Note: For this podcast’s show notes, I’ve decided to deviate from my standard show note format, and go with more of a blog post format. I felt this would be a better way to communicate the information.
Are You Ready to Beat Perfectionism Once and For All?
If you’re reading this post, I’m going to assume you’re ready to put perfectionism in it’s place once and for all.
I’m also going to assume that you’ve had enough of dealing with the decreased productivity and the endless feelings of fear, doubt, anxiety, and worry that accompany perfectionistic thinking.
Not to mention the huge energy expenditure of trying to be perfect, and do everything perfectly all of the time.
It’s exhausting, I know.
I definitely feel your pain.
I’ve been there.
In fact, even though I’ve done a good deal of work in this area, I still find myself having to deal with perfectionistic thinking from time to time.
And that brings up an important point.
In my own experience, and learning from others, I don’t believe the perfectionistic thoughts ever go away completely.
I think we just learn to see them for what they really are, and learn to ignore them, so we can get on with living.
The good news is that once we successfully overcome this type of thinking a few times, it gets easier.
I’ve picked up some really effective tools over the years to use against this formidable foe.
These strategies, tactics, and techniques, which I’ll share with you in this post, have made a huge difference in my own ability to take consistent focused action without being hindered by perfectionistic thinking.
Sooner or later I think we all realize that if we ever want to get anything done in life, we have to slay the perfectionist beast within and take back control of our life.
Who or What is Behind Perfectionism Thinking Anyway?
Before we get into the strategies, tactics, and tools, I want to take a minute and talk about who, or what, is behind perfectionism.
If we’re going to do battle with this thing, we’ve got to know something about it.
We’ve got to gather some intelligence on it.
Like any good tactician we’ve got to take some time to prepare, and know ourselves, and know our enemy, before we engage in any kind of battle.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War
In the case of perfectionism, the real enemy is our own ego mind.
So, what do we know about the ego?
Here’s some info on the ego:
- Your ego’s job is to keep you safe, at least from a social standpoint. Human beings are social creatures. Looking foolish is akin to death, to your ego, because this could be detrimental to your social status. A failed venture could cause you to lose face in front of your fellow humans. And to your ego, that’s the worst thing that could ever happen to you. So, the ego uses every trick in the book to keep you from doing anything that could potentially open you up to ridicule, humiliation, or disgrace. And as you know, some of those tricks are pretty advanced. Perfectionism is just one of the ego’s tactics.
- If you’re alive, then the ego feels it’s doing it’s job perfectly. But as we all know, there is much more to life than simply being alive. For starters, there’s personal growth and development. And that typically only happens when we venture outside of our comfort zone, and try something new; meet new people, master a new skill, etc.
- Your ego will do anything to keep you separated from your divinity—your true source of power. Because once you realize you are not your ego, or your ego-created story, the ego has no control over you.
- Your ego is a projection of your lower self. It’s largely the result of the environment in which you were raised and the social programming you acquired as a child. This is why there are some individuals in the world who have virtually no problem whatsoever with perfectionism. They’re psyche just wasn’t programmed the way others were. In most cases however, those who have broken free from perfectionistic thinking, have put in a lot of hard work (both inner and outer) to overcome this. This should encourage you, because it is possible. Many successful people have proven this.
So lets get into some tactics.
Since I’m using the metaphor of a fight to talk about what’s going on inside of us when we encounter perfectionistic thinking, let’s talk jabs.
I liken the little negative thoughts that arise anytime we start moving toward a stretch goal or dream to jabs that a boxer would throw.
Except these jabs are being thrown by our own ego mind.
These jab’s can do some serious damage if we don’t have a plan to deal with them.
Over the years, as a spectator watching boxing and MMA matches, I’ve seen all to often just how much damage the simple jab can do.
When it comes to doing battle with your ego mind and the perfectionistic thinking it uses to keep you stuck, throwing a few simple jabs of your own can be very effective.
What we’re really doing here is fighting thought with thought.
We have to counter the detrimental, counter-productive thoughts the ego throws at us with inspiring, uplifting, can-do thoughts designed to get us up and into action, and keep us moving forward.
The following thoughts, are really effective in winning the war within.
I keep them in mind and always ready to deploy when perfectionist thinking pops up.
These thoughts, or beliefs, aren’t ideas that I came up with.
I’ve simply acquired them from successful people over the years.
I find them to be really effective.
I keep them in my journal and on-line swipe files.
When you find yourself being overwhelmed with perfectionistic thinking, like:
- It’s not perfect, or I’m not perfect.
- It’s not good enough, or I’m not good enough.
- It’s not ready, or I’m not ready.
- Don’t do it.
- Don’t ship it.
- Don’t release it.
- Don’t publish it.
- Don’t create it, etc.”
And on, and on, and on.
Counter those thoughts with any or all of the following thoughts:
- I don’t have to get it perfect, I just have to get it done. Or, I just have to get it going.
- Done is better than perfect.
- Perfect is an illusion.
- I’m going for progress, not perfection.
- Perfection is the enemy of progress.
