Expectations and Perfectionism

Self-Awareness 101 Episode 45: Expectations and Perfectionism.

In this episode Willard explores in more detail how the idea of perfection can keep you from living the life you truly desire. How often do people use a standard of perfection as an excuse to avoid finishing a project that they truly believe in? How does it affect your relationships? 

< EP 44: Progress Not Perfection                         EP 46: Dealing With Anger > 

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Today we are going to discuss expectations and perfectionism.

In last week’s episode we talked about progress not perfection. We explored the idea of gauging where you are realistically, looking at the progress that you have made rather than the perfect expectations that you may have set for yourself. This week we want to expand on that idea. I’m going to do that by asking a question.

Have you ever had a tremendous idea, or was there something you wanted to start in your life that you knew was going to bring you great joy, great pleasure, great rewards; but you never started it because you didn’t have the perfect plan to make it happen? Or maybe you did start the project, maybe you did start writing that book, or you did start working on that symphony, or you did start pursuing that relationship, but you never completed it because you felt that “you” weren’t perfect yet? As an example, I have heard some coaches talk about that happening in relationships. They talk about how we set these “rules” and create a standard of perfectionism of where we need to be financially, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually within ourselves. We create this perfect vision of who we need to be to attract the perfect mate into our lives and we often we don’t approach a person we are really interested in because based on these rules, we haven’t achieved that level of perfection yet, so we do not feel we are worthy of that relationship.

I guess a good question to ask yourself is, “How often are you robbing yourself of the growth and amazing experiences that you could have? What would be possible if you took that first step or the next step if you have already started on the journey?”

So many of us start out with an idea that we want to create something in our lives, and perfectionism can often stop us from ever making it a reality. Let me use the “Self-Awareness 101“ series as an example. We are going to be somewhere beyond the 40th episode by the time this video comes out. When we started this project we didn’t have a crystal clear idea of what we really wanted to do. We knew that we had a certain expectation for the level of quality that we wanted to provide in certain areas, we knew that we wanted to provide value to people which would give them skills and strategies to help them grow through some trying times that were happening in our economy and in our culture. But we didn’t have any standard of perfection immediately set. Jerry and I both hold pretty high standards in our lives regarding the quality that we want to give to anything we are working on. He holds himself to very high standards in respect to his quality of video production, and I hold myself to very high standards in respect to the quality of the content. But what we had envisioned as our ultimate level of perfection, we knew would be unattainable early on. We knew that if we were focused on perfectionism we would never launch the project. So we filmed the first six episodes then we sent them out to our peer group. By doing that we got feedback on what people liked, and what they thought we could improve and then we ended up shooting some of those six episodes again making improvements based on that feedback. Were they perfect after that? Not even close. Not to the level that Jerry and I wanted them to be, but we knew that we needed to put them out.

Jerry and I operate on a principle that we learned from Tony Robbins that is called CANI. It stands for Constant And Never-ending Improvement. The idea is that you are constantly raising your standards and constantly demanding more from yourself. If you watch Episode 1 of Self-Awareness 101 then you watch Episode 43, I think you will see several improvements that we have made because we have practiced CANI along the way. We constantly incorporate CANI both in my presentation and in some of the things that Jerry has done with the production of the videos. If we would have been focused on perfectionism and waited to even get to the standard of the 43rd video before we released the first one, we never would have done gotten out of the gate. It never would have happened.

Jerry and I were talking earlier tonight about perfectionism and how many people never find out if their idea will work because they never feel it is ready yet. He shared with me that there is this concept he was reading about that says that to truly get results; you need to “ship it”. Meaning that at some point, you need to put your idea, your concept or your product out there. A lot of people don’t experience the joy that they could have in their lives, they don’t experience the level of success, the level of freedom or the level of peace that they could have, because they never get around to shipping it. They have become locked where they are because of a perception of perfectionism.

As I shared in last week’s episode, I have started a new health regimen where I am eating more nutritiously and more regularly in an effort to improve my energy and overall health. If I set some unrealistic expectations for myself, maybe an expectation that in 30 days I was going to lose 30 pounds. But more than that, because I was setting a standard of perfectionism, I would also create these rules that I was going to do exercise for 2 hours every day, that I would not vary the diet plan even once, that I would increase my muscle mass by a specific percentage and that my body fat would be at some perfect level for someone my age and I set all these rules up, I would be setting myself up to fail. And more than likely, I would not even get started. Or I may start for a week or even make it two weeks. But if I didn’t live up to the expectations I set for myself, it would be an easy excuse to walk away from the commitment.

Please understand, I believe that setting standards for yourself is a wonderful thing. I think holding yourself to specific standards is one of the best ways for us to move forward. But when you set a standard of perfectionism, when you set expectations that are so high that you are scared of taking that first step, when you are scared of getting it out there, of getting it out to the public, to the people who are going to give you the feedback on it; how will you ever know if you are close to the mark? How will you know what you need to improve or what is already working?

Or again in respect to a relationship, if you have set an expectation based on perfectionism of who you need to be before you are going to be compatible or attractive to somebody; the likelihood is that you’re going to sabotage yourself and not even take the first step that you need to take, or it will prevent you from taking the final step that would bring you the relationship you desire.

