Optimize Your Life

Episode #34: From Perfectionism to Perfect Attention

Show Notes:

Hey and welcome back to the Optimize Your Life podcast. I am coming to live from Fort Lauderdale where I am spending some time with family today and I wanted to share with you my tips on how to turn perfectionism into a positive. So if perfectionism is something that you struggle with, you know all of the issues that can bring up in her life. But just in case we want to cover all the bases I want to share with you why perfectionism can be such an energy drain and why it’s a good idea to think about it in a brand a new way. So I’m going to share with you something that might be a little different from what you are used to when it comes to this topic and then I’ll leave you with a resource that you can take the next step with at the end of this episode. So here we go.

If you’re a perfectionist, chances are that this phenomenon has come out of some life experience. A lot of the clients that I work with that experience perfectionism felt pressure as a child to be perfect for one reason or another. I have clients who had parents who were either sick physically or had some sort of mental illness like alcohol addiction. And they felt like they had to be perfect in order for them to get attention from their parents and maybe even to the fix their parents. It could be that your parents were perfectionists and so you emulated those same traits after them. But whatever the reason is that has led you to where you are in your life right now you want to talk about what’s happening as a result of this phenomenon. 

So if you again are perfectionists then you’re probably feeling a lot of pressure to do your job perfectly. It could be that you want to look perfect and you’re very self-conscious about how you look physically or even just on social media. And it could be that you just want to be a perfect parent and you look around and you notice how other people are parenting and you always feel like you’re not doing a good enough job, that you have to do more. So there’s that aspect of always looking outside of yourself and comparing yourself. And so with that it’s a lot of self-criticism. That perfectionistic mindset that can bleed into a whole bunch of different areas of your life and it can result in things like eating disorders and other sorts of areas where you’re applying these unrelenting standards

The idea is this: You want everything to be perfect —  everything that you do, everything that you “have control over” but you always feel like nothing is good enough and what that does is it keeps you striving. And that critical enter voice leads to fear of failure and sometimes even procrastination, which is essentially the opposite of what you want. 

And the reason for this, and you may have heard me say this before, is because you tend to be in this black and white frame of thinking about life. Things are either a perfect or their garbage. It’s very extreme and everything in between is an opportunity to continue to strive because you’re not quite there yet. So there’s a lot of iteration and reiteration that happens.

Does this sound familiar? Are you someone that feels like you’re never satisfied because you’re always expecting more or you move to the next challenge rather than actually celebrating your wins once you do a good job? So all of this

When you live in this way day in and day out it can really perpetuate a cycle of burnout that begins with that compulsion to prove yourself. And where does all begins is in your mind. You might believe that your needs come last so you spend all of your energy taking care of other people’s request. And when you are overloaded you might not ask for help. You won’t perhaps delegate tasks to other people because you hold firm to the idea that you should do it all yourself. You might not trust that other people will do a good enough job, right? So all of these things kind of keep you in that trap of doing too much, feeling overwhelmed and losing a lot of your energy. You also lose power when you focus externally on the need to control or constantly seeking the approval of others.

If you’re a perfectionist or at least you care very much what other people think about you, you’re going to be less likely to take risks. Unless you’re fully confident that you can garner success, you might look for excuses of why you should avoid a task that maybe you’ve previously failed that or have never attempted before. If you’re frustrated with an assignment, you might prefer to engage in something that’s less frustrating. And if you’re bored with your work, you might seek out stimulation elsewhere. 

So now that we have a good understanding of the problem around perfectionism, let’s talk about what you can do. I’d like to start us off with a quote from James Cameron who said, “People call me a perfectionist but I’m not. I’m a rightist. I do something until it is right. Then I move on to the next thing.” And I want you to consider this mindset shift of instead of focusing about things being black or white, figuring out what would be good enough, what would be something that feels right to you even if it’s not necessarily perfect so that you can move on to the next thing because isn’t that what it’s really all about? To be able to get stuff done and if you’re so focused on one thing, you get tied down and then all the other things start to pile up and you can become easily overwhelmed. 

So I started you off with this quote but now I want to shift the attention over to what I call Perfect Attention and this is something that I wrote about in my book The 7E Solution to Burnout and it’s an interesting way of thinking about the alternative to a perfectionistic mindset. It goes along with James Cameron’s quote in some ways because… well, you’ll see. So I’m going to read you this portion from my book”

“One of the most significant ways we lose time is when we are distracted. It’s easier than ever in today’s workplace to become distracted from essential tasks we intend to accomplish.

We have computers, phones, meetings, papers, people, and objects all around us. Emails stream in constantly. Texts and calls come in sporadically. Just when you get into the groove of your work, something takes your attention offline.

To be excellent at work, you have to have perfect attention. If you were the CEO of the company, you could make executive decisions about what you say “yes” and “no” to. Similarly, you are the CEO of yourself. You need to make executive decisions about how to manage your time, and one of the best ways to increase engagement is by decreasing distractions.

Decide to turn off notifications and check your emails, voicemails,and texts during breaks rather than throughout the day. Decide to avoid small talk with those around you so you can focus on your work. Decide to spend your time on your most important tasks while your energy is high so you don’t have to cram and stress over your to-do list once you’re exhausted and coming up on a deadline.

Making these types of decisions comes from a place of empowerment. And while eliminating distractions can help anyone be more efficient at work, it is especially crucial for those who have less flexibility of time.

An interesting phenomenon happens when you have less time but more purpose. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and stressed, you become focused, and get more done in the same timeframe.

This phenomenon is common amongst working moms. Their efficiency tends to increase because they know they have a hard cutoff time when they have to leave the office. They zero in on what they need to do. They speak up more against taking on big-sized projects or helping coworkers with their work. These moms work as if at the end of every workday there is a deadline. There is no procrastination. There is no distraction. They have to be somewhere else at a specific time to pick up their child or to release their child’s caretaker. Having a double load is now part of their reality, and they kick into gear daily so they can carry their responsibilities in both their professional and personal worlds well.

Consider what purpose awaits you outside of the office. If you don’t have a family, perhaps schedule an exercise class, a dinner date with a friend, or engage in a leisure activity after work. Knowing that you have a definite cut off time will help you focus on your work and enjoy the benefits of increased work-life balance.

Perfect attention results from eliminating distractions and creating boundaries around your time. Be intentional about how you engage in the workplace because this will determine not only how quickly you finish your work, but how much time you have to engage in more personal matters.”

So there you have it: A different framework to think about how to engage in your life and in your work without perfectionism but more with perfect attention because it will allow you to get more done and do it well and still have time for yourself.

I mentioned burnout is something that can happen as a result of this perfectionistic mindset. So if you would like more mindset hacks around perfectionism check out the webinar that I’ve created on burn. Go to www.drsharongrossman.com/webinar and see next week. Take care.

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