Mary is the CEO of Shores Communications, a communication expert and an author who helps clients create connections and increase revenue.
How driven are you to succeed? Take a moment to really consider this question before you answer. To dig deeper, you could also ask yourself how your drive for success affects your mindset, emotions and everyday life.
For many of us, success has become an obsession. What I mean by that is some people are so focused on success that they forget to appreciate what they have accomplished. Let me give you an example to illustrate how this obsession could look.
I was speaking to a friend once who had just achieved a major accomplishment in his writing career, and even though he should have been celebrating that his dedication had finally paid off, he was feeling deflated and unsatisfied. He told me that even though he had reached a lifetime goal of his, he was more focused on what he could do next to top this achievement.
As a business owner, I often find myself getting trapped in the same cycle my friend was in. It’s as if no matter how successful I am or how many goals I reach, it’s never enough. I believe that’s because there is often so much pressure for leaders to measure success by constantly topping previous accomplishments. But think about how much stress that can create. Plus, you might never actually be satisfied with what you’ve done, which can leave you feeling unhappy and anxious.
From my perspective, this drive for constant success is fueled by perfectionism. Psychology Today defines perfectionism as, “A trait that makes life an endless report card on accomplishments or looks.” Perfection is impossible, and constantly striving for it can leave people feeling dejected, worthless and exhausted.
The good news is, you can be a successful business owner without chasing perfection. You can find great successes without becoming obsessed. Let’s dive into three ways to accomplish this.
Celebrate every success equally.
One of the best ways I’ve found to combat my perfectionist tendencies is to celebrate smaller successes the same way I celebrate larger successes. For example, if I get through my entire to-do list in one day, I celebrate that as much as I would celebrate launching a new product.
Taking time to reflect on why you’re proud of yourself will put a spotlight on all of your achievements, even the tiny ones, which can help you focus more on everyday successes rather than only focusing on big-picture successes. It also empowers you to appreciate the small things, which will shift your focus as well. That way, you’re not always looking for the next rush of success because every day feels like a success in some way.
Check in with yourself frequently.
If you’re a business owner, you need to listen to your intuition in everyday situations so you know you’re doing what’s best for yourself. For example, if you’re wanting to start on a new project that you believe would level up your success — but just thinking about starting it makes you anxious — listen to what you’re feeling, and dig deeper into why you’re feeling that way. Having some anxiety about new projects is natural, but sometimes, that anxiety might have an unexpected root cause, such as perfectionist tendencies creeping in.
Ultimately, to avoid perfectionism, you can check in with yourself often and take steps to mitigate any perfectionism that’s making its way into your thoughts.
Stick to a mission.
Sometimes, it’s easy to rely on perfectionism when we veer away from our original goals. For example, if your goal is to write a series of professional development books but you veer into another direction halfway through completing that goal, you could become overwhelmed, which could create a new perfectionist cycle.
Having a clearly defined mission that you stick to can help prevent this from happening. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to it 100% of the time (that would be perfectionism, too). Instead, having a clearly defined mission can empower you to set realistic goals and feel good about the progress you’re making.
Having a mission also doesn’t have to be restrictive. The way I make this happen in my business and life is to focus on the specific areas for which I’m passionate. Almost everything I do falls into those few categories I’ve set for myself. That way, I’m not chasing success constantly; instead, I’m making progress in areas I truly care about, which ultimately makes me feel great about the work I accomplish.
If anything you’ve read here applies to you, I encourage you to try one of these strategies and see how you feel. You may feel empowered by addressing your perfectionist tendencies and see new opportunities and paths open up.