So many times in my life I’ve been paralysed by trying to be perfect. A paper, a project and idea for an experiment, a grant application… I have nearly missed so many boats, burnt so much midnight oil, desperately pursuing perfection… and was it worth it? Rarely? Ever?
Particularly in the earlier years of my career I dreaded putting forward an idea in public. I was secretly fearful that I didn’t know enough, that I wasn’t good enough to make that original contribution – and so I held my tongue and kept a low profile.
Anything that I shared in public had been nursed, crafted and refined over days, weeks and frequently months.
The result was, what I shared was good, sometimes really good but… perfect?
With hindsight, the truth is that there’s not a single piece of work that I’ve ever produced that couldn’t have been improved with a little space or distance to reflect. So perfect, no, certainly not.
It did take me many years to really understand that my delay in pursuit of perfection was costing more than it was worth.
As I grew in experience I saw both the pain (in stress and angst) as I worked to make my output perfect and the lost benefits. I finally realised how much I gained from sharing ideas earlier – I could get feedback, receive additional resources, a steer in a better direction and yes, often encouragement for having shared a good idea that also inspired others.
It did take me years to see the “silver lining” was so much more than scraps from the table. At first any criticism – even constructive critical comment – felt so personal: I should’ve known, I should’ve thought of that – I felt like screaming “I hate you for pointing out my inadequacy!” but of course I never did.
Over the years I learned to say and to mean “Thank you so much for helping me improve this idea more quickly.”. Now I see the value in speed and in sharing, of not being too precious. I understand the joy of good enough which allows me to deliver more and move on to the next thing…
How about you? Are you still in the “I can’t bear to let it go if it’s less than perfect” or even the “Criticism hurts so much” phase?
One of my workshop participants recently asked me how to manage the multitude of tasks, roles and responsibilities that felt overwhelming. “Well, how long have you got?!” I thought!
Yes, there are many ways of answering this particular question but the solution that emerged during our discussions was to identify the real priority the needed work and then do as much on the rest as is barely good enough.
I could see the pained expression on their face at the thought of doing less than their absolute best but – good enough and done was the solution in this case – And three tasks to completion rather than one to perfection was, on balance the right answer.
Is your inner Perfectionist howling at that thought?
In truth, there are different answers in different situations which is why coaching helps you to address your challenges in the full context that you experience them. But coaching also allows you to see opportunities that are not immediately visible or maybe provides tools you don’t currently have.
I often like to invite my clients to meet their Perfectionist, get to know and understand them and so understand how to manage them more effectively. We need to be able to balance our sub-personalities if we want to function well in life and you’ve no idea what a relief it can be to finally manage your perfectionist tendencies!
I do discuss the way that different sub personalities can contribute to Imposter Syndrome feelings in this Facebook live video that you might find interesting. It’s a really rather helpful way of looking at things if you want to bring about personal change.
Do let me know if you’d like to finally take charge and loosen the ties of your perfectionist too…an exploratory coaching call is all it takes, just to see if this might work for you.
In the meantime, what project are you working on that is probably ready for launch? What piece of work is already at the “good enough” stage and can be safely released, moved from “to-do” to “done!”?
Yes, I understand the fear of your Perfectionist but, having made the journey myself, I know you’ll be happier, healthier and more productive when you take your Perfectionist out of the driving seat
What are you going to do today that is perfectly good enough?!