Perfectionism can be debilitating. It keeps us in a state of high anxiety, worrying over how we’ll never live up to someone else’s expectations (or even our own), that we’ll be found out to be a fraud, or that we’ll never recover if we make a mistake.
Perfectionism prevents us from getting things done – and enjoying ourselves as we complete our tasks. Here are my top five ways to break the cycle of worrying and start enjoying life.
1) Set realistic expectations – Have you ever started a project only to realize a little while into it that you’ve bitten off more than you could chew? Before starting your next project, ask yourself whether your goal or expectation is reasonable. Could someone else in your shoes hope to accomplish it? If not, break it down into something more manageable. You can always increase the scope of the project later when you have more time and resources to devote. For now, focus on the next mission critical step and devote your attention solely to this phase until it’s completed. Then, you can tackle phase 2.
2) Give yourself credit for what you have accomplished – When you set goals, it’s easy to focus on the fact that you have not yet achieved them. Instead, focus on all the mini-accomplishments and milestones you have accomplished on your path to achieving your goals. Success is a journey, not a destination.
3) Accept that mistakes are part of the journey – No matter what you set out to achieve, you’ll find that there were always things you could have done better. Instead of dwelling on could-have-beens and should-have-beens, learn from them and move on. Mistakes are opportunities for personal growth.
4) If you’re stuck, seek help – No one but you expects you to know all the answers. The best athletes have coaches and the best business minds have mastermind groups precisely for this reason. Sometimes you’re too close to the problem and need an outsider’s perspective to help you take a step back.
5) Focus on the present – Too often, we spend our time worrying about past things we can’t change or future things that will never happen. Instead, focus on the present moment. How can you make what you need to do enjoyable now? What would make you feel good in this moment? Perhaps it’s visualizing how you’ll feel when the project is done or knowing how your work will have helped someone else.
As a friend of mine likes to say, “Good is great but done is better.” The trick is to get out of your head and take action towards completing your task or goal. Action leads to feedback and new perspectives. And you’ll often find that it wasn’t as bad as you thought and that 99% of what you worried might happen didn’t.
What are your best ways to silence your inner critic? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.