Diana Enache

Redefining the perfectionist’s perception of performance

Have you ever found yourself navigating multiple roles, striving to be the best at everything you do?

I was recently inspired by a coaching conversation I had recently where the client and I were talking about the relentless pursuit of being “the best at work”, “the best student”, “the best friend”, “the best partner”, all at the same time. 

They were talking about the multitude of things to do on a daily basis and associated these many actions with performance. 

This idea about doing it all at full capacity, while putting yourself last and not giving yourself time to take breaks or process emotions, or be aware of your own thoughts and equating it to performance got me reflecting after the session.

I used to think in similar terms and sometimes I still do. Especially for those things I care a lot about.

I had a strong belief about working hard, which was:

“I have to work hard for this thing that’s important to me.”

And most of the time “this thing” had something to do with my job. These days it’s about my coaching business.

Maybe you hold a similar version of this belief. But I see faults in this way of thinking and I think we need a reframe for performance.

My belief used to trigger (and sometimes still does) behaviours like working long hours, with little to no breaks, with overtime, with thinking about work outside of working hours. 

I used to think that leads to high performance, but it actually leads to being tired and under stress.

I do believe doing hard things builds resilience, and choosing to do the hard thing now will make a positive difference later. And it has worked well for me and my work performance over time.

It becomes a problem when I take this belief to the extreme. I convince myself I need to put in considerable effort for things that are important for me. This belief came with the expectation from myself to still perform when I don’t feel well physically. I forced myself to work, but my output was mediocre.

During the past year I’ve been working on changing that belief and on noticing which aspects of my work come easy, with little effort.

I’ve learned that taking breaks, doing less intense work when I don’t feel well, or taking the day to do activities that restore my energy actually has a much more positive impact on how I feel the next few days. I can then go back to sustained effort and better outcomes.

I’ve learned that meditation, mindful eating and drinking, travelling, being in therapy and coaching contribute to my performance significantly. 

So, I’m here to tell you:

  • You can have performance AND take breaks. Actually, breaks contribute to better performance. Science backs this up.
  • You can have performance AND take the time to process your feelings. This will actually make you a more aware and emotionally intelligent human being. That in turn means stronger, healthier relationships at home and at work.
  • You can have performance AND do good enough work instead of “perfect” work. Repetition, learning from mistakes with the intention to do better contributes to progress. Again, science backs this up.
  • You can have performance AND seek continuous learning and development, while not knowing everything from the start. Investing time in learning new skills, gaining knowledge enhances your expertise in time. It’s a process and it can be a fun and rewarding one. Learning keeps your mind sharp in the long run too.
  • You can have performance AND prioritise your wellbeing. Sleep, mindfulness, meditation, social connection, unplugging from technology can recharge you and reduce stress.

You don’t need to be a machine and work continuously without a break to be performant. That’s a sure way to fatigue, burnout and physical collapse. 

A healthy, rested and cared for you is far more effective, resilient and performant.

I’m curious, what do you believe about effort and performance? 

How has that belief impacted your work and career?

I’d love to read your take in the comments.

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