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  • Writer's pictureLaura Roeven

Perfectionism is the Enemy of the Good

Perfectionism is a hit or miss perception that leads to delay or misery. The tricky thing about perfectionism, is that sometimes it works, and other times it does not. This can allow perfectionism to have a hidden place of rule in the mind by which you manage projects or judge situations. However, focusing on previous successes or imagined outcomes is an unstable place from which to work. Symptoms of perfectionism are procrastination, rumination, and dissatisfaction. Let’s explore using a coach approach to manage tasks and projects. This new perspective can lead to mental ease, freedom, and satisfaction, by dropping perfectionism.

“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” — Michael Law

It starts in the Mind

When perfectionism influences how we view a project, we immediately make it harder, tighter, and uncomfortable. Starting with the mind, we create the reality of how we see the situation. If we make perfectionism in the mind, we can also unmake it. Perfectionism is wanting things a certain way. We want it our way. Our way is unchanging while the world around us constantly changes. This is the moment that our mental coping of perfectionism starts to fail. Perfectionism clings to what we want and tries to avoid what we don’t want at a high cost. This can cause disappointment with, and rejection of, how things are. Boiled down, perfectionism struggles with not getting what is wanted or being forced into a situation that is not wanted. “I WANT!” or “I DON’T WANT!” leads to misery. Perfectionism isn’t a robust tool to deal with changing situations. It is a great tool for edits or having a critical eye but too widely applied, perfectionism can stunt projects and satisfaction in our work.

A different option is to see things as they are. “It is.” We can establish new ideas and responses by shifting how we view the situation that has changed. An old perfectionist response might be to bemoan the change and mentally complain and compare what is different (e.g., new boss, new timeline, new directions). It is just a mental habit to prefer what we want and reject what we don’t want. Calling out the change enables the creative mind to begin fresh. What was a problem has been transformed into a new focus. Letting go of preferences is letting go of perfectionism. Complaining, berating, and throwing a mental fit isn’t going to help you accomplish your desired goals.

Change Happens

Managing perfectionism starts with identifying change. It can be a change in management, a change in materials, mistakes, communication, or a change in a relationship. Any surprising variables can trigger perfectionism which can lead to mental shut down. We get stuck in the past of how things were. This makes us work twice as hard because we are figuring out the new situation while comparing it to a previous reality. This clinging can be costly to our communication, focus and quality. “Laura, what if what I had was a fine china and now I am asked to deal with a mud pit?” That is a big change. Start with yourself.

Tend to self in Change

Our mind, body and spirit need transition to adjust to new information. “This is not what I had before.” Get clear on what the changes are (e.g., “My new boss just changed the work load and I cannot keep up” or “I’m exhausted, confused and worried about what my future will look like.”). Use clear language. What is this like for you? Make an image that exacts the feeling and situation from your point of view. Give yourself a pat on the back and consoling words. This is a challenge, but you can do this! Really allow yourself a 2-minute focused break filling yourself up with kind and loving words to yourself. Acknowledge the change and how this is affecting you.

Move to Action

After recognizing the changes happening, move your mind to action. What do you need to learn, do, or communicate to accomplish what is asked of you? Just as you defined the change and your feelings with clarity, define what actions and organizational systems you will need to perform your role. What are your next steps? It is important that you are looking at this change with fresh eyes. Do not do double the work by hanging on to what it used to look like or what you wish it to be. What is the challenge now and what is your responsibility to execute this plan? Make your next steps list, diagram, or flow chart. Make it tangible with clear steps and items to accomplish. If you have a clear idea of how to complete what is asked of you, the outcome has the best chance at being successful. Seek out support and get questions answered. The goals, objectives, and the image of success need to be crystal clear to create them. What do you need right now to complete the goal?

Change it up

Curb the rumination by shifting to a new way of work. Drop perfectionism and pick what will best suit your personality!

  • Work with speed: try to see how much you can accomplish with a timer.

  • Work with your value: I am going to care for my team members more during this change to make sure communication is clear and uplifting.

  • Work with joy: Put on a fantastic playlist and sing while you work.

  • Work with limits: I’m going to work from 8-4 to the best of my ability and begin fresh tomorrow.

  • Work with health: what I think, speak, and do will reflect the respect I have for myself and others.


Finally, change moves us out of our comfort zone and away from our preferences. This is a great time to employ risk to try to meet change with ingenuity and integrity. What can you turn the dial up on to be able to shine amid change? Are you an idea generator, a connecter, an encourager? Let that talent speak a little more loudly in this time of change.

Rise above the emotional storm to the clear blue sky above. Get above the conflict to be the voice of reason, respect, and value. It is a powerful voice that can bring calm and clarity to a situation. Risk being that person. This requires self-care, clear vision, and grounding. It is risky to be a different voice in the room. Lean into your why to do this. Are you a manager that brings more voices to the table? That means making room for other perspectives. Are you focused on quality? That might mean slowing down hasty decisions to make it right the first time. Risk exposure by voicing your gift in the situation. You are valued and only you can bring your perspective forward.

Perfectionism and I are long-time friends. But I have found that there are much better tools to use to get a job done than perfectionism. I will not trade perfectionism when I spell check but have stopped using it in situations of change. Need some new tools to meet change? Book a session to find great ways to work with joy and productivity by dropping perfectionism.



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