Proven Trick for Overcoming Perfectionism

If perfectionism was a disease, I can’t say my prognosis would be good. Since I can remember, I’ve always wanted things to be “perfect.” When I was a kid, this looked like a super neat room and a well-organized rock collection. Pretty harmless stuff.

Now in my mid-thirties, I’m in Stage 4 of perfectionism. The clothes in my closet are organized by color (that is, if you consider black, white and gray actual “colors”), as are the books on my shelves. My pantry is like a freshly stocked aisle at Whole Foods. And my office desk is sparse enough to give a hardcore minimalist goosebumps.

Again, not a big deal. I think my house benefits from my perfectionist-meets-minor-OCD tendencies (my husband might disagree, though). But where perfectionism has tended to hinder my performance in the past is when it comes to running my coaching business.

Coaches who are perfectionists tend to grow their businesses a lot slower than other coaches and may struggle to land clients. Many of them get so caught up in the weeds trying to make all their marketing material “perfect” that they lose perspective of why they’re doing any of this in the first place.

For example, I’ve worked with many coaches who have a fear of launching their websites before they’re “perfect.” Or who want their workshops to be “perfect” before they present them. Or who have a long list of things that “have to” be completed before they can land a single client. Countless hours are spent trying to reach an arbitrary level of perfection that could be used doing something more productive.

What does being “perfect” really entail? And why is it so important that we’re willing to sacrifice time, money and clients (and sometimes our own sanity) to attain it?

Best-selling author Brene Brown says, “Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.”

As a coach, when you erect this “shield” of perfection to protect yourself— that is, trying to indicate to the outer world that “my business is perfect, my website is perfect, my coaching is perfect, and I’m completely secure as a coach”—this can make it more challenging to create authentic connections, which is what marketing is all about in the first place.

Most of us know already whether or not we’re perfectionists (just look at your own sock drawer), but if you’re unsure, here are some of the signs:

  • You’re procrastinating—you put off completing projects until they’re “perfect”
  • You’re afraid of failure or rejection
  • You feel risk-averse or fearful of making the wrong decision
  • You’re afraid of looking stupid or not being taken seriously
  • You’re constantly creating a lot of “buffer tasks”—tasks that put distance between where you are now and your goal (e.g., “I have to [fill in the blank] before I can land a client”)
  • You compare yourself to others and are sometimes critical of other people’s success

If this describes you, it will help to get a handle on your perfection tendencies if you want to have more success in your coaching business.

Right now, if being a perfectionist is completely preventing you from taking any action to grow your business, there’s probably something underneath the surface that you need to work through. That is, perfectionism is just the symptom of a deeper issue that needs addressing. If that’s the case, I’d recommend working with a coach to uncover the root of your perfectionism and work to heal it so you can move forward in your business.

On the other hand, if you’re like me and your perfectionism is more like a quirky personality trait that got passed down from your two brainiac PhD parents, then it’s probably something you can handle on your own.

The most effective way I’ve found to overcome my deep-rooted perfectionist tendencies and enable me to quickly build a profitable and successful coaching business is to use a helpful trick I call “Phase 1 and 2.”

Let me explain. Say you’re working on a new project like launching your coaching website. To execute this project, you’ve likely developed an idea of what would make it “perfect.”

At this point, the perfectionist in you wants to run wild and proceed to meticulously work through each step, spend countless hours on every detail, and be judgmental of your progress every step of the way.

If you don’t want to spend the next 10 months of your life working on a simple website, you have to take a different approach.

The secret to putting your perfectionist alter ego in check is to create a plan. First, write down a list of everything you need to do to complete the project—the big steps plus the minor details. Second, divide that list into two separate lists: Phase 1 and Phase 2.

On the Phase 1 list, only include the critical tasks for completing the project. The must-haves. The bare essentials. For the website example, the must-haves are securing a domain name, creating a few pages, and writing the copy. You can’t physically launch a website without these things.

Then everything else goes on the Phase 2 list. Here, list out the non-essential tasks. The nice-to-haves. For your website, this might be stylizing/formatting the site, adding extra pages, inserting a contact form, creating a squeeze page, including an email signup, etc.

When you work on the project, execute the items on Phase 1 first. Once you complete them, launch the project. Hit publish. Press send. Place the order.

Afterwards, use your Phase 2 list to make tweaks or updates to the project. Since you’ve already completed Phase 1 of the project and launched it, you can work through this second list at a slower pace and it won’t affect your progress.

This approach works really well because it allows you to keep your high standards, but execute quickly, which means you can start to grow your business faster. Many times, you’ll discover that Phase 1 was good enough, and you don’t even need Phase 2 like you thought you would—saving you tons of time and energy.

Awareness is key. If you’ve diagnosed yourself with perfectionism like I have, become aware of how it affects your ability to run your business and then adjust accordingly. That way, it won’t prevent you from creating the thriving coaching business you desire.


This post was originally published on the International Coaching Federation blog. Click here to view the original post.

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