So what I would like to invite you to do in this episode as an exercise is to look to the “patterns of perfectionism” in your life.

Ask yourself these questions and write the answers in your journal. Do you have the pattern of being someone who is great at coming up with ideas but you rarely implement them? Are you someone who is great at starting projects but doesn’t finish them? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

If you look closely you may find that what has been holding you back are the expectations that you’ve set for yourself or a sense of a need for perfectionism. If you’ve been thinking about writing a book, the idea of setting down the very first time at your keyboard and thinking that you are going to flawlessly write the next great novel in your first draft, kind of unrealistic. But if you sit down and you do your very best, and then you review the progress that you’ve made, then you raise your standards and you put it out to your peer group and improve it based on their feedback you have taken the next step. But know that you are not just going to have to share it with your peer group. To truly raise your standards know that there is going to come a time when you are going to have to put it out to the public, to the people who don’t know you, because that is where some of the greatest feedback is going to come from.

Some of the biggest growth that Jerry and I have experienced from creating this series has come from the feedback that we have gotten from the public. And some of it has not been kind feedback. But it allowed us to look at things from the perspective that our friends alone would not allow us to see it from.

Perfectionism is a great thing to strive for but I think the reality is that you need to know that this is a journey. You are going to grow; you’re going to continue to raise the bar higher and higher. So although perfectionism maybe a target that you are shooting for, understand that it’s not something that you’re going to reach. I say that because my experience has been that you will always be looking for bigger, better, greater ways to achieve it. It is a constant process that as you work on it, you continue to see more of what is possible.

So what I invite you to do is whatever you have been holding yourself back from starting or achieving, take the steps this week to move forward. Look at the progress not the perfection. Set your standards on CANI not perfectionism. I look forward to your feedback. I look forward to connecting again soon.

Take Care. 

< EP 44: Progress Not Perfection                         EP 46: Dealing With Anger > 

Choose the next Episode you would like to watch from the list below:

Self-Awareness 101 Series with Transcription Plus

Introduction To Self-Awareness 101:  To Inspire, Educate and Empower
SA 101 Episode 1:  The Importance of Developing Self-Awareness 
SA 101 Episode 2:  How to Truly Learn from Mistakes
SA 101 Episode 3:  To Soar, I Needed To Let Go Of The Past
SA 101 Episode 4:  The Meaning That We Give Things
SA 101 Episode 5:  Kind Words And Good Deeds Are Eternal
SA 101 Episode 6:  Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone
SA 101 Episode 7:  Two Most Powerful Words You'll Ever Say
SA 101 Episode 8:  Making Time For What's Truly Important
SA 101 Episode 9:  Expectations and Desires About How It Ought To Be
SA 101 Episode 10:  Tap Into The Sources Of The Universe
SA 101 Episode 11:  The Four Agreements
SA 101 Episode 12:  Courage-Being Scared But Saddling Up Anyways
SA 101 Episode 13:  The Power Of Belief Systems
SA 101 Episode 14:  Change Is Inevitable, Growth Is Optional
SA 101 Episode 15:  You Always Have Choices, It's OK To Say No
SA 101 Episode 16:  Encountering External Resistance To Change
SA 101 Episode 17:  Creating A Supportive Environment
SA 101 Episode 18:  Our Decisions Determine Who We Become
SA 101 Episode 19:  Questions To Ask When You Overcome An Obstacle
SA 101 Episode 20:  A List Of Excuses Vs. Results
SA 101 Episode 21:  The Meaning Of Honesty
SA 101 Episode 22:  Living In Gratitude
SA 101 Episode 23:  Repetitive Patterns
SA 101 Episode 24:  Non-Verbal Cues
SA 101 Episode 25:  Be Brave Enough To Accept The Help Of Others
SA 101 Episode 26:  Positive Thoughts And Positive Intentions
SA 101 Episode 27:  Active Listening Skills
SA 101 Episode 28:  How Self-Awareness Relates To Spirituality
SA 101 Episode 29:  Positive Affirmations
SA 101 Episode 30:  Basic Meditation Exercises
SA 101 Episode 31:  Personal Development At Work
SA 101 Episode 32:  Toxic Shame
SA 101 Episode 33:  Eliminating Clutter
SA 101 Episode 34:  How To Forgive Others
SA 101 Episode 35:  Self-Forgiveness
SA 101 Episode 36:  Deepening Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 37:  What Is Fear?
SA 101 Episode 38:  How To Overcome Fear
SA 101 Episode 39:  Dealing With Your Anger
SA 101 Episode 40:  How To Find Your Passion
SA 101 Episode 41:  Increasing Your Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 42:  How To Feel Deserving
SA 101 Episode 43:  How To Be A Humble Observer
SA 101 Episode 44:  Progress Not Perfection
SA 101 Episode 45:  Expectations and Perfectionism
SA 101 Episode 46:  Dealing With Anger
SA 101 Episode 47:  Taking Responsibility For Yourself
SA 101 Episode 48:  Achieving Higher Consciousness
SA 101 Episode 49:  Trust Life
SA 101 Episode 50:  Being Skeptical
SA 101 Episode 51:  Benefits Of Closure
SA 101 Episode 52:  The Final Episode 

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