Hands up if you are a bit of a perfectionist?
Hands up if you also feel overwhelmed quite a lot.
Here’s the thing about perfectionism.
We wear it like a badge of honour. Like it’s a thing that’s bad about us… but is actually – secretly – good. It’s the stock answer to the classic interview question “What are your greatest weaknesses?” question. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist!”, pretty much every candidate will trill triumphantly. It’s the traditional negative turned into a positive response, so common in fact that I wonder how many people who say it are indeed perfectionists? Maybe it’s just the perfect answer to that question? Perfectionism – the perfect double-edged sword.
It can be a useful quality, no doubt about that. If I am having surgery, I want that surgeon to exercising her perfectionist qualities at that moment, yessiree. High risk. High stakes. Excellent time to pull out the perfectionist tendency. Do it.
Making a regular weeknight dinner? Not so necessary. Low stakes, medium to low reward. Good enough here is…well…perfectly good enough.
This is the key when dealing with your own perfectionism: exercising The Lost Art Of Discernment. Treating perfectionism like a special sauce and being discerning about when you apply it. It doesn’t have to be like the kid going through the phase where they put tomato ketchup on everything. The fush and chups. The mac and cheese. The roast dinner. There are some things you just don’t need to put ketchup on, and they have not yet figured out how to be discerning. Perfectionism – think of it like mental ketchup. The perfect compliment to some life situations, and ultimately a completely unnecessary addition to others.
Look at the risk and reward – then discern how much of your perfectionist special sauce needs applying. Don’t assume you need to apply it liberally to everything by default.
Applying perfectionism, as your Modus Operandi blanket strategy across all situations presented to you in life, is one of the fastest routes to feeling stressed, overwhelmed, irritable and burned-out there is. It’s like a one-way ticket to “Overwhelmsville”. And it’s not fun to live there. Sure, it’s perfectly neat and organised, but it’s not very fun, and the To Do list is never-ending.
Most of the time Done really is better than Perfect.
Most of the time Done will trump Perfect.
That way you fast track out of overwhelming, get more done, and you still get to maximise that quality when it really counts.
Save your Perfect ketchup for the times it really counts.