How To Manage The Double-Edged Sword Of Perfectionism

In Adaptiv Training we work with participants to uncover Iceberg Beliefs - rules we've developed about how the world should be, how we should be, how people should be toward us. We learn our Icebergs at an early age, mainly from our parents, and they become set in stone in our adult lives. Icebergs can be tough to detect - 90% of an Iceberg lies below the surface of our awareness. Some Icebergs have more downside than upside, and these non-resilient Icebergs are the ones that we want to first identify and then navigate around for greater productivity, performance and satisfaction.

One of the most common Icebergs we see in corporate America is Perfectionism. A perfectionism Iceberg sounds something like, "I should get everything right.", or, "If it's not done perfectly it's a failure.". If you are a perfectionist, chances are you hold a similar belief. The upside of a perfectionism Iceberg is that it can motivate you to maintain high standards and produce excellent work results. The downside is that it can create huge amounts of stress and poor performance, especially when you lack the time and other resources needed to complete the task. Some extreme perfectionists can become paralyzed when trying to complete a project in the face of major resource contraints. They strive for perfection in an environment that simply does not support the standards they have set for themselves. And in the process they burn through their limited resources with little to show for their efforts. Their Iceberg has far more downside than upside and should be "melted".

One way for an extreme perfectionist to start melting their Iceberg is to lower their standards, which are almost always higher than their boss's expectations of them. While easier said than done, we find that many perfectionists find it easier than expected once they raise their Iceberg to a conscious level.

Some perfectionists have learned to enjoy the benefits of their Iceberg while avoiding the pitfalls. A participant in an Adaptiv resilience workshop in June told us that having identified her own perfectionism Iceberg in class, she's learning to embrace the upsides - her high levels of determination and striving for quality, while managing the downsides - self-doubt and stress caused by her overly stringent criteria for success. This is helping her feel better and even do better in a do-more-with-less environment.

Are you a perfectionist? Post a comment to let us know how you deal with your perfectionism?

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