Lessons from Vacay: Overcoming Perfection Paralysis

I just returned home from a week in northern Minnesota. And while the time spent digging in the sand and paddle boarding on Lake Superior was amazing, I wanted to share something my mother-in-law said to me that made my heart skip a beat (and not in a good way).

We were at the playground with my girls when one of my daughters started to go up the climbing wall, quickly got flustered and quit.

“She doesn’t like to try things if she can’t do it perfectly,” my mother-in-law said. And I knew she was right.

My internal dialog went as follows: How is it that I could raise one child who fails all day long until she achieves her goal and another who is paralyzed by not being perfect on the first try? Is the desire to be perfect nurture or nature? What role did I play in this? She’s too young to want to be a perfectionist!

I often write about the impact that being a perfectionist can have on you and the people around you. (Example: You know you can do the job right—and you can—but you may be missing the opportunity to empower and grow others as a result.) But what about the impact fear plays when it comes to being a perfectionist? How does the fear of failure hold you back from experiencing and achieving some really incredible things in life—be it reaching the top of the climbing wall or the top of your corporate ladder?

If the desire to be perfect is holding you back from experiencing something you want in life, ask yourself these three questions to push past the fear of failure:

  1. What is one example of how fear is blocking me from living life on my own terms today?
  2. If fear wasn’t an issue, what would be different in my life?
  3. What one action am I willing to take this week to push past this fear?

One approach I’ll begin taking with my own little perfectionist is focusing on one tiny goal at a time. Perhaps the next playground goal, for example, doesn’t need to be conquering the climbing wall; it needs to be climbing up two footholds. Maybe the next time, then, she can try two more. That way, it’s not all or nothing—it’s not success or failure. We can celebrate her victories two footholds at a time until she reaches the top.

What is that one action you’re taking this week to push past your fear? What are your two footholds? Send me an email; I want to know.

Here’s to the journey.

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