Perfectionism can be double-edged sword. For a long time perfectionism was considered by psychologists to be a type of neurosis.
Today psychologists differentiate between what they refer to has “positive perfectionism,” which is healthy and embraces change and “negative perfectionism,” which neurotic and maladaptive.
Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D. prefers the term optimalism (or optimalist) when describing positive perfectionist, because in the case of the positive perfectionist they are seeking the optimal or best most favorable solution given a particular set of circumstances.
Negative perfectionist expects their path through life as well as their road to accomplishment to be unobstructed, to be smooth sailing. Life being what life is, it doesn’t often accommodate the negative perfectionist, leaving them frustrated, anxious and angry.
The perfectionist (negative perfectionist) rejects failure while the optimalist accepts it and sees it a guide of the path to success and happiness.
How can you find balance and become an optimalist instead of a negative perfectionist? Try some of these practices offered to us by Henrik Edberg from the “Positivity Blog:”
1. Refocus on the benefits.
Instead of focusing on how boring this task may be or how you don’t want to do it, focus on the benefits of getting it done.
So sit down for a minute. Close your eyes.
And focus on what you will get out of it. Focus on how good it will feel when you are done with it.
Oftentimes this works to get add a bit of motivation before I get started. Sometimes it doesn’t.
No matter if it does or doesn’t I don’t think about it too much because that usually just leads to more inner resistance and to making it harder to get started. Instead I make a decision and I get going.
2. Stay with the timer.
No matter if the first step above works to get me more motivated or not I take this next step.
I set my kitchen-timer for 45 minutes. I put it in another room where I cannot see or hear it. I start working on the task and focus fully on it and just it. I do no multi-tasking, just single-tasking.
For 45 minutes I dive into this task and I am fully there.
Why do I use the timer? It becomes easier to fully focus on what I am doing because I know that in 45 minutes I can take a break and go and do whatever I want. I only have to stick with this task for that long. This makes it all feel a lot lighter instead of like a heavy burden I have to carry.
This very clear separation between fully focused work and fully focused rest also reduces stress and helps me overall in my life to not get stuck in the grey zone. That is the destructive mental zone when you think about work even when you are with your family in the evening or are trying to go to sleep in your bed.
If 45 minutes is too long and you still end up procrastinating, then try 10 minute bursts of work for starters.
3. Make it more fun.
The first step might have made you more motivated to get the task done. The second step can help you to fully focus in medium-sized bursts of work while still getting a good amount of recharging rest.
A third step I often use is to make this of time of working on the task more fun. I usually do that by firing up the Spotify program on my computer and listening to some of my favorite music or just some new music while I work.
This is of course not always possible, like for example if I am proof-reading a newsletter I have written.
But it certainly helps from time to time to make the work more fun. Read more here…
Perfectionists pay an emotional price for rejecting their reality and rejecting failure as a possibility with fear and anxiety. On the other hand positive perfectionist, optimalist, lead much happier lives because they accept reality, understanding that failure is part of life and the way in which leads them to the ultimate fulfillment of their desires.
I think that there are different areas of our lives in which we will fall into one category or the other, sometimes locking ourselves into the Perfectionist mindset and other times allowing ourselves to embrace optimalism. It is when we become conscious of our emotional mindset that we can find the balance between perfectionism vs. happiness.
I would be interested in your thoughts are you an optimalist or a perfectionist? Are you both at different time and what “trips your trigger” either way?