Overcoming Perfectionism: Master your Priorities!

perfectionist

This story shows the pyramid you HAVE TO LEARN if you want to overcome perfectionism and build wealth!

I felt like I was flying a rocket ship around the colorful, psychedelic planets of my dreams.  But suddenly it felt like I’d just crashed into the moon.  The alarm clock went off.  It was 6 AM.  I opened my eyes from the deep sleep. Down the hallway in the kitchen,I heard my wife screaming at me:

“You didn’t listen to me again! You didn’t buy enough mushrooms for my pot luck party!”

I reached over and turned off the alarm clock.  I felt like I was still floating in space because it was still dark out.  I rubbed my eyes and put my glasses on.  I grabbed a t-shirt and yelled back down the hallway.

“What are you talking about? I bought you the mushrooms yesterday, exactly as you asked!”

My eyes adjusted to the darkness.  The lights in the hallway turned on. Even though it was early in the morning, I prepared for an argument the size of World War 3 as I heard my wife walk down the hallway toward me.

The bedroom door swung open and she barged in.  I swear, if I hadn’t seen my wife’s face in the hallway light, I would have thought I was still dreaming and this was an alien boarding my space ship.

My wife stormed across the room and yelled at me as she quickly got dressed.  “Those mushrooms may not be anything to you, but they were important to me!  They are for the big pot luck party at work!  Now I won’t have enough.  I asked you to buy a double batch because both departments are going to be there!  I told you this all yesterday.  Why weren’t you listening to me?”

I’ve learned not to argue with my wife when she’s as angry as a wolverine caught in a bear trap.

But since we were already both awake and yelling at 6 AM, and I hadn’t had my coffee yet, I didn’t really care, or think ahead about how my wife would respond.  I yelled back at her:

“If you wanted your mushrooms done perfectly, you should have gotten off your butt and gone to the store yourself!”

I saw that comment strike a nerve in my wife.  I am not sure if our bedroom lights were on, but the fire I saw erupt in her eyes blazed so brightly that I had to look away.  In fact, the blaze was so strong that I bet the entire north metro area woke up that morning wondering if a nuclear explosion had gone off outside.

She pointed her index finger at me, “If you could listen better than a 5 year old, maybe you could hear the things I tell you better!”

With that final statement, she grabbed her jacket and rushed out of the door.   She got into her car, and she was gone.

I was stunned. I sat in a daze for a few minutes trying to figure out how a couple packs of mushrooms for a pot luck party could have caused us to act like that. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fall back to sleep after that so I made a cup of coffee, and watched the sun rise out of our bedroom windows.  I went to God and asked him for insight into the real reason why this argument happened.

*

Thirty minutes later, my phone rang.  It was my wife.

I drank a huge gulp of coffee before I answered it.  “Hello?”

I heard my wife crying on the other end.  “I’m so sorry I made such a big deal about the mushrooms.  I wanted everything to be perfect at the party.  My perfectionism got the best of me again, and I’m sorry.  We didn’t have to argue like that.”

A few possible responses jumped in my mind as I thought about how to respond to her.  Replies like:  Yeah you’re right, you should have done it yourself.  Or, next time we confront each other about something stupid, can we at least try to schedule a better time for it than 6 AM?

But I didn’t say any of those things.  The timing wasn’t right.

“I’m sorry too.”  I said. “I didn’t know you had everyone coming to the party.  I should have listened better and I am sorry.”

She stopped crying.  “I’m sorry my perfectionism got in the way again.  In the big picture, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s just a pot luck.  I just wanted it to be perfect.  Look how foolish this all is.  We’re arguing and fighting over a pack of mushrooms.  There’s got to be bigger things than this that we should be fighting for, rather than fighting against each other.”

That’s it, I thought.  That is the root of this story.  This article is really about the evil root of Perfectionism, and the ugly, unquenchable, uncontrollable wrath it can inspire in our lives.  Perfectionism destroyed our happiness in this example.  The realization of how perfectionism impacts our lives led me to think about issues much deeper than mushrooms.

