Are You a Perfectionist? YOUR Key to Success — Change Digital Thinking to Analog
When was the last time you adjusted a dial? We used to dial our phones or change a radio dial to find a favorite station, but not anymore…we punch buttons. On TV, they used to say, “don’t touch that dial!” meaning don’t switch programs or you’ll miss out on something important…now we hit our remote buttons. When daylight saving time approached, we turned the clock’s dials…spring forward/fall back…now the atomic clocks do it for us. We see precise, computerized readouts everywhere. I think this has caused us to lose a valuable tool for living. It’s influenced our thinking more than we realize. In what way? Well, are you a perfectionist? If that’s your tendency, then it’s time to embrace the dial again!
I like to think of our daily choices in terms of adjusting our dials. Your different dials regulate how you interact in your family life, career, physical well-being, spirituality, recreation, etc. For example, some days you may dial up career activities while dialing down recreation; other days you dial down career and dial-up family or exercise. And we adjust our emotional dials by mindfully choosing how we react to a situation, holding to our intentions and desired mental state. For example, you want to maintain peace and love in your family, so you remain calm so you can look beyond hurtful words to see the feelings that motivated them.
On the other hand, perfectionism is digital thinking — it’s either black or white/on or off. You either measure up to your standards, or your self-talk berates you for being a failure. As Julia Cameron describes it:
“Perfectionism doesn’t believe in practice shots. It doesn’t believe in improvement. Perfectionism has never heard that anything worth doing is worth doing badly – and that if we allow ourselves to do something badly we might in time become quite good at it. Perfectionism measures our beginner’s work against the finished work of masters. Perfectionism thrives on comparison and competition. It doesn’t know how to say, “Good try,” or “Job well done.” The critic does not believe in creative glee – or any glee at all, for that matter. No, perfectionism is a serious matter.”
The beauty of analog or dial thinking is that it lets you adjust your mental image and interpretations of a situation. It’s how you gradually turn up or turn down the brightness, darkness, size, volume, and importance of an event.
Improvement comes in stages when we use our dials. Gradual improvement and momentary setbacks are part of the process of ultimately achieving excellence. If you’re expecting to go into a family discussion/boardroom presentation/new business and do your best, without any preparation or leeway, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, unhappiness, anxiety and depression.
Are you a perfectionist? Here’s what you can do to adjust your dials…
Accept the fact that change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and practice and there’s no shame in that! We are all works in progress. No one is perfect. Here are five ways to become proficient at adjusting your dials…
1. Recognize all-or-nothing thinking and start seeing shades in between. For example, a family dinner isn’t either “wonderful” or “terrible” and Aunt Jo isn’t “interesting” or “boring.” Be present in each moment and mindfully see what IS, always leaning toward positivity.
2. Become reasonable and flexible with yourself and others. Assess without judgment of good or bad. Instead, identify what’s working and what’s not. Then make course corrections accordingly. View everything as a learning experience, not a judgment on worthiness.
3. Prioritize your standards. Vital tasks deserve higher standards than everyday tasks. Ask yourself if your standard is equal to the task at hand.
4. Life is not a performance to be scored and rated. It’s meant to be meaningful and enjoyable.
5. Embrace the Dial. Get rid of the perfectionist on/off switch and embrace the gradual turning of your dials. Use my “Are You a Perfectionist? Not Anymore!” Exercise to expand your view of a situation so you see the adjustments that are possible…
My “Are You a Perfectionist? Not Anymore!” Exercise: Explore the following questions for events/situations you experience throughout the day.
- What just happened?
- How is my body reacting to it?
- What emotions do I feel about it?
- What thoughts am I thinking?
- It could be worse — how? Explain to self in detail.
- It could be better — how? Explain to self in detail.
- Revisit the event in this new light and see how the world hasn’t ended, but actually expanded, with my new understanding.
- How can I use this new knowledge going forward?
As you do this exercise, you’ll see that the situation hasn’t changed, but YOU have. You’ve grown just a little bit more, and that’s what living fully is all about. Mindfully noticing your reaction to everyday situations is a powerful skill that can significantly enhance your ability to achieve your life’s ambitions and goals. This is an important part of Stepping Forward. I’ve been observing and documenting what works for me and for my clients, and I’m distilling all of my learning into an upcoming life-altering Stepping Forward Program. (Pssst…you can download an Introduction to The Stepping Forward Program here.)