Photo by Ambreen Hasan on Unsplash

Just think how marvellous life would be if we focused on everything we did well; big or small. The reality is, that for many out there, you’ll spend a large amount of your time concentrating on all the things that you haven’t done well, or yet accomplished. But there’s a key problem here – and that problem, paradoxically, is productivity.

When we’re feeling good about ourselves, and about life in general, everything flows far more easily and naturally. Time spent beating yourself with a stick because you haven’t achieved EVERYTHING on your to-do list is a pointless task – it achieves nothing and it wears you down just thinking about it. If you want to crack on and really be productive, you need to say a few nice words to yourself every now and then. Shouldn’t be that hard should it?

High achieving in all the wrong ways

Now, what’s amazing is that even amongst the most driven and ambitious of you out there; let’s say I make this offer of better, faster performance; I’ll bet any money your brains still can’t resist that rabbit hole of “not enough, not enough; more, more, more.” High achievers excelling in the art of self-deprecation – that’s a skill in itself.

I had this realisation some time ago about my own way of thinking – I realised I’d been waking up every morning and the first thing I would think about, would be all the things that I had not yet done. It was like everything else, all my accomplishments, all my successes from the previous day had just been edited out completely. Ah yes…

Hello perfectionism, my old friend

Perfectionism. Duh, duh, duhhhhhh. Yes, it thoroughly deserves that doomsday sound effect. Perfectionism is a REAL problem when it comes to keeping us stuck with all sorts of issues – health problems, bad habits and stress triggered behaviours. A quote that always sticks in my mind when it comes to the dreaded P word is:

“You can have joy, or perfection, but you can’t have both,” (Phil Parker, The Lightning Process).

I don’t know about you, but I think I’d rather go for the former. Let’s face it, whenever you are living by the rules of perfectionism, you are discounting your efforts and undermining your achievements. You will always be disappointed.

Discovering the antidote to perfectionism…

Now I’m not saying we should never strive for more. Progress, in whatever shape or form that may be, is core to humanity, and the evolution of life. But how do we do progress, and strive, in a way that is going to keep us at the top of our game; in both health AND performance?

A favourite phrase of mine is about embracing how ‘perfectly imperfect’ we are. What a wonderful thought that is. Perfectly imperfect. I can most certainly excel at that.

Imperfection aside, there’s another part of the antidote formula to nipping these perfectionist patterns in the bud…

Celebrate… Every. Little. Thing.

Yasssss. Now it may seem like the ‘perfectionist way’ is just the way you are – when the thoughts crop up so instantly and automatically it can be easy to wonder how exactly you change and break free from that pattern. But therein lies the beauty of the brain. Neuroplasticity- the brain’s ability to change and automate something completely different.

So we’re going to train your brain to search for the positives. And what’s marvellous is the more you practice this, the more your brain will start celebrating success as an automatic part of your functioning – it will come naturally. How lovely will life be then?? Very lovely in fact, so let’s get cracking.

The antidote to perfectionism – celebrating success

Where is your brain going currently? Everything starts with awareness. So notice where your brain is jumping to the negatives. Start to become aware of the thoughts you might have and what triggers them. Perhaps it’s your morning wake up, or times when you know you have a meeting coming up at work. Perhaps it’s particularly common when you have an especially high workload. Have a think and write them down.

Counteract the specifics. Looking at those specific triggers and thoughts, decide what you would like to think and feel about these things instead. Write that down and make sure to repeat these phrases each day. You can also write a list of more useful thoughts that you would like to feel on a daily basis i.e. I know I’m doing a good job. I am happy with my efforts. Everything I do, is enough. I am brilliant etc.

Daily training diary. Last but certainly not least – keep a positive changes diary. Many people keep a gratitude diary, but a positive changes diary is far more powerful because you are acknowledging what you have done well or differently for that day. And, this is important, when you write down your entries, include how it makes you feel i.e. I feel really pleased with myself for doing X today because it means… Do this every evening.

In relation to the last point, it’s really important that you juice up the language here. Neurologically, you will be strengthening these thought processes in the brain through the addition of meaning and emotion – two things that create long lasting patterns of behaviour and thinking.

So are you ready?

It’s time to celebrate yourself and all the amaaaaazing things you are doing with your life. Prepare yourself to be surprised. The more you do this, the more these positive, and more useful, thoughts will crop up naturally without effort.

So go for it; acknowledge your achievements whilst aspiring for more, and watch your health, and your successes grow.