Can you be a successful entrepreneur if you are a perfectionist?
You can, but it is far from easy and there are some definite pitfalls that you must avoid if you are a perfectionist entrepreneur. In this episode of Entrepreneurs Unstuck I share the top 5 pitfalls entrepreneurs must avoid to be successful.
I don’t just tell you what these pitfalls are, I also share… how you know whether you are a perfectionist AND how you can avoid each of these 5 dangerous pitfalls.
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In This Podcast
- How you know you are a perfectionist
- Five dangerous pitfalls to avoid
- How to avoid them
How you know you are a perfectionist
Perfectionism’s cause isn’t always clear, but it is often a learned behavior. Perfectionists tend to attach self-worth or achievements rather than who we are. Reflect on the following 9 concepts. If some or all of them resonate with you, perfectionism might be limiting you as an entrepreneur.
- You procrastinate as your to-do list swirls around in your head
- Constantly trying to prove worth to others
- Consistent feelings of being a failure
- Focus on the what needs self-improvement versus strengths
- Constant comparison to others
- Shame around perceived shortcomings
- Feeling like not living up to self-perceived expectations
- Trouble relaxing
- Controlling in relationships
Five dangerous pitfalls to avoid
- Fear of feedback: perfectionists have a high need to be accepted by others and a strong fear of judgment by others because of this need for acceptance. Even constructive criticism, which is meant for growth, causes the perfectionist to cringe with dread.
- Analysis paralysis: wasting time in the weeds to the point of inaction. Obsessing over the perfect product, program, or launch puts us in perpetual delay, which is valuable time that can be spent selling, building a customer base, or networking.
- Inability to delegate: not handing over tasks for fear that a team member wouldn’t complete it as good as ourself. If you can’t trust your team, there’s no point in having one.
- Burnout: constantly adding to our plate at work only becomes counterproductive. Long, constant hours combined with chronic stress can lead to burnout, which is something many entrepreneurs feel at one time or another.
- Failed relationships: spending all time, energy, and focus on entrepreneurial pursuits leaves little room for fostering relationships, time to relax, decompress, or stay connected. Celebrating achievements and goals is that much more rewarding when shared with an important person.
How to avoid them
Now that we know the five pitfalls to avoid and their consequences of being a successful entrepreneur, we can shift our mindset to to tackle them in a healthier way.
- Fear of feedback: accept and even seek out feedback. Remind yourself that mistakes and imperfections are part of the human condition, inevitable, and you will not be loved any less because of them. Detaching any personal emotion around feedback and viewing it as helpful information can shorten your learning curve and drive you towards success.
- Paralysis analysis: take action when you are 80% ready. Your 80% is going to be more than enough. It will be uncomfortable at first, but it will get easier.
- Difficulty delegating: create systems. If you know the best way to get something done, create parameters, processes, and hand it over. Any mistakes that happen along the way are learning opportunities for the team member.
- Burnout: create firm boundaries with ourselves and work. Outline what hours you will start work, and when you will finish. Don’t let yourself overstep those boundaries so that you can focus on the other domains of your life that are deserving of your focus, energy, and attention too.
- Failed relationships: after you set strict boundaries with your work hours, stick to them, and then block out time in your week for your relationships. Not monthly, but weekly. Avoiding burnout will also let you show up and be more present in these relationships, conveying to people that they are important to you.
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Meet Kathryn Ely
I’m Kathryn Ely and at age 50, I’m enjoying my very best life. I spent years as a lawyer and then stay-at-home mom helping others go out into the world and live their best lives. While this was very important to me, I did not realize that I was losing myself in the process. I followed all of the “shoulds” like “women should always care for others” and “taking time for yourself is just selfish”.
As two of my children were getting ready to go out into the world I realized I was lost, without my next purpose, and it was scary. So I went back to school and over the course of several years, I not only found myself, but I designed the formula for women in midlife to achieve their most fulfilling lives. It is my mission to equip as many women as possible with this design and the tools to make this chapter of their lives the best chapter.
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Welcome to Entrepreneurs Unstuck. Today, I’m going to be talking about the top five pitfalls entrepreneurs must avoid to be successful and how to avoid them. Before we hop into today’s episode, I have an important question for you. How would you like to be a guest on my show? If there’s an area of your life in which you are stuck – and let’s face it, if there is you are definitely not alone – just click on the link in the show notes and fill out the application to be a guest on the show. Let’s get you unstuck.