*

This is a great place to take a break from the argument above.  I want to examine the power of Perfectionism we each have in our human DNA, and how it can positively or negatively affect our path to purpose and wealth.

Our success all depends on how we choose to focus the perfectionist power inside of us, I realized.  This thought is worth the time to dissect the trait of perfectionism, and understand how it can either help, or destroy, our opportunities to build happiness, purpose, and wealth.  Let me explain further:

OVERCOMING PERFECTIONISM: THE PERFECTIONIST PYRAMID

I created this model to show what I’m talking about:

overcoming perfectionism

This perfectionist pyramid illustrates how you should prioritize your energy to overcome the ugly beast of perfectionism.  Invest your time and effort in the goals at the top of your pyramid to grow your wealth.

This pyramid ultimately shows that, because we are human beings with limited energy, we can only try to be perfect in so many areas until we get burned out and frustrated.  That’s because we’re ultimately each flawed and imperfect people.  No matter how hard we try, we can never be perfect at everything.

This pyramid shows that to maximize your opportunities to grow wealth, the majority of your energy should be focused on the goals at the top of your pyramid to create the most value for yourself and others in the world.

Ask yourself:  Do you want to waste your best perfectionist energy focused on the stupid mundane things in life on the lower base of the pyramid?  Or do you want to save and focus your perfectionist energy on dominating the incredible, life-changing goals at the top of your pyramid?  Usually the goals at the top of the pyramid are what I call your “dream life” goals, because those are the goals that will lead you to live your dreams.

For example, let’s say you only have one hour worth of perfectionist energy per day to invest building your dream life?  Where should you focus that incredibly intense energy? What are your most important dreams and goals?  That‘s where you should devote your perfectionist energy.  Look to the goals at the top of your pyramid!  Not at the mundane stupid stuff at the bottom!

For example, let’s look at the below scenarios to see where successful people devote their perfectionist energy?

1) Cooking a dish for a pot luck party that won’t add any wealth to your life?

Or

2) Making sure your attitude, faith, and income-producing skills are as perfect as they can be to live your dreams?

The Perfection Pyramid I illustrated above should help you clarify your choices right away.  In this scenario, an acceptable “Ok” pot luck dish will do just fine.

Focus your energy on all the things that make your life great.  You might not turn out perfect, but at least your energy won’t be wasted on the things that make you average and frustrated!

I want my perfectionist energy focused on making my attitude, faith, and income-producing skills as great as they can be.  These are the things that are going to propel me toward all of my dreams.  This is where the perfectionist part of my personality needs to be working 100% of the time.

Here’s another example to illustrate my main points on overcoming perfectionism. Which area should I strive for perfection to build wealth?

1) Do I stress over a perfectly organized office desk? And a micro-managed staff who must do everything EXACTLY as I say?

Or

2) Do I focus my perfectionism on making sure my clients are having the best possible experience when working with me?

The perfectionism pyramid clearly points to where my priorities should be aimed if my goal is to build wealth.  A perfect office desk, and over-micromanaged staff have never increased my bonus checks.  It’s my clients that help me succeed.  That’s why I make it my focus to make sure my clients are getting every ounce of perfectionist energy I’ve got in me.  I am fine with my office desk getting the “good enough” treatment.

As you can see, I’m convinced that perfectionism isn’t a bad trait to have.  If focused correctly, it can be used as an insanely awesome power to drastically change your life.

If you want to build your life full of more wealth and happiness, devote the perfectionist energy you have toward goals that will take you toward living your dreams.  Everything else – All the mundane stupid stuff in life –  should just get the “good enough” treatment.

Use the Perfectionist Pyramid to help you prioritize what goals should get your best energy to help you build your path to success and wealth. (Read more about money and investing here.)

DISCUSSION TIME.  LEAVE A COMMENT TO HELP THE NEXT READER FIND THE ANSWERS THAT THEY SEEK.

