Imperfect perfectionism

Do you notice that you want to make progress with your assignments or dissertation but wonder if your work is good enough? Are you dissatisfied with your work? Do you worry about feedback? 

It is common to experience these feelings when we care about doing well in our work.

Sometimes, these feelings may be due to wanting to avoid mistakes, but as these happen, we lose motivation and wonder if our work will ever be good enough. As a result, we can experience more pressure (and stress symptoms) and take longer to do things preventing us from meeting deadlines. 

Here are a few strategies to make progress:

Reframe negative thoughts: Notice when you have negative thoughts about your work, yourself, or anticipate negative outcomes. Then ask yourself: “Is this thought helpful?” and then ask: “what one thing can I do now to move forward?”

Expect that it may take time to achieve results. Several trials and errors may be necessary to understand a concept or result in an experiment.

If it does not work on the first attempt, it does not mean you cannot get a positive result later (Dweck, 2006).

Focus on making progress: often, we have a definite idea of how things should be, pursuing unrealistic standards. We do not realise that our expectations add pressure and paradoxically prevent us from doing good work. Instead, focus on making progress and working on what supports your goals. 

Reframe fear of failure: Because we care to do good work, we worry about mistakes. We may believe that we should not make mistakes and view them as a sign of our lack of ability. Instead, view errors and setbacks as part of the learning process, and with practice, we can master new knowledge and develop new skills (Ben-Shahar, 2009).

Practise self-compassion: It is about being aware that you are human and that sometimes mistakes can happen. Treat yourself with kindness, like you would behave towards your best friend. (Gilbert, 2010). 

Take a moment to pause and redirect your attention to the present moment. It will help to ground yourself, reset and find balance.  

Give yourself time to restore your energy. It also provides you with an opportunity to step back from your work. This way, when you return to it, you can look at it with fresh eyes. Often, just a few minutes can allow you to notice what you can edit or correct to get unstuck.

For more information check this blog post and this one

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” (Voltaire)

References:

Ben-Shahar, T. (2009) The Pursuit of Perfect. How to stop chasing perfection and start living
             a richer, happier life. USA: McGraw-Hill.

Dweck, C. S. (2006) Mindset. How you can fulfil your potential. New York: Balantine books.

Gilbert, P. (2010) The compassionate mind. London: Constable & Robinson, Ltd.

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