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            Perfectionism is a sticky wicket. On one hand, upholding strict standards of        excellence helps many people succeed in life and work. On the other, that same striving for perfection can spin into a paralyzing trap that halts projects, generates undue stress for yourself and others, and zaps the joy out of life. Perfectionists feel compelled to do everything at the same level of excellence, often driven by a “If I can’t do this perfectly, I’m not going to do it at all” mentality.           

            Instead of giving up your perfectionist ways completely, try learning to apply “selective perfectionism.” Learn the art of deciding which tasks need to be perfect and which ones can just be “good enough.” Use Paredo’s “80/20 Rule.” Only 20 percent of your tasks need to be completed with absolute perfection; 80 percent can be good enough.    

Here are some tips to conquer the paralyzing effects of perfectionism:     

  • Recognize degrees of excellence. Practice doing one thing less than perfectly. Start with a lower-stakes task, something that your rational mind knows doesn’t have to be “perfect,” and allow yourself to do a so-so job. You may discover that your version of “good” may be someone else’s version of “great.”       
  • Back away. Recognize when you reach the point of diminishing returns—the state in which you are spinning your wheels, fixing things that weren’t broken, or second-guessing your first instinct. Force yourself to walk away to get perspective.     
  • Delegate the small tasks you obsess over. Know your limits. If you are struggling with trivial tasks (like the dishes, or inter-office memos), give them to someone who will not obsess over completing them.             

A deadline is a beautiful thing. And if one isn’t handed to you, impose it on yourself. Perfectionists work well under pressure.            

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Comment posted on 06/28/2010 at 04:42 pm
Excellent ways to co-operate with your perfectionism = a far better strategy than attempting to fight it! Sharon Eden Inner Leadership http://www.sharoneden.biz

Comment posted on 11/08/2010 at 03:58 pm
Great post! It's a good reminder that sometimes letting go can serve us well. I've written a response to this post on my website, which you can read via this link: http://thepolishedroom.com/Blog/Learning-to-Breathe-Deeply-and-Let-Go.html Thanks for the great advice! - Alison Blanchard, The Polished Room

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