What do you think of this illustration?  What goals do you have on the top of your pyramid?  How do you overcome perfectionism?  How do you choose your goals to focus your perfectionist energy toward?

READ ON:

PURPOSE OF LIFE AND THE WAY TO WEALTH

OR

WEALTHY OR RICH? IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

21 thoughts on “Overcoming Perfectionism: Master your Priorities!”

  1. Another fantastic article! I had to laugh at this part: “I’ve learned not to argue with my wife when she’s as angry as a wolverine caught in a bear trap”. If every man had the same perspective as you… I think all of us would have much better marriages.

    Having said that…you bring up a fantastic argument on perfectionism. I think all of us have had moments in our lives where we focused more on the Mundane Stupid Stuff, and then didn’t have enough time for the Ultra Important items. I know that I am guilty! But I absolutely agree with your assessment.

    Thanks for putting this into perspective for me. It’s a great thing to think about with the new year right now.

    1. Haha. I enjoyed writing that line too. When my wife was proofreading it, I heard her laugh when she read it, and I knew it was a great sentence immediately. I’m going to do a post on this eventually, but the reason I married my wife is because we both speak very directly and you know what we’re thinking at all times. There’s never any guessing games in our house. If we’re happy you know it, and if we’re ticked, you know it too. Communication is the key to marriage and relationships no matter how you’re feeling. Another key to marriage: When you’re significant other is so mad that it looks like there’s a nuclear explosion going off in their mind, it’s probably not the best time to be a smart ass back to her. Glad you were able to take that away from this. Haha.

      I’m really grateful and happy you liked and learned something from the article. After reading your response, I realize that’s probably why I stumbled onto my path of wealth that I found. I sort of accidentally and naturally just focuses on all my best energy on all of my best life changing and million dollar ideas. It was super frustrating to my wife when we first got married because she saw me not caring about all the small stupid things. It took her like a year to realize, that’s because I’m so busy and preoccupied with all the big things I want to do with my life. If you can master prioritizing your goals, and directing your best energy toward the biggest goals you REALLY want, I think you’ll naturally find the way to create your own unique journey to finding wealth. Thanks Jacob.

  2. Great article!!

    Perfectionism manifests in a very different way as well. I am a perfectionist. I tend, rather than organizing my desk, to NOT organize my desk unless I have time to do it PERFECTLY. Perfectionism winds up being a barrier to action. I need to control my perfectionism in order to make any progress. I tell myself “80% is better than zero… It’s OK if it’s not perfect”. It took me a long time to understand how my procrastination and perfectionism were linked! I wait until I have time to do it PERFECTLY…And because my expectations are so high, I never have time to do it the way I want, and things don’t get done.

    The brain is a weird and wonderful place!!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping in @DFIRE! I’ve learned so much about perfection from my wife after we got married. I have no fear, so I just warrior through life without really caring about perfection. But like you, I saw my wife absolutely paralyzed by fear of not being perfect. Since she never felt like she could reach perfection, she did exactly what you did, and would just procrastinate and would hope that the hard decisions would just leave her alone. But since she was avoiding and procrastinating all the time, and never trying anything, she was never making her way toward her dreams which was incredibly frustrating and depressing to her. We actually had to unwind the tangled web of ideas and lies in her brain to help her find the truth. She was amazed by how many lies she found she was actually telling herself and believing which led her to NOT live her dreams. Once we cut out the lies like they were weeds in a garden, she started thinking clearly again and she was able to start trying, and not procrastinating, and learning to be better as she failed, and got back up and tried again. Understanding how the lies of perfection manipulate your brain, and destroying those weeds, have to be one of the biggest steps to getting your mind prepared for the journey to build wealth.

  3. Love it! I admit, I have some perfectionist tendencies, but I’ve gotten much better at managing them as I’ve gotten older. It’s really boiled down to prioritizing my values. You’re right, those things that are most important deserve more perfectionism. Family/relationships are at the top of my pyramid, with giving and financial independence coming just below that.

