When we get crazy busy, and we are pushing hard to get everything done….well, a lot of us find it’s too easy to start criticizing ourselves. “It wasn’t perfect.” “I didn’t get enough done.” “I should have done better.” And there it goes: Smack Down! And we feel down for days….or even longer.
Do you find yourself dragging that “need for perfection” around with you, too? You are not alone. But what can we do about it?
First, let me share a little motivation for change: If we try to do things “perfectly”, we are guaranteed to depress or irritate ourselves. We do know this: We can’t achieve perfection. But with the “I must be perfect” mindset, we criticize ourselves non-stop. We make ourselves toxic.
As a related example: Have you ever spent a week eating junk food? There is no way that come Friday, you feel good. The belief “I must be perfect” is some seriously awful junk food for the brain. Time to dump it.
So how do we dump it? In three easy steps:
Step One: Do a Bit of Analysis.
Ask yourself, “How much time and energy do I really need to spend on this?” For a funny example, imagine someone spending ten minutes folding a towel to make the edges exactly even. Yep. I agree. Unless they are prepping for a military inspection, that person definitely has a problem. And if you are doing this because you have friends who critique your towel folding, you urgently need to get new friends! 🙂
Or if you’re doing a short, brief report at work, ask yourself how much effort is truly needed. A wonderful colleague once noticed my problem that day: I was giving a minor project an “A+” level of effort, even spending an hour on “formatting perfection”. But that was not a requirement. It only needed a “C” level of effort. Sometimes “good enough” Is good enough.
Step Two: Go for Excellence, Not Perfection
If this truly needs your A+ effort, hit “Excellence” and then “Stop!” Excellence is all you need to achieve. Once you stop, you can move on the next item on your list. You’ll get a lot more done that way. And you will notice that you are feeling less stress and even enjoying the day more. Hurray!
Step Three: Cut Yourself Some Slack
Happily, as I was struggling with stopping at “Excellence”, a good friend taught me another phrase: “Cut Yourself Some Slack”. I loved that idea. Too many of us are so critical of ourselves. As my husband described it: We wait for ourselves in an alley to beat ourselves up. And that is not the recipe for a happy life.
Instead, develop a “switch to” image. When you start to beat yourself up, switch to a memory of something you’ve done really well. Or if that’s hard to do, you can imagine yourself on your dream vacation – a great way to dump stress and get perspective.
Next, make a list of all the things you have accomplished that week. It’s amazing to see what you have achieved when you write it all down. And lastly, look for ways to remind yourself that you are doing fine just the way you are. Yes, you are! These positive thoughts become your healthy brain food. Yum.
What happens if we do these three steps? We dump the super-stressing “I must be perfect” belief. We choose where to put our time and energy. We take back control of our life. And magic happens.
And now, go Analyze, stop at Excellence, and Cut Yourself Some Slack. Enjoy the new way!