Perfection will kill your happiness.
When you focus on making everything ‘perfect’, you inevitably get stuck. You hold on too tightly. Pride interferes with admitting you need help.
Perfection sucks up energy you could otherwise invest in trying new things and getting creative with your life.
A few years ago I had a client – let’s call her Caroline – who was near breakdown. Her misery was evident to everyone around her.
At work, she never missed a deadline but she drove her team insane with micromanagement, never giving people a chance to do things their own way.
Her home was a mausoleum, not a speck of dust in sight. She discussed at length how only she could clean it ‘properly’ – her husband and kids were incapable. No professional was up to the task.
Caroline required an intervention. I gently worked with her to realize the stone-cold truth: perfectionism was destroying her. She’d lost grip on reality and any sense of joy she once had.
What perfectionists can’t see is that perfection controls you, but it gives you the twisted notion that you’re the one in control.
With time and some concerted work, Caroline loosened her grip and found her way back to a balanced way of being.
Let her story be a cautionary tale. Get real with yourself: you can’t control everything. If you want to grow and change, you’ll need to relinquish some control. You’ll need to wander into unknown territory.
The sooner you set yourself free from perfectionism, the sooner you can find bigger, deeper happiness.
1. Redefine success. Realistically, no one and nothing is perfect. No career is perfect and no life is perfect. Create a new definition for success that removes perfection from the equation. Replace it with the love of progress, learning and growth.
2. Learn to let go. Eliminate your desire to be master of the universe. Acknowledge you could use some support. Then, get comfortable asking for help and collaborating with others. This will ease your load and allow you to look ahead for opportunities rather than being mired in the here and now.
3. Challenge yourself. The only way you’ll know if you can complete a triathlon, give a speech, have a tough conversation or get a promotion is if you take the leap. Stop worrying about a future you cannot predict. Stop telling yourself you’re not ready to jump. If you feel 80% ready, it’s time to take on the challenge. Let yourself love the experience of going after what you want even if you don’t succeed every time.
4. Aim for progress. The truth is, perfectionism often keeps its practitioners so busy, they rarely have time to seek or experience their bliss. If you aim for progress instead of perfection, you will have more time to actually enjoy life.
If you liked this blog post, you'll love my book Lead + Live: 6 Practices to Live Bigger.
Lisa Martin has made it her mission to help companies keep and cultivate leaders. She’s the creator of the Lead + Live Better leadership programs, author of five books, including the bestselling Briefcase Moms, and she is a seasoned speaker, facilitator and executive coach.
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