Welcome to Entrepreneurs Unstuck. If you have just found the show, I’m incredibly honored and excited to have you here. If you have enjoyed Imperfect Thriving podcast and stuck around for the new podcast thank you for being here also.
If you’re an entrepreneur, business person who is absolutely living the dream and soaring to new heights in your business, but the rest of your life, how shall we say kind of sucks. Your relationships are struggling, or maybe you are all work and have completely ignored the other areas of your life.
You are also in the right place if you want to leave that desk job and throw your hat into the entrepreneurial ring. You have ideas, you have visions, but you just can’t seem to make that leap. I am Kathryn Ely, a licensed counselor, author, recovering perfectionist and entrepreneur. And I’m so glad you’re here.
I just want to go ahead and apologize in advance for my voice today. It’s not COVID or the flu, but I am dealing with some upper respiratory stuff. So please bear with me. I have a question for you friend, can you be a successful entrepreneur if you are a perfectionist? The short answer is yes, you can, but it’s not easy.
There are some dangerous pitfalls you must be aware of and watch out for, or you can easily become stuck and very unhappy with your life. Perfectionism and entrepreneurship mix kind of like oil and water at times, which means they don’t mix well at all. If you are not aware of how perfectionism can affect you in your life.
So what is perfectionism exactly? Well, perfectionists strive for unreasonable, often unattainable results, and then criticize themselves for not reaching those impossible standards or goals. Perfectionism can lead to anxiety, depression, disordered eating and general stuckness in life. And especially in business. 30% of the general population are perfectionists and 80% of the gifted population are perfectionists.
This is you if you have an IQ of 115 or higher. Perfectionists have made sense of their personal experience by concluding if they can be perfect, then they will be acceptable. Perfectionist can be very result oriented, perfectionist like to know what to expect. We like routine and have a plan for everything.
When things do not go exactly as planned, perfectionists can easily be derailed. When combining the traits and expectations of a perfectionist with the stresses and uncertainty of being an entrepreneur, well, this can be a recipe for disaster. Perfectionists often think this myth about themselves.
They think if I’m not hard on myself all of the time, I will get soft and won’t reach high goals. Perfectionism in this case is being confused with high achieving. And these are not the same thing. There’s an important difference between being a perfectionist and being a high achiever. Perfectionist that unattainable goals then criticize themselves when they don’t reach that goal.
This self-criticism is a form of negative reinforcement, which actually gets in the way of achieving high goals, achieving self satisfaction, and attaining high levels of self-confidence. It is this combination of setting goals that can’t be reached and self-criticism that leave perfectionist feeling like failure, no matter how high the achievement. High achievers on the other hand set lofty, but achievable goals and do not criticize themselves when they miss the mark.
Instead, they allow mistakes in the opportunity to grow from these mistakes. Perfectionists tend to be so afraid of mistakes and failure that they do not let themselves be beginners at anything. Which can lead to quitting early on with any new endeavor. This is one reason perfectionist get caught in the trap of working all the time.
Perfectionists often find it difficult to have hobbies because we want to be good at the hobby immediately. And if we aren’t, we quit because we can’t stand to be a beginner. Perfectionist are much less happy and easygoing than high achievers. While high achievers are able to bounce back fairly easily from disappointment, perfectionists tend to beat themselves up more and more and wallow in negative feelings, when their high expectations go unmet.
So how do you know if you are a perfectionist? If you answer yes to any of the following, perfectionism may be limiting you as an entrepreneur. Number one, you procrastinate as your to-do list swirls around in your head. If you say yes to this, you actually might be a perfectionist, not lazy.
Number two, you are constantly trying to prove your worth to others. This stems from a negative core belief of not enough. Number three, you constantly feel like a failure. Once again, this is because you set the bar too high and it’s not ever possible to reach it. Number four, you often focus on the parts of you that need to be fixed.
Number five, you constantly compare yourself to others. Number six, you experience shame about your perceived shortcomings. Number seven you feel like you’re not living up to expectations. These might be your own expectations of yourself or the expectations you think society or your family have for you.
Number eight, you have trouble relaxing. You always feel like you must be productive. And number nine, you’re controlling in relationships. Okay. So if you answer yes to any or a combination or all of the above, you might just be a perfectionist. Now that you know, if you have it, what causes perfectionism?
