I mean seriously. This guy has made it in life. Last time I saw him on Facebook, he had bought a new shiny car, was working as a corporate hotshot, and was blessed with a baby boy just a week ago.
If this is not a perfect life, what else is?
Or is it? When I called to congratulate him, he told me he had been having severe headaches for some reason and had been under medication for several weeks.
In this era of overachievement, it is a norm to display achievements on social media. And we all get caught up with the idea of competing with each other to be perfect. We feel that perfectionism is a stepping stone to success.
But there is a catch. If you think that perfectionism is helping you get more done, you are, umm… wrong.
This urge to have everything just perfect is actually counterproductive. Your nitpicking ways are hurting you. If you are a perfectionist, you have the ability to perform at a higher level than others, but this performance comes at a cost.
You experience high levels of stress because you try extra hard to be perfect in your career and then you have to spend extra time to mend the relationships that you sacrifice for excelling at work. Emotional and mental burnout follow soon. Clearly, perfectionism negatively impacts your health and productivity.
Here are a few ways for all perfectionists out there to sustain their drive and get a whole lot more done:
Challenge Your Inner Critic
When your inner critic seems to be getting the better of reason and self-doubt begins to rear its head, keep yourself in check with the following questions:
Am I jumping to negative conclusions?
Is this situation really as bad as I am making it out to be?
Will this matter in 5 years, 5 months, or even 5 days?
What is the worst that could happen and how likely is that to happen?
By the end of it, the doomsday scenarios that you had imagined will disappear and you will realize that you were building elaborate falsities in your mind.
Those who struggle with perfectionism are usually incredibly hard on themselves but not much demanding with other people. So, if you want to let go of your need to be perfect, show yourself the same kind of compassion you would to others caught up in perfectionism.
Say, you have an important presentation at work a week later. You begin to work on it and, given your natural inclination, you keep working on it to the point of perfection. Now if a coworker was in your position would you tell him to keep working or stop at good enough? So, if you can tell your coworker to stop at good enough, you can say the same to yourself.
Don’t put yourself under too much pressure – lower the stakes.
Time Off is Not Time Wasted
How does an overachieving perfectionist look at relaxation? Most likely as a waste of time. ‘’So much can be achieved in those 30 minutes.’’ ‘’I can reply to those ultra urgent client emails, have a quick chat about the meeting we are supposed to have tomorrow,’’ so on and so forth.
If you happen to think of relaxation as something unnecessary, you need to change. Seriously. Getting enough sleep and lying around in happy messes can work wonders for your motivation.
I know you are busy but practice taking time to relax. You will thank me later!
Set Time Parameters
Set time parameters, some boundaries. Yes, you all perfectionists out there, you need to set time frames to do things, otherwise you keep polishing, modifying things and then curse yourself later that you devoted too much time – way more than required.
This is probably the reason why so many of us have a hard time starting or finishing projects.
The next time you begin working on a presentation, take a pledge (you can also extend your hand if you want!): “I will work on this presentation for the next 60 minutes. Once the time is up, I will be done – whether I feel it is perfect or not.”
George Fisher put it really well, “When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.”
Have Trust That It Will All Get Done
Unfortunately, our need to be perfect leaves us feeling vulnerable, and we don’t feel very secure in our abilities. For perfectionists, fear and self-doubt go hand in hand.
And this is what needs to change. You need to start believing that you are good enough, you have what it takes to complete tasks. Look back and think of the time when you finished something which you thought was impossible for you. Did something pop up in your mind? It must have. Good!
Now, use this knowledge when negative self-talk gets too much. There is no reason for you to feel overwhelmed when your history shows that you will persevere.
Prioritize Your Perfectionism
It is not easy to let go of your perfectionistic tendencies. They remain with you to a certain degree, and if you want to stop them from impeding your progress, it is essential that you figure out a way to use it to your advantage.
Apply your perfectionistic inclinations toward the areas of your life that really matter to you and loosen up on the secondary stuff. If you wish to spend more time with your family or want to pursue hobbies after work, then commit to spending at least an hour every day for that. No compromises here.
So, decide what you feel strongly about and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Like any change, it can be hard to tame perfectionist tendencies. The truth is that perfection just does not exist. If you want to reach your highest potential and ‘get more done,’ stop beating yourself up and strive for ‘done’ instead of ‘perfect.’
What are your thoughts on this? Have your perfectionism made it difficult to get things done?
Please share your views in the comments below.