GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: The Value of Prioritizing When You Are a Perfectionist by Jeff Szymanski, author of “The Perfectionist’s Handbook: Take Risks, Invite Criticism, and Make the Most of Your Mistakes.”
Whenever I enter a new situation in my professional life, I tend to hang back and get a lay of the land. I want to find out what’s going on, who’s doing what, and what my best strategy and input are. I do not like to look foolish. However, this is not just limited to my professional life. I really don’t like to look foolish at anything. I hate appearing as though I’m unsure, unskilled, or worse - awkward. I always like to put my best foot forward and show my potential to others. I sometimes even devalue the activity if I’m not good at something. My philosophy is - if I’m not good at it, then it must not be worthwhile.
Does any of this sound familiar?
The desire to feel good, appear skilled, and be competent is not the problem—and it’s completely understandable to want to avoid feeling embarrassed, clumsy, or out of your depth. Besides, who doesn’t want others to see them as intelligent, athletic, musically talented, and so on? But how do we go about achieving this? We insist that we have to excel at everything we try. After all, if we aren’t trying our best, aren’t we just agreeing to lower the bar? Isn’t that lazy?
Are we willing to be average?
When you take a step back, you quickly recognize that trying to do everything well - and exerting the same level of detail, effort, and energy to all your endeavors - leaves you feeling stressed and exhausted all of the time, and as though you never get to work on what is most meaningful to you. You do know that there are time and resource constraints. However, we tend to forget these constraints and forge ahead when we’re operating on automatic pilot - only to run out of time at the end of the day with a still-long to-do list while wondering what just happened. In other words, you have to actively and regularly remind yourself that you have both limited time and resources.
Instead ask yourself, “What do I want my life to stand for?” Be strategic about when to give 100%, rather than waste effort on less important tasks.
Consider doing the following exercise:
Remember, you have limited time, energy and resources. Be strategic about where to excel and devote the lion’s share of your efforts. Redistributing time and attention from less important, less valued tasks to more important ones will pay off!
Jeff Szymanski is the executive director of the International OCD Foundation and one of the country’s leading experts on the complex and often misdiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Szymanski holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. In addition to leading OCD training of U.S. professionals, Szymanski is part of an international program in China to teach therapists the techniques to treat OCD, a first in the country. He is the author of the book, “The Perfectionist’s Handbook: Take Risks, Invite Criticism, and Make the Most of Your Mistakes” For more information, visit www.jeffszymanski.com
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