Roger is an independent professional creative, much like you and me. He does his own specialized version of consulting, coaching, and training.
Roger is great at what he does and has had many successes, but he often feels unfulfilled and dissatisfied with the progress of his business and marketing.
Results don’t seem to come fast enough; he feels he should always be doing more, and yet his long working hours are leading to burnout, not the results he craves.
Roger has a little issue that’s holding him back, but he has no awareness that it’s even an issue.
Roger is what you might call a perfectionist-obsessive (P-O).
He doesn’t notice because he believes everyone should be more like him: hard-working, dedicated, organized, and strong-willed.
These are certainly strengths and can help in so many situations. He’s more productive than the average person.
But as a P-O he tends to overdo things. A LOT!
When you’re a P-O, these strengths can also work against you because you often take them to the extreme. And at some point, something’s gotta give.
Are these two scenarios familiar to you?
The prime characteristic of a P-O is the tendency to work on a project until it’s “perfect.” And because this consumes huge amounts of time, productivity plummets.
Making matters worse, the P-O will often procrastinate endlessly, because they realize the project will take so much time and they’re afraid they won’t be able to do it perfectly.
So P-Os are often damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
If someone else employed Roger, this behavior wouldn’t be tolerated. But being self-employed he can get away with it. After all, he controls his time, his goals, his plans, and his destiny. Right?
Being so obsessed with being perfect, Roger doesn’t even notice his behavior. It’s like water to the fish.
“Perfectionism, what perfectionism? I’m just trying to do a good job.”
Are you a P-O?
Here are some typical P-O behaviors that might hit a nerve:
1. You believe that when it comes to projects, it’s all or nothing. As they say, “Go big or go home.”
2. You tend to procrastinate or avoid projects because it’s never quite the right time. But the right time rarely comes. Yet you always have a good excuse for not getting it done.
3. You see mistakes before anyone else does. And you are intolerant of others who don’t meet your standards of perfection.
4. You frequently feel you’re right about any idea, project, or course of action you undertake. And there is no room or tolerance for compromise, only perfection.
5. You’re very particular about how things are done and rarely feel others can do things as well as you. You feel anxious or stressed when something you’re working on isn’t perfectly organized down to the last detail.
6. You are so results-oriented that you’re inclined to waste huge amounts of time perfecting incremental things that nobody else would notice or care about.
7. You have extremely high standards and habitually overdo things in your life, from your business to organizing, to hobbies, to taking care of your health. And, instead of getting fulfillment, you get burnout.
8. You strive for perfection in everything, often at great cost to yourself. You’d rather lose sleep, eat poorly, and miss time with loved ones than not get a project done at an insanely high level.
9. You have such high standards that you may think you are morally superior to others, making you difficult to work with. You’re impatient and often arrogant.
10. Finally, even when you do great work that is admired and praised by others, you don’t feel you did a very good job and are rarely satisfied with your work. And if you don’t do a great job every time, you’re very hard on yourself.
Every P-O has their own particular behaviors that end up undermining their effectiveness. What’s yours?
If you happen to realize you’re a P-O and are determined to change, you’ll run into a paradoxical barrier.
As a P-O, you’ll attempt to make changes in the style of a P-O. Your self-improvement process just becomes more of the same.
“I’ll learn to stop being perfect, but I have to do it perfectly!”
It’s only by completely stepping outside of the P-O box you live inside that there’s any hope of real change.
The purpose of this article is to help you increase your awareness of P-O tendencies and behaviors.
However, if this is a serious issue for you, I’m not really qualified to help you change. It’s complex, subtle and challenging.
But I will direct you to an amazing book:
It’s called Present Perfect by Pavel Samov, Ph.D.
Since I’m a bit of a P-O myself, I’m finding it immensely helpful. And If I work hard enough, and study for long hours, I just might get it right!
P.S. Confession, rather than denial, is a good first step in going beyond your P-O tendencies. Please feel free to describe your P-O behavior in the comments section below. It’s also good to know that others are going through exactly the same stuff.
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