It’s a good thing to set your standards high but just watch out for the potential downside of perfectionism – procrastination. When I was in my mid twenties, I had a tendency to want everything that I did to be perfect, so much so that anxiety about failing to reach that standard sometimes prevented me from actually getting started on anything. I was effectively “paralysed by self-consciousness,” as my therapist put it. It was a very self-limiting thought process and I was very happy to put it behind me. Nowadays I am always eager to learn new things and impatient to start out on new adventures. So how did I get to where I am now?
The first step was to recognise I had a problem ‘perfectionism’ (not an easy admission) and the second was to seek advice. Self-awareness and taking responsibility for my thoughts and actions were key to making my way out of this roundabout of limited beliefs, and the best piece of advice I received during the process was:
“It ‘just doesn’t matter’ Have a go, do your best, learn from it, and press on. At times ‘good enough’ is good enough.”
Here are the key things that keep me on the straight and narrow:
• I don’t shy away for fear of making mistakes: at least I am actually doing stuff and can take the opportunity to learn from the mistakes.
• I avoid negative self-talk and replace it with more positive and helpful statements, such as switching “I have lost” to “I have learnt.”
• When something goes wrong, I try to keep it in proportion by asking myself: “On a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is death) how important is this issue and how important will it be tomorrow, next week, next year?”
• I resist any tendency to become self-absorbed, and I find that helping others is a great way to accomplish this.
• I have learned to laugh about myself!
Finally, some wise words from Seth Godwin:
“Start small, start now. This is much better than, ‘start big, start later.’ One advantage is that you don’t have to start perfect. You can merely start.”
Rachel is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.