When delivering training, I joke about being a perfectionist. I want all my charts lined up on the wall when I teach. At home, I want everything to be organized. (I know this is not possible otherwise my children and husband would have left a long time ago!) I even organize boxes inside of boxes, containers inside of drawers – you get the picture.
Because the stakes are so high in training (successful learners = successful organization), we may expect perfection from ourselves in the classroom. This, however, is an unrealistic expectation, just as it is in real life. If this is true for you, let’s look at some ways that we, as trainers, can put our perfectionism in perspective and reduce stress caused by our pursuit of the perfection myth.
Three Perfection Myth Busters
- Perfectionism doesn’t lead to happiness because it is (almost) impossible to be perfect. Additionally, this creates self-criticism and low self-esteem.
- Perfectionism can be linked to procrastination. Working toward an unattainable goal makes it difficult to get started. It also keeps you from taking risks and embracing challenges.
- Perfectionism is more about making mistakes and being concerned about what other people think than it is about having high expectations. Because of this, people tend to hide their mistakes instead of seeking feedback on them.
Here are seven tips for relieving stress from perfectionism:
1. Practice forgiveness
Give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them. For example, in the classroom, what can you do next time to make your instructions clearer? What word can you use instead of the one you couldn’t say? What would be a better way to answer the question, handle the situation, etc.?
2. Set goals/establish priorities
This tip can be related to the above. Once you have identified the lessons learned, put them into action. This is not a situation of all or nothing. You can start by identifying the most important areas you want to focus on. You can then create a plan and implement it.
3. Set realistic expectations
Even if you have done a good job of setting goals, you may still take on more than you can handle (perfectionists frequently do). Be open to restructuring the task into smaller bites. Realize that you are not going to please everyone every time. Even though we focus on the learner in the classroom, allow time for your personal style to be present, without concern that you are not perfect.
4. Get to GO
Perfectionism creates procrastination, so get started. Even if it’s simply writing the first draft or the first words, this will put your progress in an upward state rather than at a standstill. This is another opportunity to gather lessons learned and move forward.
Don’t wait for the big bang. Celebrate the mini milestones. Remember the quote, “Victory is won not in miles, but in inches,” so celebrate the journey.
6. Focus on the NOW
You cannot change the past and the future is yet to come. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make a difference now? What can I do to enjoy the moment?”
7. Learn how to laugh at yourself
According to Bob Newhart, “Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it, and then move on.” Remember I said I like all my charts to line up? A while ago in a training class, the group was very aware of my “tendencies.” Returning from a break I came back into the room and EVERY chart was going in a different direction. Got to love it! We had a good laugh, I stifled my urge to straighten them up, and we had a good time. Yes, they were straight, (although not perfect) the next day.
Being a perfectionist does not generate happiness. It creates fear and stress. I am working on finding balance by using these seven tips. So, dot those “i’s,” cross those “t’s,” and breathe.