“I never seen to have time to do all the things I want to do as well as I believe they should be done.”

In the real world there isn’t always time to aspire to perfection in all the things you need, or want, to do. When you try to do everything to the highest possible standard there are many activities that you never get to. At the end of a day you feel burned out because you have “failed” to be perfect in every undertaking. You also face the danger that in trying to do everything, you end up doing nothing well and are often forced by deadline pressure to do a critically important task less thoroughly than you should.

People can have a PP style for a number of different reasons:

1. They have a hard time distinguishing between high standards and superhuman expectations. Perfectionist Plus individuals, who compulsively set high standards for themselves and fail to recognize how unrealistic their expectations are, believe their standards are perfectly normal and commonplace. Because of this they become discouraged, never realizing that what is below average to them is often perfectly acceptable to others. They never think to ask themselves, “Who is setting these high standards?” or “Who else is keeping tabs?”

2. They’re trying to please someone in their past. Many of the perfectionists I’ve coached were trying to live up to the expectations of a teacher, parent, or other authority figure who wanted them to be accomplished and outstanding. Since they were rewarded as children for superior performance, as adults they think that the only way to deserve a reward is to do everything perfectly. Most of the time these PPs who associate being perfect with being accepted and liked are overly-dependent on external rewards and pats on the back to keep going. They become so others-centered they lose sight of their priorities, and the shadow of the people who expect much from them is always looking over their shoulders.

3. They believe they should be able to do everything themselves and do it all well. Many PPs are afraid to delegate because (1)they think they’ll appear inadequate if they don’t take full responsibility for everything themselves, and (2) they believe other people won’t do a job their way. How often have you ended a day when you tried to do everything on your own with the frustrated feeling: “I didn’t accomplish a thing all day!” More than likely you did make some progress, and you probably did something fairly well. But because you drove yourself to perfection you felt discouraged when your day’s achievements matched neither you perfectionist’s standards nor the timetable you set for completing a task.

If you’re a Perfectionist Plus, you may always have difficulty acknowledging that your high expectations of yourself may be unrealistic or unnecessary. Although you’ll probably never accept the idea that all of your standards should be lowered, you can learn to identify the 20 percent that deserve your utmost efforts — and then try the following:

1. Look first at the bottom line. Compare your assumption of what’s required to the reality of the situation. Realize that your standards may be unnecessarily high.

2. Ask yourself if you’re still attempting to please someone in your past. If so, is the effort worth it?

3. Say no to new activities that may overload your plate.

4. Identify the high-priority activities in which results are sufficiently important to justify top standards. Give less attention and effort to activities with a lower priority.

5. Learn to delegate effectively. Reserve for yourself those activities that you enjoy and those that only you can do.

6. If you’re afraid of turning out less than perfect work, imagine the worst that could happen if you did. Is it really that awful? Could you handle it?

7. Take time to relax and reward yourself along the way.

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