Perfectionist or optimalist?

Perfectionists live in the illusion that perfection can be achieved. If perfection means doing our best, then there’s hope. But pure perfectionists consider that anything below perfection is unacceptable. In their eyes, there is always better and it is never enough; they therefore find themselves in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction.

Are you afraid of making mistakes?
Are you sensitive to criticism?
Are you afraid of failure?
Are you of the “all or nothing” type?
Do you have difficulty delegating?
Are you often dissatisfied with your work or others?
Do you have difficulty accepting your limits?
Do you tend to stubborn or contradict others?
Do you often experience stress or anxiety about a task?
Are you the type to judge you not to do enough or not enough?
Do you have a need to feel a sense of control?
Do you often say “I could have” or “I should have”?
Do you have difficulty asking for or receiving help?

If you answer yes to more than half of these questions, there is a good chance that you are suffering from perfectionism.

Perfectionists have the impression that if they are not perfectionists, they will become mediocre, nonperforming, even lazy. As if they had confused perfectionism with excellence or performance. They think it’s the price to pay for success and that they could never achieve their goals without this rigor.

Make no mistake, perfectionism comes with its share of imperfections …

  • Low Productivity or Decreased Efficiency: Much time is spent on details, and over-investment in smaller activities at the expense of priority activities. Too much time is spent getting results that are not always as good as expected and delays accumulate. Decisions are difficult to make quickly, especially if some information is missing. Exhaustion comes from spinning our wheels trying to do too well, and the result is often less than optimal.
  • Procrastination: The expectation is to be perfect before taking action. Yet an imperfect but adequate job today is better than a job postponed indefinitely. It’s also by taking action and risking not being perfect that the greatest learnings are made. The perfectionist regards the accomplished work as a gigantic task. This can have an impact on his motivation by giving him the impression that the goal is difficult to achieve. He may also prefer not to do it at all rather than undertake it and experience perceived failure or dissatisfaction with his performance.
  • High stress: The feeling of always having to do more and to impose often unrealistic demands, to apprehend the future and the unknown, greatly influences the stress levels.
  • Frustration: Accumulating dissatisfaction from the feeling of never reaching the bar, the perfectionist experiences his dose of frustration. He also tends to compare himselfwith others or with the image of perfection he holds, which feeds the feeling of frustration and can even go as far as giving himself a distorted perception of its own value.
  • Lack of creativity: because of his rigidity and his lack of flexibility and openness, the perfectionist remains “in his box” and does not allow himself to dream, to consider another perspective and to be inspired.
  • Difficult relationships: Demanding towards himself and others, the perfectionist is not always a good companion for work or life. He can be unpleasant, irritable and contemptuous at times.
  • Fear of risk and the unknown: the perfectionist, often too cautious, can miss opportunities that could allow him to progress. Since he would like to control everything, he does not feel comfortable to venture on the less traveled roads or in unknown land, limiting himself to experiencing rewarding experiences.
  • Guilt: where does guilt come from? Obviously from not being perfect!

And as an ultimate reward, burnout can follow!

But the good news is that it can be transformed by remaining conscious, becoming more effective and achieving inner harmony. Why not become an optimalist?

The optimalist, while seeking excellence and the best possible quality and having the will to do well and progress, agrees to make mistakes, knows how to nuance his approaches, knows and accepts his limits, is open to change and to external opinions, is dynamic and adaptable, sets reasonable and achievable goals, invests where he sees possible benefits. He profits from the journey as well as the destination.

As a metaphor, let’s think of software. It’s a known fact that almost without exception, a top-quality computer program can’t be written “perfectly” for it to work without error the first time. Programmers must necessarily produce an initial version, test it to see where it’s encountering problems and producing errors, debug the code, test it again and refine it through many iterations to gradually reach the standard they want.

Here are some ways to transform perfectionism:

1) Become aware of your tendency to slip into perfectionism, be aware of your expectations and your requirements (if you recognized yourself in the above behaviors, you have a pretty good idea!).

2) Evaluate the impact of your behavior. Is it useful to you and others? What are the consequences? What will it bring more of to be a perfectionist or what will it remove not to be a perfectionist? If a task takes twice as much time to provide you with 5% more output, is it worth it?

3) Determine who you would be without perfectionism. What would be the benefits?

4) Make the decision to change. This may seem obvious, but without the real will and motivation to change, no results can happen.

5) Identify and challenge your beliefs about perfectionism.
For example:

I should not make a mistake. Is it true?
What’s the worst that could happen if this belief is true?
What’s the probability that this happens?
And if it happens, how can I live with it?
Will I have forgotten it in one month?
Find 3 examples in your life that prove the opposite is true.

6) Explore the possibilities between everything and nothing; it’s a very vast domain! What are the acceptable solutions?

7) Put yourself in the shoes of another person to get a different perspective of the situation or ask another person (not a perfectionist!) for their point of view.

8) Set more realistic and acceptable goals below the usual perfectionist requirements.

9) Establish an action plan by breaking down your work into several small objectives (to avoid procrastination) and setting priorities for each activity and a limited time in order to guide you in the sufficient level of quality to be achieved.

10) Train yourself to be imperfect. Start by trying out small things and be aware of the impact on the outcome. For example, re-read an e-mail once before sending it (as opposed to 3 times), make a presentation by taking half as much preparation time as usual, leave a room in your house messy and invite someone over.

11) Enjoy the good rather than the best.

It will not be a surprise that the Earth continues to turn and serenity and satisfaction joyfully find their way into your life!

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