Errare humanum est ('to err is human') goes the Latin proverb, so why does it seem that we increasingly forget this in work, family, and other parts of our lives? Stories of people burning out, wallowing in their flaws, or unable to do anything because they're afraid of making mistakes seem increasingly common.
It's interesting to observe that the word "perfectionist" has so many negative connotations; although, behind a perfectionist's personality is an amazing drive and if that drive can be harnessed and directed properly, fantastic things can happen. Here are three types of perfectionist and how they might redirect their focus to turn that instinct into something brilliant. Are you one of them?
The Burnout Perfectionist
Like any other, this person is obsessed with making sure any given task is completed flawlessly. Whether raising children or completing a work project,attention to detail and overcoming and correcting mistakes is an important part of making sure we do a good job, but it's important to recognize our limits.
The Burnout Perfectionist will stop at nothing to make sure a task gets done, whether that means staying up all night to fine-tune a report or making more plans than are physically possible to complete in a given day. While occasionally missing out on some sleep to finish something important or pushing yourself to make sure your kids live a happy and productive life is often necessary, the long-term effects may be negative and performance will suffer if it's excessive.
Instead of being unrealistic about what can be done, the Burnout Perfectionist would do well to realistically analyze the time commitment at the beginning of a project, accept the limitations of time, and just do their best.
The "Perfect or Bust" Perfectionist
This person sees two outcomes of a task: either it's done perfectly, or itdoesn't get done at all because they give up when it starts going wrong. Yes, the phrase "if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well" does still hold true in any situation; but, as with the Burnout Perfectionist, it's important to realize that time and physical resources are always limited, and it's almost always better to do something than to not do anything at all.
If a project or plan seems to be going off the rails, it is important to take a step back and analyze the situation objectively. Is it really as bad as it seems? As humans we have to accept we can't always do everything flawlessly, and that producing some kind of result is almost always better than no result.
The Fearful Perfectionist
This person can crumble at the very thought of failing a task before it's even begun. The possibility that things could go wrong may turn into thoughts that they will go wrong, which then causes a rising panic before the first word of that report has been typed or the first step in a new self-help routine has begun.
Fear can be paralyzing, and, like the Perfect or Bust Perfectionist, lead to a complete lack of action due to the sheer dread that failure is a possibility. The Fearful Perfectionist can often overcome this by simply taking the first steps of a task, and as a result, the fear will often start to fade as we realize that we can actually do what we've been tasked with.
Overall, it's likely that increased competition in the workplace and the growing trend of comparing ourselves with others in work, social, and family life (both online and in real life) has led to an increase in counterproductive perfectionism. However, there are ways to turn this instinct into positive actions. We just need to realize that we're all human and that at the end of the day, just taking those first steps, realizing we're not alone in our thoughts, and that we are capable of doing what we've been tasked with can go a long way to overcoming the negative aspects of perfectionism.
My challenge for you this week:
Conduct a self-assessment to determine whether or not you are one of the three types of perfectionists.
Designate an accountability partner who can relate to your desire to improve your life by managing perfectionist behavior.
Grant your accountability partner full access to your life to position them to give you honest and open feedback (you don't just need a cheerleader).
Keep a daily tracking log to help determine periods that your perfectionist behavior delays progress toward to goal, whether it pertains to your personal, family, career, or business related.
So what fantastic things are you ready to make happen today? Once you've completed this week's challenge, you will find that these perfectionist tendencies, once under control, will allow you to achieve some amazing things in your personal and professional life!