    1. Thanks Amanda. I think you’re right on with your priorities. I think our top priorities are 1) Becoming the people God wants us to be. 2) Turning our time alive into something of incredible value to ourselves and others. 3) Living out the dreams God gives us. 4) Being responsible with our money and using it to fund our adventure to create value for ourselves and others. Understanding your priorities and where to focus your best energy has to be one of the biggest keys to building wealth. Read some of my other comments on this thread and you’ll be able to learn more about how my wife and I learned to understand each other better and find a common ground on our values and priorities. Thanks for being a friend, and sharing your financial advise with me from time to time.

  4. Good stuff. I’ve struggled with perfectionism for a long time. My mantra is, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done.” Otherwise I start lots of things but never finish because nothing is ever perfect. Grad school forced me to get over that. It also forced me to learn to prioritize. Your pyramid is a great model for prioritizing things that matter. I still need to be okay with 80% in those areas though too. Nothing is ever perfect, but I’ve learned that my “pretty good” is usually excellent, and that’s good enough.

    1. Thanks for stopping in Jack, and I love your comment. I have a honey badger mentality and attitude so I don’t struggle with perfectionism on a daily basis. Watch this video if you want a laugh and see my type of personality in action. I don’t give a crap, I just live and figure it out as I go without fear: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r7wHMg5Yjg

      But I really got to know how damaging perfectionism can be after I married my wife and I experienced with her how much she struggled with perfectionism. Like you, she struggled with since her efforts would never come out perfect, she just stopped trying to do anything magnificient with her life. Our first year of marriage was really challenging, because I didn’t care and just wanted to go out and live life to the fullest, and she was paralyzed with fear because life would never turn out perfectly. We also had a disconnect because I was putting all of my energy to the top of my pyramid, and I didn’t care about the small things. This made me look stupid to her, because she was putting all of her efforts into the small things, and wasn’t paying attention to the HUGE IMPORTANT things at the top of the pyramid. We both really didn’t understand each other’s thought process until we dug deeper into the roots of our frustrations and examined our “why’s” and “motivations” for thinking like we do.

      Working through these issues has really helped us. Like you, Amanda has started to liberate her mind and realize perfection doesn’t exist, and if you can give 80% to your goals, that’s still better than the vast majority of people who lived trapped in fear of trying! She’s also learning that you don’t have to be perfect the first time. Just try, make mistakes, and you’ll be better the next time around. Failure isn’t bad. Failure is just the learning process you HAVE TO GO THROUGH TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT ANYTHING> THANKS JACK!

  5. I get to Mr. Groovy with some of my perfectionist tendencies. He says I’m like a pit bull when I want to get something done, and done right. Most times it’s good and the situation calls for it. But other times I need to back off. I like your pyramid as it puts things in perspective.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Mrs Groovy. This is Bill. Both Amanda and I have Pit Bull Tendencies sometimes. You should see us when neither of us want to back down from what we think is right. Wow! But the good thing for us, and the reason I knew I could marry her, was that we don’t personalize our disagreements. We just fight for what we think is right, and then when it’s over, it’s over. No hurt feelings, or long drawn out silences. We can be red hot mad at each other, and then once a final decision is made, we can be like, OK, what’s for dinner and start talking about the day. If some of the neighbors could see us, it would have to look comical sometimes by how determined we can both be to do things the way we think they should be done, and then seconds later, totally move onto the next thing in good spirits together. We’re still in the learning stage of how we can best compliment the other’s strengths, but we’re getting there. For example, we’re learning that I am really good at the big picture stuff, and she’s good at alot of the details. We used to get mad at the other person for not seeing what we were trying to accomplish, but now we’re learning just to let each of us master the things we’re great at and appreciate them for that. We’re learning to be better together one step at a time, and even though we may disagree or argue sometimes, that’s ultimately the sign of a healthy marriage at its core I think.

  6. Awesome post!

    In 2017, I have priority on top of my PERFECTIONIST PYRAMID. I know focusing on it will help me get me closer to my goal. This Is timely. I love the transparency, nuggets of wisdom and comic relief.

