I often meet high performers that think that the only satisfaction they can ever celebrate and enjoy is being perfect. While I'm a huge advocate of never-ending improvement, I'm a firm believer that nothing destroys progress like perfectionism. I have found that behind most perfectionists is an underlying fear that is neither healthy nor productive.
When I work with clients who are in the process of their personal innovation, the ones who are most successful are the ones who successfully manage their fears. The biggest fear that must be overcome is the fear that they may not accomplish every goal they have set or they may fall short somewhere along their personal innovation map. Although this fear is normal, especially in the beginning, I quickly try to help them realize that every step towards their goal is an accomplishment.
I remember one client who rated her day on movement only a 5 on a scale of 10 because she only got to run 5 miles and she wanted to run 8 miles. Although on a perfect day (a fictional thing that doesn't exist) her goal may have been to run 8 miles, on that busy and chaotic day her accomplishment of running 5 miles was amazing. The problem is that with her old thinking she would have skipped the 5-mile run because it was short of her "perfect" goal. Once she overcame her fear of not being perfect, she learned to take each day in stride and to celebrate each step she made towards her personal innovation. Several months later, she ran her personal-best half marathon but even more important, she had achieved most of her goals in her mindset, nutrition, and recovery as well.
When you look at the most current research on burnout one common denominator is perfectionism. High performers with high goals and a perfectionist approach are the ones most likely to burn out. Similarly, Dr. Michael Sarno describes the patients most likely to develop tension myositis syndrome, a common cause of disabling back pain, as perfectionists. In his most recent book, The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mind Body Disorders, he describes the plethora of health problems that share perfectionist behavior as one of its roots.
Performance living is about setting meaningful goals, developing a reasonable and achievable plan, training smart rather than just hard, being consistent in doing simple things savagely well, and in celebrating and enjoying your progress towards your potential. Overcoming any fears you may have of not being perfect is the first step towards a new level of performance living and ultimately, in becoming a Sustainable High Performer.
By Scott Peltin
Founder & Chief Performance Officer