I’m not the only person who places huge demands upon myself. Working as a coach reminds me every day that perfectionism is everywhere.
Today I talk about how striving for perfection gets in the way of doing our best. And I’ll share some of my tips for overcoming the need to be great at everything!
These five actions have helped me and I know they can help you take the pressure off yourself so you can get to enjoy more of your life.
Plus, you’ll find a special downloadable template to help you define what success can look like in 90 days’ time.
Don’t let the anxiety caused by perfectionism suck your energy!
You need all your energy for more useful purposes, like being creative or attempting something new. Instead, you’re stuck trying to finish a task you’ve done a hundred times before, going nowhere and feeling the same old negative emotions.
It’s such a cruel trap – a real vicious circle! “I want to be great at everything – but I have less energy to do that because my need to excel creates anxiety which sucks my energy. And that stops me from achieving at my best”.
So why do we need to be so perfect?
We’re all affected by the influence of our childhood and while we’d often like to change, habits are hard to shift.
For myself, I had extremely supportive parents. I was encouraged to give things a go, to test my boundaries, but it was always about setting a good example for others and being seen to be doing the right thing.
The standards set by my parents, and their parents, were very high. Perhaps that’s where my perfectionism stems from?
But over the years I’ve implemented changes to shift my need for perfection and not feeling good enough. Here’s some of them.
1. Acknowledge that success is about process – not outcome.
Doing the best we can along each part of the process is enough – even if it doesn’t always bring the outcome we planned on. We can achieve success if we focus on the process and let the outcome look after itself.
This helps you avoid the trap of spending too much time and effort on achieving a perfect outcome and putting too much attention into that last 5 percent when you could have spent your energy and effort on things that matter more.
2. ‘Alternative Facts’ (a.k.a. mistakes and errors) create possibilities
As we have learned from the Trump administration, success is subjective. This prompts me to ask: who makes the rules on what success looks like? My failure may be someone else’s success!
It’s easy to get locked into our existing thinking. As a result we can miss out on opportunities. Errors can create room for creativity and with that even greater connection with our purpose.
For example, one of my favourite bloggers often makes mistakes in his email broadcasts. For some of you, this might be totally unacceptable. But, amazingly, what it really does is make me take greater notice of what he’s saying. It’s the content of his material that excites me, not whether or not it’s presented perfectly.
3. Affirm previous successes
When did you last give yourself credit for recent achievements? I don’t mean the big things like getting a new job or a second degree. I mean for the everyday things that give life meaning and make a difference to those around you.
I’ve created a simple exercise especially for you that will help you set out your goals for the next 90 days. And once the 90 days is over you’ll certainly have something to celebrate.
Download the template here: “Here’s what my success looks like in 90 days’ time!” And here’s what you do.
Start by doing a ‘brain dump’, listing all the things you’d like to achieve over the next 90 days. Remember these don’t have to be huge things. They can be your normal everyday tasks or small steps you want to take to achieve a greater goal. It might just be the first step. That’s great! Put them all down.
Then complete the section where you can put them under categories: Home, Work, Self & Relationships.
Finally, make a note in your diary to check back on your document at the end of the 90 days. I bet you’ll be surprised at what you’ve achieved. And then give yourself permission to celebrate.
We all know that taking action regularly is what gets results. And it’s writing your ideas down that helps you to know where you’re going and what to do next.
If Richard Branson got to where he is by writing lists, then there’s got to be magic in it. Check out his recent blog post; “My 1972 to-do list.”
- Steals our happiness!
- Dulls our passion!
- Undermines our self-acceptance!
- Limits our ability to grow!
- Stops us getting things done!
- Destroys our confidence!
So why do we keep doing it? Let’s stop now! Why hang onto it? it’s not easy to change old habits but why not try?
What if you were to make a decision today to let go your need for perfection, to simply change your mind about what determines your success? The possibilities are endless!
5. Be a different role model
Now that I have a grand-daughter, I’ve been thinking a lot about what positive influences I can bring to her life.
It’s hard not to be worried about the high expectations placed on young people today by social media, etc. So I’m making it my job to be a countermeasure for her. I want to help ground her in her own strength.
She’s only 8 months old and I don’t know the answers yet – it’s a work in progress. So I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences for fostering well-being in young people (please leave a comment below).
Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again. (Julia Cameron)
It’s not all about you!
Lastly, please remember it’s not all about you! It’s easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and our story, and to look at everything from our wee corner of the world.
If we widen our view to our family and/or our communities then our achievements are the sum of a great many parts. That’s when our individual drive for perfection can get in the way.
My antidote is to let go of perfectionism and focus on doing our best; being good enough. Good enough means we can enjoy our life and choose to contribute more to the things that really matter. (If you missed my last post; Here’s a powerful collection of insights from my favourite sources of inspiration who share their ideas on how to find meaning and purpose – or not!)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on perfectionism and what works for you. Please leave a comment below.