- It’s better to do it and suck, than not do it at all.
- I’m good enough.
- I’m ready.
- It’s ready, etc.
These little counter thoughts are really effective. Over time, as you use them more and more, you’ll begin to really see the wisdom behind them. They just get more powerful over time.
And I just want to remind you that even God didn’t use the word ‘perfect’ to describe what he had created. God called it “very good.”
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31 KJV
Your perception creates your reality
It might help to remind yourself that life is what you make it.
You can choose to believe anything you want to believe.
I encourage you to choose beliefs that support the conditions you want to have in life, and let go of any beliefs that don’t.
Bringing the heat
If the thoughts above aren’t enough to get the job done, you can employ any, or all, of the following.
I liken these tactics to bringing in the big guns, so to speak.
They’re all really effective.
1. The Little Red Book/The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
You’re probably familiar with the organization Alcoholics Anonymous, and their 12 step recovery program.
Well, did you know that you can use this program to overcome any form of addiction, including an addiction to being perfect?
While the program was developed for those recovering from alcohol addiction, it can be adapted very simply to help you overcome perfectionistic tendencies.
I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Little Red Book, or download the one page PDF of the 12 steps and give it a look.
It’s a powerful tool in the war on perfectionism.
When we get right down to it, each of us is dealing with some kind of inner struggle.
We’re all trying to purify and heal our consciousness in one way or another.
The 12 Steps can help anyone who’s dealing with anything.
To use the 12 steps for an addiction to perfectionism, just substitute “perfectionism” for “alcohol” in the first step, as I’ve done below and continue on with the remaining steps.
- “We admitted we were powerless over [perfectionism] – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
2. Realize the only way to get better is to do
The irony of perfectionistic thinking is that it’s actually counter-productive to helping us improve.
It’s the ultimate catch 22.
You think, “I’m not good enough”.
But to get good enough, you have to do the thing. Repeatedly. You have to suck at it first.
The magic is always in the doing.
Getting better at whatever it is you’re doing only happens by doing it more, not by thinking about doing it more.
3. See taking action as the end goal
Most of us look at the end result as the most important thing.
However, when you change your perspective, and make the end result the fact that you’re taking action, everything changes.
The outcome loses it’s power over you, and so does the need to make it perfect.
When you understand that you’re here to grow and develop, and the only way we can do that is by taking action on an on-going basis, the way you approach life will be much different.
Because whether or not you get the result you want will become secondary to taking the action.
Sure, results are important, but the real take-away is in who you become in the process.
That’s the real game of life.
The goal is to be in a perpetual state of taking action, learning, and then taking more action.
So the next time your head is filled with thoughts of being perfect, take your focus off the outcome and put it on taking action.
4. Give up the fruits
This tactic is similar to viewing action as the end.
It’s all about detaching from the outcome.
It’s about realizing that you are already complete and whole right now, and your biggest problem is believing that you need something outside of yourself to validate you.
This doesn’t mean you can’t still have the fruits of your efforts, or even enjoy them.
It simply means that your self-worth is not tied to having them.
See the difference?
So try to let go of your the attachment to the outcome and just focus on staying in the flow of life. Being fully present in the moment and taking action. This is the practice.
Well may he be content to live a hundred years who acts without attachment—who works his work with earnestness, but without desire, not yearning for it’s fruits.” ~ The Upanishads
In general, mankind almost always acts with attachment; that is to say, with fear and desire. Desire for a certain result and fear that this result will not be obtained.” ~ Bhagavad Gita
5. The Golden Key by Emmet Fox
I’ve talked about The Golden Key before. I even dedicated a whole episode of the podcast to this powerful and practical tool.
The Golden Key is simple to use, and something you can carry with you wherever you go.
It’s self-explanatory, but I encourage you to pick up a copy of this short essay for yourself.
Here’s the essence of The Golden Key:
Stop thinking about the difficulty, whatever it is, and think about God instead.” ~ The Golden Key, By Emmet Fox
Quote of the Week:
By avoiding any and all situations that might lead to failure, you have done yourself a great disservice. You have robbed yourself of the countless opportunities to venture into new territory, make mistakes, learn from them, and realize that the world did not come to an end and you did not fall apart at the seams. That realization is incredibly liberating. It enables you to do more, learn more, see more, and be more than will ever be possible by going for the safe bet and the sure thing. ~ Miriam Elliot and Susan Meltsner, The Perfectionist Predicament
Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.” ~ Brene Brown
- The Perfectionist Predicament: How to Stop Driving Yourself and Others Crazy, by Miriam Elliott and Susan Meltsner
- The Little Red Book – The twelve steps of alcoholics anonymous
- The Upanishads: Breath of the Eternal, translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester
- The Bhagavad Gita – Translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood
- Just Be It! – Improve your performance and your results in any area of your life quickly and easily!
- The Alchemy of Despair – 17 of the most effective techniques I’ve ever encountered for reclaiming your happiness!
- The Magic of Being – Teach your child how to develop their self-image in a fun, entertaining way!
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All the best – health, wealth, and success!