The Curse of Perfectionism: Ask Noah

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Q: Lately at work I've noticed myself obsessively checking my reports and documents before I turn them in to my supervisor. I create a final draft of a given project, I then endlessly adjust it before feeling it's ready to go. A buddy at work made me conscious that the drafts don't really improve and I end up becoming overly stressed in the process. Does this sound straight up fear-based? What else do you think is going on here? I really want to put an end to this behavior. Thanks!

A: Sounds as if you've been struck with "The curse of perfectionism." You believe you have the power to create a flawless item. You can't. No one can. You hope that one day things will be exactly the way you want them to be. They won't be. In a competitive workplace, it only makes sense that you would demand the best of yourself, and what you present to your supervisor. However, from your explained actions it sounds as if you aren't spending your time wisely.

You are gripping a distorted paradigm that needs to shift. It is essential for you to find enough confidence in the product you produce, so that you can then release it to your supervisor and expect, and accept feedback.

Here are the tips:
  • 1. There is potential damage in obsessively revisiting a project. Of course you should try to do your best, but second and third guessing the heck out of anything rarely works. It is best not to tamper with original thought. Trust in your gut to guide you in knowing when it's time to hand-in a project, document, etc.
  • 2. HEAR THIS LOUDLY: your work will NEVER be perfect. Of course there is safety in looking for something that does not exist. Your search for perfection keeps you in control and helps you to defend yourself against uncertainties, in the present moment.
  • 3. Work on tolerating the unknown. Discomfort will always breed anxiety. This will pass. Consider a harm reduction philosophy; an experiment: Pick a number between 2 and 4, and let that become the new limit of edits you allow yourself to make, to any given document.
  • 4. Ask yourself what you believe to be the perfect work presentation or document. What does it look like to you? Remember that what defines perfection for one, doesn't necessarily define perfection for another. Allow for flexibility in your thinking.
  • 5. Steer clear of "all or nothing" thinking. Your performance in the workplace will neither be completely perfect nor will it be completely disastrous either. Accept the unknown grey areas in your life. The most frustrating mistakes in both your professional and personal lives, can lead to the most wonderful discoveries.
  • 6. These 'flaws' will teach you more than your 'imagined perfection' ever could.
  • 7. Spend real time acknowledging your accomplishments. A little self-love helps diminish fear and boosts confidence. The rewards will be astounding.
  • 8. Lastly, listen closely to the compliments your boss, superiors and coworkers give you. It is important to take other's compliments at face value. As they are not us, they are able to observe our work more realistically.
  • Thank you for the question, and I look forward to hearing about your future successes.

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    Have a profitable and peaceful week,