Well, that’s a tough one. Perfectionisms cause isn’t always clear. It’s often a learned behavior. Those who suffer from perfectionism believe that they are valuable only because of what they achieve. Perfectionists tend to attach self-worth or achievements rather than who we are. And academic and work settings tend to bring out perfectionism the most in people.
What are the top five dangerous pitfalls perfectionist entrepreneurs must avoid to be successful?
Number one, there’s this fear of feedback. So perfectionist typically have a high need to be accepted by others and a strong fear of judgment by others because of this need for acceptance, perfectionist have a hard time with criticism, even if it is of a constructive nature, and it’s only meant to help them grow in their business.
Perfectionist may get defensive, feel discouraged when receiving feedback or may not allow feedback at all. To be a successful entrepreneur, we can greatly shorten our learning curve by seeking advice and input from others. So the first pitfall is being afraid of, or unacceptable of feedback from others.
The second pitfall is analysis paralysis. Another thing that we perfectionist may do is delay the official launch of our business or program until it’s perfect, which realistically will never happen. In the meantime, while obsessing on the perfect product or plan, we often miss out on opportunities to sell, build a customer base, and actually help more people and adjust our business plan as we go to achieve greater success.
Perfectionists often major in the minors, getting stuck, wasting time on insignificant details to the point of inaction. So the second dangerous pitfall that perfectionist entrepreneurs must avoid to be successful is analysis paralysis.
The third pitfall we must avoid is the inability to delegate or the belief that I must do everything to make sure it is done right. Have you ever said that or thought that? I know that I have. If I want it done, right, I must do it myself. And that does not work well when you are managing employees and own your own business.
Or if you have grown to the point where you have too much to do yourself, but still can’t let go of any of it, right? To grow your business, we must look at tasks to delegate to team members so that we can focus on the running of the business and scaling of the business. And if you don’t trust your team, because you think you need to do everything yourself, there’s no point in having a team.
So if you have difficulty delegating or think that you must do everything yourself, that is a pitfall that we must change and avoid for you to grow your business.
Now, the fourth pitfall that perfectionist entrepreneurs must avoid to be successful is burnout. Constantly striving for perfection causes stress and more than likely an excessive amount of work hours necessary to meet your own expectations.
This can result in continually increasing time spent at work, leaving little to no room for social activities and relationships. For many perfectionist, work literally becomes their entire life. And they do not take time away to decompress or regroup to relieve the stress involved in being an entrepreneur.
The amount of time spent working can become so intense that you will be working more and achieving less becoming counterproductive. Long, constant hours combined with chronic stress can lead to burnout, which is something many entrepreneurs feel at one time or another. However, it is nearly inevitable for perfectionist entrepreneurs.
And when we reach that burnout state, we are not able to function effectively at any level. Some signs of burnout can include insomnia, fatigue, loss of appetite, forgetfulness, and impaired concentration and attention. Which leads me straight to pitfall number five, that perfectionist entrepreneurs must avoid to be successful.
And that is failed relationships. What happens when we spend all of our time, energy, and focus on pursuing our entrepreneurial dreams. There is no room for anything else, no room for thriving relationships, no room for volunteering for the greater good, no time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Second only to the basic needs of food, water, and shelter, we humans need connection to others. Connection to others is not a want, it is a need. Some of us need more connection than others, but we all need it. If COVID has taught us anything about what it is to be human, it is that we need each other. Have you ever received great news or achieved an incredible goal and wanted to just sit there and bask in the glory all alone.
I’m willing to bet not so much. The first thing we instinctively want to do when something great happens in our lives is share it with someone important to us, right? It might be mom, dad, best friend, significant other. So, how do we avoid these pitfalls? First we must know which pitfalls we’re in danger of succumbing to: number one, number two, all five?
Once you become aware, you can be mindful of the pitfalls that are a danger to you and take intentional action to avoid them. But somehow perfectionists realize this too late. We can get tunnel vision about the goals we want to accomplish and see nothing else. We have eight major areas or domains in our lives and work is just one of them.
And here are the eight: there is mental and physical wellbeing and self care, intimate love relationships, parenting and family, friends and community, spirituality and faith, learning and self-growth, adventure, artistic expression and leisure, and last but not least pursuit or career and finances. The way to a satisfying and fulfilling life is to live what you value in all eight areas of your life.
