I’ve had a difficult time in my life balancing perfectionism and ambition. Is it possible that they seem almost inseparable. Are we able to achieve high levels of success without having to constantly be perfect at everything?
From an early age, I noticed the correlation between perfectionionism and ambition. High school was all about landing a baseball spot in college. It meant that I had to put in many hours just in order to achieve this goal.
Although I was proud of my consistent efforts, I noticed a more severe trait. After every training session or game, I would feel as though I didn’t do enough.
Are you familiar with that sensation?
You feel that there’s more. The question is, “When is enough enough?” Have you ever put in enough effort on a given day to be able to take a break until the next training or work session?
It was a question I found difficult to answer. Then I got to college, and my perfectionionism worsened. Although I was able to land a position on the college baseball team’s starting roster, it wasn’t enough. My ambition gave me another reason to aim for.
I chose to not take the time to relish the achievement of a childhood goal, but instead I refocused my attention on the future. It was not perfect.
When I moved up another level and started playing professional baseball, I still had this feeling that I wasn’t enough. There was always more.
Perfectionists know this sad fact. No matter what you do or how many you accomplish, there will always be a part of you that is not perfect.
Balancing Perfectionism & Ambition
I was driven to great heights by my ambition. However, my self-confidence slowly declined and perfectionism began to take away the joy that I felt in the sport.
Since I’m done playing baseball, my focus has shifted to coaching mental performance. I deal with the same feelings every day while I run my business. Only the difference is that I now have tools to help me overcome perfectionism.
It is not my intention to lower the level of ambition that I hold, and I certainly wouldn’t encourage anyone to. We all need to recognize that ambition and perfection are closely related.
After this acceptance is made, tools can be put in place to decrease perfectionism and keep our eyes on the prize.
Tools 1: Be confident in your planning
My experience shows that second-guessing is the most damaging form of perfectionism.
If you have ever dealt with perfectionism, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Perfectionism is an intense need. This is more than a desire.
We can only be perfect if we are not. When you are ambitious, your mind will see the ultimate goal as either a symbol of perfection or a sign.
You need a plan to achieve your goal. There is no perfect plan. Constant second guessing is what results. My training program was questioned almost every week.
With work, I now find myself second guessing the steps I’m taking to build my business.
We must be able to trust our plans and overcome this. I’m sure if you’re like me and you have high ambition, you have put in a lot of effort to plan and ensure you know how to reach your target.
Trust yourself now!
Trust in your plan, and now focus solely on the process you’ve put in place to get yourself to where you wish to go.
“Ambition is enthusiasm with a purpose.” – Frank Tyger
Tool 2: Recognize Your Small Successes
My biggest mistake was to not take advantage of small victories that I had throughout my playing career.
In baseball, it’s not so often you get a hit. In fact, three times out of ten signifies you’re a fantastic batter. So, if greatness is still measured by failing seventy percent of the time, you better cherish those successes or you’ll feel lousy most of the time.
That’s the state I found myself in. My failures were all I was focusing on, but my successes were not.
If you struggle with perfectionionism, it is time for you to take the time to recognize your achievements. No, this doesn’t mean you need to pop champagne for every little target you hit.
This is about acknowledging when you achieve success, regardless of how small or large. Let’s say you knocked out all your goals for the day, take some time and relish in the pride you feel for your accomplishment.
Start to recognize your little successes, and perfectionionism will gradually lose its grip on you.
Tool 3: Love the Journey and Fall in Love
Do you have a goal that is large?
What was the length of your joy?
One of the scariest things I’ve noticed in life is how quickly a moment comes and goes. That feeling of winning a championship, landing a new job, getting a promotion, it’s gone in the blink of an eye.
If that moment is all you are working towards, I hate to say it but you’re striving for a moment that will be gone before you know it. How will you react? Do you continue to feel low self-esteem and insecure until you achieve another moment of rapid success?
As people with ambition, it’s so easy to become fixated on that end result. But when that end result happens, you’re left with a daunting question, what’s next?
That’s why, if you truly want to manage perfectionism, you need to eliminate your focus from being completely centered on that end result.
It is possible to achieve this by falling in love and enjoying the journey. You will only be disappointed if the end is all that brings you happiness and satisfaction.
The process can be fun. You will fall in love each morning with the act of waking up and getting to work, taking on new challenges, finding solutions, and witnessing yourself develop.
The outcome is irrelevant if you love the process. The end result doesn’t matter as much, so you don’t have to be obsessed with perfection.