One of the most common challenges faced by many individuals is perfectionism. I must confess that I include myself in this lot, as I have personally struggled with perfectionism for many years. I know what you might be thinking. Perfection is good. Well, to a certain point it is. But it can also be quite damaging to several areas of your life.
Perfectionism can ruin, or even prevent the creation of, lasting relationships. Living up to the expectations of a perfectionist is just too demanding for people not so inclined. Some of you on both sides already know what I’m talking about, right? It can put such a strain on the relationship that one or the other has to call it quits.
Professionally, perfectionism can hold you back from getting projects finished, and irritate your co-workers to the point where they refuse to work with you. It can drain your self-esteem and put you in a negative spiral where it can become harder and harder to start moving forward.
I’ve successfully hammered my perfectionism into a management tool that helps me stay sharp without it getting in my way. Today I’d like to share some practices that have helped me:
1. Go for good enough
A primary belief that a lot of people hold is everything they do has to be perfect before moving forward. While this may sound like a good practice, in reality it creates a barrier for most individuals. There are merits in doing the best job you can, and I’m not arguing against it.
Perfectionism, is, however, a productivity nightmare. There is a reason software products have a version number attached to their name. It’s because the developers know the program only has to be good enough to put out to market. The following versions are then tweaked and perfected. Had the developer not decided to release in this manner, it’s highly unlikely it would have made it to market at all. Getting everything perfect will hold you back in the long run, so learn when to say it’s good enough.
2. Accept that we are all human
I think you’ll agree with me that being a human is great most of the time. We get to walk upright, we have brains able to envision incredible things, and we get to boast about those all-important thumbs which enabled us to rise up in the animal kingdom fairly quickly. But being human is sometimes quite difficult. We certainly aren’t perfect by any measure, and we must be willing to understand the shortcomings of others and ourselves. Instead of focusing on who owns the mistake, focus on the logical solution. Accept it, fix it, and move on.
3. Focus on the process, not just the result
People tend to attach the achievements or failures in life to their feelings of self-worth. When we succeed at a difficult task, we have a sense of accomplishment which boosts our Ego and self-esteem. On the other hand, when the outcome is less than expected, we have negative feelings. We feel incompetent, unworthy of our goal, and we get the mental image of being an overall failure. We seem to be wired this way, but we shouldn’t look at it in this fashion.
4. Use ideals as guides, not absolutes
We’ve often been told to keep our eyes on our goals. This may be sound advice in some situations, however, a better practice is to focus primarily on the process. Pay attention to the actions leading up the realisation of the goals you’ve set. Recognise the process you’ve created to attain the goals you seek. All the planning, delegation, and the personal sweat and tears you’ve put into the journey to your goal. This is where you place your value. By doing this, worth will be attached to your process, and not to the outcome. Attaining your goal would be fantastic. But if you don’t, then you know you put in the work. You took the journey. That’s what’s important.
5. Increase your tolerance for growth and process by not judging too soon
Personal growth is in itself, a process. There are no overnight wonders to transform you into a more positive, productive, or responsible person. All growth, no matter what it is you’re striving for, is a process. It takes time to make the changes necessary to see tangible results. Perfectionists tend to have a low tolerance for things they perceive as taking too long. Be patient and reserve your judgement until a fair amount of time has passed. The lack of patience causes some to be quick to declare they’re getting no results, so they simply give up too soon. Strive to tolerate growth and develop the patience required for it to happen.
6. Celebrate every progress, victory, and failure
It’s so easy to celebrate a victory, but you should also celebrate the progress you make, even if it doesn’t lead to a successful ending. Making progress to your goal lets you know you’re on the right track, and tells you to make a course correction. This too should be celebrated. Making it closer to the end goal is always good news. Our failures let us know what isn’t working. Businesses look at failures as data to be analysed so they can take the correct actions, and not as a measure of the company’s abilities. That’s the way you should handle your failures.
7. Get rid of your mistakes by learning from them
You’ve probably heard of a gentleman by the name of Thomas Edison and his famous invention, the light bulb. He failed time and time again before finally discovering the right combination of metals and gases to make a stable light bulb. He was even asked once how he felt about failing one thousand times, His response was to say he felt it was a thousand steps rather than a thousand failures.
Remove the stigma of failure from your mind by learning Edison’s lesson. He gathered new information each time his experiment didn’t work. When working toward your goal, go into it with the mindset that things may go wrong, and adjustments may need to be made. You don’t need to be perfect every time to gain eventual success.
As you can see, perfectionism can be a serious detriment to your happiness and success. My hope is that by using these tips you’ll be able to get your perfectionism under control. They made a huge difference in my life, and I fully believe they will do the same for you.
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