Word-Of-the-Week #662: Perfectionism

April 13, 2017 by  

Perfectionism – a propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards.

Would you consider yourself to be a perfectionist? Do you have extremely high standards? Are you displeased with anything that is not perfect?

“Perfectionism leads to procrastination leads to paralysis. Take one small step toward that thing you’re not doing today.”                          –Mark Strong

This week’s WOW comes from my family and their affliction of “Perfectionist Procrastination.” Mark Strong, New York Life Coach, brings insight for “Beating Perfectionism, Procrastination, and Paralysis.” He writes, “If you’ve been following Mark Strong Coaching on Facebook, you may have seen the quote above on our Wall. I’d like to devote this week’s blog to expanding on this important topic.

Is there something you’ve been putting off doing? Have you thought about what’s keeping you from it? Often when we resist starting and completing tasks, the culprit behind our inertia is perfectionism.

Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a perfectionist. But perfectionism wears many masks. It casts a wider net than the stereotype you may have of the detail-oriented person who has to have everything “just so.” You may have perfectionistic tendencies, but not realize that those are behind your procrastination.

Are you a perfectionist? Whether you consider yourself to be detail-oriented or not, do you sometimes find it difficult, or even painful, to start certain kinds of projects? Will you do almost anything else to avoid digging into that one thing? If so, think about the big picture of the project:

Is there someone on the receiving end of the project who you are worried about disappointing? Are you anxious that you can’t deliver on the outcome, because you think the end product won’t be as good as it needs to be? If so, you may feel nervous about taking the first step that you need to take, for fear of doing it wrong.

This is perfectionism at work. Perfectionism is what leads to procrastination, and in worst-case scenarios, paralysis. The goal is to nip this negative trio of “P’s” in the bud. If you can stop the first “P,” you’ll avoid the chain reaction that follows it.

Here’s what I coach my clients to do: Combat the three “P’s” of perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis with the three “S’s”: Start with Small Steps. Here’s how:

  • Do one thing. The next time you feel yourself resisting something important, take one action, no matter how small, toward doing it. By starting with small steps, you will avoid the overwhelm that can come from thinking about the project in total. Small steps get your feet wet; once you wade in, you may find it is easier than you thought to just dive in and start swimming.
  • Count it all. Count everything you do toward your goal, not just the major steps. If you have a report to write, your first step might be sitting down at the computer. This may sound obvious, but you can’t start the report until you’re physically in front of your computer. Procrastination will keep you from making this simple move, finding every excuse possible to avoid it. Soon you will become paralyzed with dread about the project, and you will have even less time to do it, because you have put it off too long.
  • Keep going. Once you have conquered the first baby step, push yourself to the next. In our example above, your next small step might be creating a file for your new report, and giving it a title. Now it has become a real project! Don’t stop—keep the momentum going. Are there calls you need to make, or research you need to do, before you can dig into your report? Do it now—don’t think about the end result of the report or who will be reading it. If you just do the next small step in front of you, soon you will get into the flow of the project, and momentum will trump the 3 “P’s.”

“Perfectionism is not excellence, it is procrastination based in fear.”Alli Worthington

This week’s focus is on perfectionism and how it affects you. Do you sometimes find it difficult, or even painful, to start certain kinds of projects? Is there someone on the receiving end of the project who you are worried about disappointing? How would it feel to “Start with Small Steps” instead of thinking about the end result?

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