    Thanks for putting the time in for this masterpiece!

    1. Well Thanks Francis J! You have been one of my biggest Twitter friends since I first got on twitter earlier this year. I just want to say thank you for stopping in, retweeting us, and reading us from time to time. I strive for excellence in my life, and my life’s work, which is my writing. We have a long journey ahead of ourselves at Wealth Well Done, but having great friends and readers like you helps give us the motivation to keep on going. Please keep stopping back in and commenting. It helps push me to create even better juice. (Juice being great content)

  7. My perfectionism has served me well at times (graduating summa cum laude) and not so well other times (like every day since the day I had kids!). I second the 80% rule someone mentioned above. I’ve learned to allow myself a margin of error on the things that I don’t have time to do perfectly, the mundane tasks that you mentioned. I spend a few minutes prioritizing my tasks in the morning and time-blocking those tasks and it helps me a lot.

    1. Thanks Making your Money matter for stopping in. I think mastering your perfectionism is a huge part of learning how to build, manage, and grow wealth and happiness, which is why I wrote the article. Over the years of my life, I’ve just learned to give everything I’ve got to the skills and activities that will build my vision of wealth and take me to the dreams I have in my life. Everything else, just gets the good enough treatment. It’s not that I”m arrogant to the mundane tasks, I just have learned that I have to prioritize success in my life first or it will never happen. It is so true that wealthy people say no to almost everything. Finding yourself, and your dreams, is Key. You have to build the confidence to say yes to your dreams, and no to all the things that distract you from those dreams to become ultimately wealthy. Also, I just have to comment on how much I respect people who are parents like you. No kids in our house yet. We have a hard enough time solving our personal problems! I can’t imagine solving my wife and I’s problems, and my kids problems all at the same time. If we do become parents, My God, God please give us the grace to hold it all together!

  8. Love this Bill! Very thought provoking, and something to which most of us can relate. I feel as though there is a type of perfectionism that is never productive, whether striving for the mundane or the big, life changing goals. That’s the level of perfectionism that affects someone’s emotional well being, causing anxiety, or someone beating themselves up for falling short of lofty expectations. I think there’s a perspective missing in that type of perfectionism. On the other hand, there are others who are very detail oriented, and always seem to strive for excellence, but have the ability to not sweat the small stuff. Or if they come up short, they don’t let it affect their physical or emotional health. Great topic!

    1. Thanks Mystery Money Man. I specialize in building the leadership quantities each of us need to build our own path to wealth. Each person can develop their leadership qualities by becoming more aware, learning, and practicing with their own skills. If you can master your mind, you can master your money and life, and my personal passion is helping people create stronger minds. Thanks for stopping in and joining the conversation.

  9. Excellent post. I am definitely a struggling perfectionist. I’ll be referring to the perfectionist pyramid for sure!

    1. Hey Thanks Jacob! If you’re a recovering perfectionist, then you definitely have a friendly home here with us. Remember perfectionism is a massively powerful gift. You just have to learn how to discipline it the right way so you can get the best out of it! Aim your best efforts at your million dollar ideas, and everything else can get the good enough treatment. Although, don’t overlook some of the other commentators on this post who recommenced the 80% principle. Remember, we’re human beings so we can never be perfect. If you can just give 80%, you’re going to be far ahead of the crowd you’re competing with and that is often good enough. There was also an awesome quote on the facebook comments that i promoted for this post. The quote said, “To strive for perfection can be noble. To demand it from yourself is a mental illness.” Wow. I thought that quote was awesome. If you ever expect perfection out of yourself, that’s really a mental illness. Just do your best, and that’s all you’ll ever need. Glad the article helped.

      1. Thanks for your detailed response and wise advise Bill. I’ve always felt like striving for perfection is the only way to even come close but I like the 80% rule. You’re right, it’s enough to beat out the competition but not enough to sacrifice your sanity!

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