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Hi, I'm Greg, and I'm a Perfectionist

​The new year begins with a personal confession. 

I'm a perfectionist. I like things to be "just right". I HATE it when things go wrong, when they're not the best they can be, when I'm not in control. I tend to be quite conservative and reluctant to take risks and I grow impatient and frustrated when I can't quite get to doing the things I need to do to improve my business. Just ask my team!

My perfectionism also impacts my home and family life. I'm cranky when there are jobs I need to do around the house, yet I can't find the time to do them. I don't embrace some of my creative inclinations (drawing and writing) as much as I should because I'm concerned that the results won't be good enough. My perfectionistic tendencies even compel me to do things like go back and "fix" a small patch of lawn that I may have missed while mowing. Yes, really, just ask my wife!

I take at least some comfort, firstly in knowing that there are some benefits to perfectionistic behaviours (my lawn is looking great!). Secondly, I know that I am not alone. Indeed, I've encountered many managers and business owners with similar tendencies. They will often emerge while I am just generally engaging with them, directly coaching them, chatting with their staff or utilising formal diagnostics such as Everything DiSC or those based on the Human Synergistics methodology. 

Whenever the tendency appears in others, I tend to give a slight internal nod of recognition and may, depending on the situation, seek to discuss with them apparent tendencies and their potential work-related and personal impacts. 

And the results are in….being a perfectionist is just plain hard work!

It can lead to constant feelings of frustration, inadequacy and stress. Research has even linked extreme perfectionism with the tendency for individuals to self-harm. But beyond the personal impacts, the impact of perfectionism on personal effectiveness and business success can also be significant. Indeed, research by organisational/personal development company Human-Synergistics reveals that individuals with strong perfectionistic tendencies are consistently seen to be less effective than others by their higher level managers, peers and those who report to them.

So, what can you do about it if you've received some feedback and/or achieved a level of personal insight that leads you to conclude that you are a perfectionist and need to make some changes to improve your personal wellbeing and work effectiveness?

Here are a few strategies I'm working on, as well as a couple of others that you might find useful:

  • Regularly self-reflect and acknowledge the potential negative impact of perfectionistic tendencies on your work effectiveness, relationships and personal health and wellbeing (eg. is it slowing your personal growth or the growth of the business, is it causing unnecessary stress and sleepless nights?). 
  • See failure as an opportunity to learn. Rather than see it as a reflection on your own worth, try to adopt an investigative/analytical approach. What worked well? What didn't? Why didn't it? What can you learn from it? How will you do it differently next time? 
  • Trial and reflect on the consequences of less-perfectionistic behaviours (eg. leaving the office with an untidy desk one evening, ceasing a task once a satisfactory but less-than-perfect result has been achieved, leaving a small patch of lawn unmown!). 
  • Adopt a personal mantra while you work on changing your habits: "Embrace 'good enough'" for example, or my personal favourite, "Don't let 'perfect' get in the way of 'better'". 
  • Separate satisfaction from perfection: Write a list of personal and work activities then rate them on a scale of 1-100 in terms of (1) how satisfied you feel when doing or completing them and (2) how well you do them. It may well be that those that satisfy you most are not necessarily those that you are "perfect" at 
  • Try something different, that you are not 100% confident about - reflect on and see what you can learn from the experience. 

If this resonates with you and you're committed to trying out a couple of these strategies I wish you the best of luck! If there are other strategies that have worked for you please help me share them ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). In the meantime, I'll continue to work on my own "stuff" and welcome your feedback if you see me slipping!

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