Are You Stuck in Perfection Paralysis?

27 July, 2014

Perfect RobynLately I’ve been doing a lot of navel gazing.

I’m predisposed to it – like the default setting on a computer – but this time my initiator is a leadership coach called Colin Adam. Colin is a modest yet brilliant man, who is an expert on inspiring people to perform at their best. I’m working with Colin on building his personal brand and he’s digging around in my stuff.

Ironically, the very thing that pushes me to be my best is also my biggest downfall, my trap. The thing that drives me to excel, be totally reliable (and punctual) and completely trustworthy, is what’s stopping me from achieving success.

This is what I mean: have you ever stood in a dam or river with a muddy floor? Have you felt the sensation of your foot being sucked down and finding it difficult to pull it out again? Did you panic? Well, when it comes to success, the need to be perfect is sucking all forward momentum and gluing me to the spot. And it makes me panic.

So with some self-reflection I’ve figured out a few of the telltale signs that I’m slipping into perfection paralysis:

  1. I run downstairs to get something to eat.
  2. Suddenly the room is too hot/cold and I need to open/close a window/get a blanket/turn on the fan.
  3. That piece of nut stuck in my tooth urgently needs dental floss.
  4. I need a cup of tea. And a snack.
  5. I must check my Facebook page to reply to a comment someone is bound to be waiting for.
  6. I don’t speak up in group conversations.
  7. I avoid any form or improvisation, or things that feel unpredictable or random.
  8. I can only relax when everything is done. Read: I can’t relax.

My epiphany:

Perfection is an illusion. And it stops me from taking action.

So now what? Honestly? I don’t really know. I haven’t got that far yet. But I do have a few ways of tricking myself into moving forward. Here’s what I do:

  1. Take a look at what’s slowing me down, or stopping me from taking action. You know, shine the light.
  2. Peep out my window and take a look at nature. Notice the beauty in its imperfection.
  3. Revisit my book on the Enneagram. Everybody is a type. Each type has its issues. I’m not alone with mine.
  4. Meditate to focus my mind (and don’t criticise it when it wanders).
  5. Decide to be playful. What the heck. *See this post’s pic for proof*
  6. Remind myself that life is characteristically a little messy and unpredictable.
  7. Say the mantra: Progress over perfection. Repeat.

If that doesn’t work, I make some tea, eat some chocolate, and say very sincerely “you did great”.


Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.