Don’t fool yourself.
Being demanding is a flaw. Being a perfectionist, too.
You don’t agree? I get you. I didn’t think that way either!
If you want to be more productive, trust me: being demanding and a perfectionist is like the donkey that blindly and relentlessly chases an unattainable carrot.
Let me explain how I arrived to this conclusion.
Being demanding and a perfectionist is a flaw.
We all agree, to a greater or lesser extent, that:
- Being demanding means being a person that strives for perfection, gets to the top and is the best.
- Being a perfectionist means being a person who thinks that achieving perfection can and must be done, that it is unacceptable to achieve less than perfection.
- I remember always being asked in my first job interviews:
- – What is your biggest defect?
- My answer was what I believed to be a great virtue disguised as a defect:
- – I am very perfectionist, very demanding.
- And I left thinking that, of course, the interview had gone perfectly well.
- But I was totally wrong.
Maybe it happens to you too. You brag about how demanding and perfectionist you are as if that meant to be a better, more responsible professional always looking for the best results. You boast of being a great leader because you demand the most from yourself and your team. Your goal is to get it perfect, to be the best, to be the best team. Simply that.
But it’s not true.
Living with the burden of demand and perfection is to live under pressure, stressed and overwhelmed. It is to think of mistakes as failures. And failure leads to disappointment, regret and dissatisfaction with yourself and others. It means not welcoming feedback, giving up on taking risks and learning, and not being open to failure and amendment.
I know what I’m talking about. I’ve lived with this burden. I’ve been there, I’ve felt this way and I’ve behaved like that. Even today, if I don’t pay close attention to the way I think and act, I sometimes go back to being the donkey that chases the unattainable carrot.
If you stop being demanding and a perfectionist, you’ll be more productive.
When you demand the most of yourself and always strive for perfection, you’re also the main actor in:
- Wasting your time in an endless improvement cycle, corrections and revisions.
- Always having negative emotions. Feeling disappointed because the expected results don’t arrive. Feeling frustrated because you don’t improve as fast as you should. And you’re angry because nobody performs as you expect.
- All your potential for growth and improvement disappears. You’re unable to accept negative feedback, errors or mistakes as learning and development opportunities.
As a team leader, I used to demand myself and my team to review each single comma in every document. It didn’t matter if it was an e-mail, a meeting minutes or a specifications document. It had to be perfect. It was difficult to delegate and I had to review and control everything myself. The outcome? We were inefficient, we were stressed, and we were always angry. The work was done. Our leaders were happy. But, at what cost? Did we learn or improve? Did we grow as a team? Certainly not, quite the opposite.
- As a demanding and perfectionist person, all this may sound familiar:
- – So much effort for nothing, I should have done better.
- – I don’t know what’s wrong with me, no matter how hard I try, I never succeed.
- – I’m surrounded by mediocre people; I would have done better on my own.
As a demanding and perfectionist person, you usually focus on what’s missing, what went wrong or could have gone better.
There is little to celebrate because you are never satisfied. You think that a mistake means failure.
Do you think this may be a way to be productive?
If you stop being demanding and perfectionist, you’ll live better.
Think about your favourite hobby. What is your goal for doing it?
My hobby is traveling, and I do it because I enjoy knowing other places and cultures.
If my goal were to have the perfect trip, planning would be a stressful madness since I would have to consider, and supposedly control, every single detail. Facing an unexpected event, I would be frustrated, overwhelmed and angry because the trip would no longer be as I expected. I would think: <so much effort for nothing>.
Traveling now with a large family, my priorities and expectations are different and unexpected events multiply. But I still enjoy the planning phase, the trip and the memories I make.
Does a perfect trip ever truly exist? Never. But that’s the least of it!
A hobby’s goal is simply to have fun, strive to do it well, and do your best.
Why do you think more and more people succeed by making a way of life out of their hobby?
Well, because it’s not necessary to be the best or to do things perfectly to live better. The secret is to enjoy everything you do.
How to stop being demanding and a perfectionist.
It’s quite easy! Just follow these 3 steps:
- Stop chasing perfection. Try to simply do your best according to your needs, situation and priorities.
- Learn to manage your expectations. For each new task or project, establish what your expectation is.
- Explain your expectation. It has to be concrete, measurable, achievable, realistic and limited in time (SMART expectation).
For every situation and moment, it is always possible to set a SMART expectation. You’ll push yourself and offer the best of you. You’ll give yourself the opportunity to learn, seek help and work as a team. You’ll know there’s always something that can go wrong, you can make a mistake or maybe the situation doesn’t allow you to do better. But you won’t end up dissatisfied, frustrated or overwhelmed, because you will have learned to take advantage of your opportunities and you will have given the best of you and your relationship with others.
Imagine you have to present your department’s quarterly results to your managers.
Before you begin, spend some time thinking what the main purpose of the meeting exactly is. Review other tasks in hand, if they are more important or urgent than this presentation and what are the deadlines. Know what you expect from the presentation and what do others expect. If it’s not the same, try talking about it before the meeting. In conclusion, detail your expectations in SMART terms and act accordingly.
It’s true that, at least in the beginning, this type of analysis based on expectations will take more time than a “simple” I’ll do it perfectly. But just until expectations management turns into a habit. When it happens, this will be a very easy and almost automatic analysis.
Perhaps you think that giving up being demanding or perfect is a sign of mediocre, incompetent or conformist people.
“I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day.”Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States and responsible for abolishing slavery
Because living your life to the best of your ability each and every day means doing so with confidence, enthusiasm and motivation. You must see mistakes or errors as learning and improvement opportunities. And stay open to try, investigate and collaborate, because enjoying the trip is more important than just reaching the goal.
Do you want to be more productive and live better?
If you want to be more productive and live better, reaching the top or being the best should never be your goal. Achieving perfection, either.
Stop being like that donkey that blindly and relentlessly chases an unattainable carrot.
Set a SMART expectation for each new task or project that you consider.
Always do your best. And above all, have fun!
This must be your goal.
Try it out with your next task or project, or with your team, and let me know how it went or what difficulties you encountered.
Thank you and see you soon,
PS: There is a lot more about being demanding and perfect that I will reveal in future posts. For example, the impact of these behaviors on teams or how they connect with the need for control and recognition. In the meantime, if you liked this post and want to know more, I recommend the chapter <Exigencia o excelencia> of the book No Es Lo Mismo, by Silvia Guarnieri and Miriam Ortíz de Zárate. You’re also welcome to drop us a line. We’ll be thrilled to know from you, answer your questions and tell you everything you want to know.