Make your perfectionism work for you. Instead of against you
I struggle with perfectionism. Big time.
For years, I wouldn’t put anything into the world unless it was exactly the way I wanted it, down to the tiniest detail. Tasks would take weeks instead of days, months instead of weeks.
And it was hurting my business in the meantime.
Then one day, I tried something. After reading advice about how to launch a minimum viable product (MVP)–an early version of a product with just enough features to attract interest and see if there’s truly demand–I launched an online course that I wasn’t really proud of.
I had worked hard on it, for sure, but it wasn’t close to what I wanted it to be. The information was all valuable–but there were no videos, no fancy effects, none of the bells and whistles I wanted.
So I was amazed when that course sold in big numbers. I eventually took that course and made it the foundation for my flagship product–a new and improved version of the course, with all the extras I wanted from the beginning.
That experience taught me that perfectionism was harming my business. And later I realized it was hurting my relationships too. So I began using a simple, three-word phrase to help me stop my perfectionism dead in its tracks:
“Work in progress.”
How can this simple phrase make you, your work, and even those you work with, better? The answer has to do with emotional intelligence. Let’s break it down. (If you find value in this lesson, you might be interested in my free seven-day course, which delivers a similar method to your inbox each day for a week to teach you how to build emotional intelligence in yourself and your team.)
“Work in progress”
If you’re a true perfectionist, you may not see the need to change.
After all, that tendency will serve you well–at times. When in school, it motivated you to stay up late revising and making things better, ensuring that what you turned in was top-notch, and often resulting in better grades.
This is because schools traditionally grade you on “the finished product”–what you turn in.
But there’s only one problem …
In life, there are no finished products.Everything can be improved.
Here is where emotional intelligence comes in, the ability to understand and manage emotions.
You see, emotional intelligence is a spectrum. Meaning you, like everyone, have emotional strengths and weaknesses. The key is to leverage the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses. As with any trait or quality, perfectionism can hurt you as much as it can harm you.
For example, you may chronically procrastinate or turn things in late–because you want them to be “just right.”
Or you may hold people to unreasonable standards because you want things done a certain way, without leaving others room to try things their way.
So, how do you achieve balance? How can you go from a perfectionist, to what I like to call a “profectionist”–someone who knows how to keep the good part of perfectionism (the high standards) without letting the bad part (unreasonableness) take over?
When you, or someone close to you, pushes back on your perfectionist tendencies, take a moment to step back and repeat this phrase to yourself:
We’re all works in progress.
When you adopt a “work in progress” mindset, you experience numerous benefits.
You’re better able to take criticism.
You see whatever work you turn in, or whatever thing you accomplish, as a first draft or version of your work.
Drafts aren’t expected to be the best version. So criticism isn’t an attack, it’s a way to make your draft better.
Of course, you always want to put forward the best work possible. But this shift in perspective will also help you get more done, faster.
You see mistakes as opportunities.
There are two ways to view mistakes:
Failures or opportunities.
The reality is that we all make mistakes. So the problem with viewing mistakes as failures is that we’re judging ourselves–and others–by a standard that’s impossible to reach.
In contrast, as a work-in-progress you (and those you work with) are continuing to learn and grow. When viewed through that lens, mistakes are opportunities to collect data and improve.
You go from judge to teammate.
We all hate to be judged. But we all appreciate a good teammate.
When you view others as works-in-progress, you recognize that no one has reached their full potential, because there’s always room to grow. This helps you, not to concentrate on what others can do better. Rather, your focus is on what you can do to make others better.
So, if you struggle with being a perfectionist: Leverage your strength, and mitigate your weakness. Keep your high standards, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes, or to allow others to make mistakes.
Because, after all …
We’re all works in progress.
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