I’ve know for a long time that perfectionist get less done than the average person. They spend almost as much time on the last 5% of a project as they do on the first 95% (to be perfectly accurate this will very from project to project, just know if you are a perfectionist that you get less done =) ). When I first learned this I decided I wouldn’t be a perfectionist, that I would just stop when a good job was done and not waste the extra time. This served me well (sort of, plenty of arguments have been made to the opposite) for many years, why study to get an A when you can get a B without trying? Or if your boss only wants you to go to X why bother going all the way to Y and Z? And so in that moment I decided I was no longer a perfectionist.
I was saving time daily, success! More importantly I was also eliminating stress from my life by stopping short of the hardest part of a project. To be honest there wasn’t stress because there was no effort. I can now look back at my life and see I came up short of where I could have been over and over. My perfectionism really came in the form of not trying for fear of failure. What was the point in starting if you weren’t going to be able to finish?
So how do you move on and grow if you have a similar problem? The start of my treatment has come in the this form: 1 part self examination, 1 part coaching, many many parts praying.
Self Examination: A good look back at your life looking for behavior patterns goes along way. I can see where I wouldn’t push myself once things got hard in sports. Math was the same thing, I didn’t have the drive to practice on my own. I’ve lived with the stigma that failing (call it not getting things right if you want) was bad. The truth is it shows opportunity to learn and grow.
Coaching: Being coached and mentored has helped me move from identifying areas of weakness to growing as a person. My mentors have shown me where my goals have been to big and where I need to break them down in to smaller peaces and to celebrate the wins along the way. Recently I’ve been working on trying to be more organized, my desk has been an incredible mess the last few months. My mentor told me to pick part of the desk to start with, something that I could take action on in the next 24 hours. I chose to destroy all deposited checks that were on my desk. I gathered them up and burned them. This small win motivated me to clean the entire desk.
Praying: There are lots of things people can do on their own, but if I’ve got the Holy Spirit it would be a shame to not ask Him to join me in everything. While I was praying through my perfectionism a verse came to mind. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10. Did you catch that last part? “The Lord rejoices to see work begin.” I’ve had it backwards the whole time. I’ve been so focused on not being able to finish something I haven’t started things. I needed to repent (change my mind) and see what things look like from God’s perspective. I bet it’s a little like a father being excited that their son is trying to do something for the first time! Yes, God loves to see things finished well. BUT HE REJOICES to see the work begin!
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