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I know that the StartupNation community is filled with achievers — people seeking to accomplish great things. I couldn't respect that more. What a full way to live! So in the interest of diving deeper into life planning, it's with great care that I'm introducing my thoughts today about a distant cousin of 'achievement' – none other than the infamous, the one and only 'perfectionism.'
As a yoga teacher, I often notice people trying to achieve the perfect pose. Blood vessels bulge out of their foreheads as perfectionism works its black magic on them. Is it really worth so much stress over 'Happy Cow' pose?! Tomorrow they'll probably have a sore knee or a weakened immune system due to overstressing their bodies. Whenever I do notice people reaching for perfection, that's typically the moment I enter into an inane story about something I did this week that was totally laughable. I break out in smiles as I tell it and so do many students in the class. It's my way of reminding people not to sweat the small stuff, like having your fingernail extended and aligned perfectly in a yoga pose. It's my way to be sure they know the pursuit of perfection is a very dangerous path-one that leads to unhealthy places and one that we should always avoid.
I believe this admonition about perfectionism applies to all aspects of life – business included. People who tend to set extremely high standards and are dissatisfied with anything less than perfect are difficult to be around and horrible to work for. It's particularly bad if you work for yourself and YOU'RE the perfectionist! That certainly describes me as I write this article!
To see if you're guilty of perfectionist illusions, see if any of the following quotes seem familiar. If they do, sound the alarms!
6 big illusions of the perfectionist:
- Employment/Business: "The perfect business exists; I just need the perfect plan and better timing."
- Love Relationships: "The IDEAL romantic partner is out there somewhere. I will find that 'someone,' and I won't have to compromise in any way."
- Fitting in: "Everyone else is getting a [ you add: Land Rover, Parachute Pants, Tattoo]. I better get one too."
- Socioeconomic: "To be perfect, I need to make tons of money and hang out with equally educated and wealthy people."
- Fashion: "Clothes make the man/woman."
- Physical Appearance: "If only I had bigger/thinner [ insert body part(s) here ], I would look perfect and attract life's riches.
It's my observation that we all deal with some or all of these illusions. But where does the zeal to be perfect come from? Most likely, it's rooted in fear and people's deep-seated need to be accepted by others. Perfectionism is learned and perpetuated by forces such as family, friends, media and society at large. Are you willing to let these external forces influence your internal level of happiness and your degree of satisfaction in life? As you consider your answer to this question, remember that over time all things age, deteriorate and cease to exist in their present form. And therefore, if perfection is ever attained, it's fleeting at best.
So the most important and productive thing you can do, is confront your perfectionism head on. Conquering perfectionism is achievable through heightened awareness and great dedication. Become tuned in to what motivates you and ask yourself what's genuine-what seems to come from inside versus outside of you? Let go of imposed ideas of the way things should be or should go. Next, understand that there is really no specific point in time that you should expect 'happiness' and 'satisfaction.' Instead, look at yourself as a 'work in progress,' and cultivate happiness and satisfaction through the everyday efforts you put into life. Over time, you'll find that the art in life is embracing the process rather than the result. Here are some of the positive outcomes to expect when you do:
- Initially, you may be shocked to see how perfectionism has kept you from living fully and caused unnecessary anxiety in your life.
- Acknowledging your desire for perfectionism helps immediately reduce its grip and moves you in a healthier direction.
- You will be able to tie your self esteem to more realistic, healthy ideals and concepts.
- Your physical health and well-being will improve as well as your attitude.
- You will be more conscious of what motivates you and can make better life decisions.
- You will attract people into your life who accept you for who you are.
- You will be motivated intrinsically rather than by outside circumstances or things.
Having conquered your perfectionism and gone through the resulting transformation, you should be beautifully positioned to achieve things in your personal and professional life like never before, and approach life planning realistically. Even more, you'll gain greater happiness and satisfaction from your efforts.
Rob Woollard teaches yoga full-time. He provides mind-body-soul coaching and shares smiles, humor and epiphanies every chance he gets.