there any positive consequences? Really think this through and write your responses down.
- Do it again. Keep practicing these steps with each new thing with which you are likely to fall into the perfectionist trap. It will become easier over time.
- Have some positive thoughts / affirmations you can use when you find yourself going into perfectionist mode. For example, I am a high achiever and my work is better than most people’s, even if it is not perfect. Another couple examples may be others will benefit from this as it is, and now I have time to achieve even more. What is important about using one or more affirmations is that you must really believe it and feel it when you say it. You can go HERE to download my 5-page PDF Guide that accompanies this blog which will give you additional ideas about affirmations that you can use when changing perfectionist behaviors.
You’ve got this!
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