Now we can’t pay attention to and take action towards each domain every day. Some domains will be more important to you than others. And these more important domains will require more time and energy for you to be fulfilled in them. Typically for my coaching and counseling clients, the domains involving connection with others are high on their list of priorities.
But if all of your time, effort and energy is spent working. No matter what you achieve, you will not be fulfilled. You can have all of the success and money you’ve ever dreamed about, but if your relationships suck, you have no one to share your accomplishments with. You will not be happy. So let’s tackle all five of these dangerous pitfalls and see what we can do to avoid them.
Number one that fear of feedback. Feedback can be so difficult because we think we must be perfect to be accepted by others. So the first step here is being able to accept and even seek out feedback is to learn, to accept that mistakes and imperfections are part of the human condition, which you cannot escape.
Really knowing that you do not have to be perfect to be loved and accepted will help you not only be able to take feedback and constructive criticism for others, for what it is, just helpful information and not a personal affront, but seek out feedback so that you can shorten your learning curve and learn from those that have gone there before you.
So that’s the first thing that we can do to avoid that fear of feedback pitfall is just having a deeper understanding that imperfections are part of the human condition. Now, the second pitfall that we want to avoid, of course, is analysis paralysis. What can we do here? Well, once you know you are a perfectionist who gets caught up in the tiny details.
Or you spend too much time trying to create the perfect product, the perfect result, et cetera. I want to encourage you to take action when you are 80% ready. Your 80% is going to be more than enough. You will be uncomfortable doing this at first. I get it. I’ve been there, but it will get easier.
And you will get to the point where you feel a great sense of relief and freedom from not getting stuck in the thought that something has to be perfect for you to put it out into the world.
So to avoid analysis paralysis, take action when you are 80% ready.
Now let’s look at the third pitfall, which is difficulty delegating. Thinking that you must do everything yourself, or it can never get done right.
This, my friend, you can avoid by creating systems. If you know the best way to do something, awesome. Create a system based on how you do it and plug someone else into that system. Then you can let it go. There might be a mistake or that person might stumble along the way, but you can take each mistake and help that employee or team member learn from it.
But you can spend that one time creating the system and the parameters for the system, and then pass it on rather than continuing to have to do it yourself each and every time. So, if you have difficulty delegating, creates systems.
Number four pitfall is burnout. How can we avoid getting burned out when we are our own bosses?
Well create strict boundaries for yourself when it comes to work. I know what I’m talking about here. I suffered from this when I opened my own counseling practice and started this podcast. And wrote the books with my business partner, for the programs that we are designing. It was so easy to spend every minute of every day and every night on these big ideas, it was fun.
It was exciting. I loved it. But work was not the only thing important to me in my life. And I had to recognize that the longer I kept up that pace, the less productive in those hours, I was becoming. So I had to create very firm boundaries for myself. These are the hours that I’m going to work every day.
It’s not about how much I have on my to-do list and it’s not how much of a vision and how quickly I can make that vision a reality. It is what hours am I going to allow myself to work during the day? And then I can be incredibly productive during those hours, turn it off at the end of those hours and give my full attention to the other domains of my life that are so incredibly important to me.
Like my family, like my friends, my relationships. So create firm boundaries for yourself. This is the time that you’re going to start work. This is the time that you’re going to finish work. I will highly encourage you not to allow work on the weekends because I know how we entrepreneurial people go about our weekends. Especially if you’re a perfectionist, you think there’s just this one thing that you’re going to take care of, that leads to the next and the next and the next.
And you look up and your day is gone. So prioritize your tasks daily so that you’re taking action on the most urgent and most important tasks first. All the others can wait. Decide what time of day you will begin and end your work. Don’t create a schedule based on the number of items on your list, because you will never finish your list.
So create firm boundaries for work time and time for the rest of the domains in your life.
The fifth and last pitfall is failed relationships. How can we be a successful entrepreneur without letting our relationships fall to the wayside? Your relationships might be very important to you in your own head, but if all of your time and energy is spent on other matters, those others in your relationships will not believe that they are important to you and they will begin to pull away.
So after you set boundaries for your work hours and stick to them, block out other time in your week for your relationships and put that on the calendar. Not just once a month. But weekly. Now you know the top five pitfalls that entrepreneurs need to avoid to be successful and how to avoid them.
I’m so glad that you’ve been here with me today until next week go out and take one small step away from stuckness and toward the life that you want to have, and if you need help, I’m here for you.