I admit. I’ve had perfectionistic tendencies for a long time.
I let perfectionism run unchecked throughout most of my career. And, this one mental habit caused an unbelievable amount of frustration, fatigue, and angst. The root of this same habit also saved me and helped me gain peace of mind.
Perfectionism is about control – usually control of things you’ve got no control over. This is crazy-making. If you’ve also suffered from this, you know it’s effects can be destructive to both you and the people around you.
The reason perfectionism is crazy-making is because ordinarily the focus is incorrect. You use huge amounts of energy to manage results that you can never fully control and that could change in an instant. A single phone call could turn things upside down.
If you’re like me, my focus was on controlling my work projects and responsibilities. I forgot the most important thing. It’s about HOW you do things not just the WHAT. Remembering that is when something finally clicked.
You can control the HOW by controlling your mind. And, I’m going to guess that a peaceful state of mind is more important to you than delivering a fantastic presentation to a client. Because who cares if the presentation goes well if you end up holding a fatigued, discontent, and stressed-out mind throughout the process.
So, I’m proposing a radical shift. Use your perfectionism to control your mind not your work products or your teams. Make this control habit work to your advantage. Then, you’ll uncover it’s real value.
3 Steps to Make Perfectionism Work for You
1. Get clear on what’s in and out of your control
Take a look at the your experiences over the last week. These may be your commute to work, time commitments, work products, review activities, delegation process (or lack thereof). Make yourself a list and draw up two columns – one that says in your control and the other that says out of your control.
For example, consider your commute to work. You can influence things but you can’t control it. Your alarm clock could break, your car could have a flat tire, your train could be late, everything could be canceled because of snow. There’s no possible way you can control you’ll get to work on time.
On the other hand, you can choose to maintain as peaceful a mind as possible during the day. You can do breathing exercises, you can meditate, you can go for a walk, you can recall joyful things. No one can take these away from you. It’s fully in your control. And, it won’t matter if the train is late and so forth because you’ll feel ok.
2. Focus on controlling the HOW
I invite you to put your best perfectionist thinking forward. How can you control your mind? How can you get to the underlying result of a peaceful mind without all the frustration and fatigue? Pretend your mind is like a team member. How do you ensure it’s going to do a good job? And, please remember – training is a crucial step – especially with your mind because it’s been running wild for most of your life.
3. Adopt 1 new daily HOW practice
Go back through what you learned in Steps 1 and 2. Pick out one easy thing that’s do-able and you’re committed to. It could be as simple as doing breathing meditation for a few minutes a day or as sophisticated as visualizing out your peaceful day. The important part is pick and then put it in your calendar. If it’s not scheduled, it’s not real.
Your perfectionism can guide you to a much better, quicker, and peaceful result if you let it. The key is shifting your attention to your mind and away from the external environment. Allow your mindfulness and courage to swiftly carry you through to this realization.
So, now is the time to make progress. Please share in the comments what small action you’re going to take to control your HOW. And, a big congrats for doing something different. I know it feels strange at first and it’s totally worth it.