Let Go of Perfectionism
We all know it’s impossible to be perfect. As leaders, we realize it’s the fool’s mindset to think we can do everything right, 100% of the time. Yet how many of us spin our wheels every day, striving for perfectionism? Worse, how many of us are our own worst critics when it comes to making mistakes, falling short of a goal, not understanding something that’s easy for others to grasp, being forgetful or being imperfect in countless other ways? Too many of us. Whether we are afraid to fail or simply don’t see the value in our imperfections, we can be our own worst critics. And this is an extremely self-defeating practice. First, it’s highly demotivating. Second, it’s unproductive and counterintuitive to sustaining success. So when it comes to falling short of perfection, learn to notice when you’re hard on yourself and make a commitment to stop. Develop supportive tactics and habits that will lift—not limit—your self-perception and leadership potential.
When facing a situation in which you realize you’re not perfect, turn that insight into a source of inspiration with the following three new habits:
Accept. It’s not easy to stop self-critical habits. But you can start by tracking or journaling them to understand how much they are consuming your thoughts, time, and energy. Next, take measures to replace such thoughts and behaviors with empowering ones instead. This could be as simple as noticing every time you say, “That was so stupid of me,” and replacing it with “Everyone makes mistakes.” While you don’t want to make excuses for your mistakes or imperfections, you do want to become your own best advocate in spite of whatever they are.
Learn. Great leaders commonly know how to flip self-critical mindsets and behaviors into opportunities for self-examination or self-exploration. They study their weaknesses or mistakes, asking tough “why” and “what if” questions. They also determine the appropriate actions to change or avoid the problematic thinking and behavior in the future. Above all, they alter how they view their shortcomings, flaws, or mistakes, seeing them not as “imperfections” but as opportunities to grow—challenges worth facing, not fearing. They learn to be patient, too, realizing that self-development takes time, setbacks are normal, and sometimes who they are or what they are doing is simply good enough—for now.
Apply. By “apply,” I simply mean take what you’ve learned and put it to good use. For example, if you realized that you’ve compromised professional relationships because of past, poor communication habits, discipline yourself to eliminate those self-defeating habits and replace them with constructive ones. Look for opportunities to practice, such as engaging with a new client, hiring a new employee, or managing a new team project. The more you practice, the greater the odds that you will truly grow, improve and succeed.
When do you find yourself being most critical of your leadership—how do you address it?