CHAPTER 4: PERFECTIONISM KILLS PERFORMANCE
My Master’s Degree Thesis topic was: Anxiety and Perfectionism in High School Wrestlers. There are not many Psychology scholarly articles specifically on wrestlers. Here are the results in simplest terms. We know that Anxiety (stress, nervousness, fear) have a negative effect on performance. Perfectionism and Anxiety have a positive relationship. Therefore, Perfectionism and Anxiety negatively affect performance. Believe me, it was not that simple. An hour before a tournament began, I gave 120 wrestlers a perfectionism and anxiety questionnaire, then compared the numbers. Again, the process took far longer than it seems. The conclusions were well worth it though. To succeed, you want to abandon extreme and perfectionistic thoughts and language.
Perfection is the enemy of good. When you were young, adults taught you how to detect and delete mistakes. This makes sense. In order to achieve at a high level, mistakes must be reduced. The key thing to remember is that mistakes are never eliminated.
We have all heard that practice makes perfect. Then as we got older, we heard, perfect practice makes perfect. But the truth is, perfection is non-existent, so the best we can shoot for is mastery. The analysis of error and intense practice of new behavior makes for mastery. But yeah, practice makes perfect sounds a lot easier for you to remember and say in front of your friends.
It is easy to agree with the statement, no one is perfect. We all have an understanding of our all too fallible human nature. But when we make a mistake, we tend to heap coals of fire on ourselves.
We forget that making mistakes is part of the learning process. People who are not making mistakes, are usually not making very much of anything. We should strive to eliminate mistakes, but we should not assume that we will stop making them. Imperfection must be expected and accepted. Imperfection should NOT delay you from taking action. This occurs for many people.
It is usually the start that stops most people. People tend to procrastinate indefinitely until, “the time is right.” Successful people know that the time is never right, but time is always RIGHT NOW. If you love to write, don’t begin once you have written the great American novel. Begin right now. Your odds of writing the great American novel go up exponentially once you finally start writing on a consistent basis. Get it started, then get it just right. If you wait until all lights are green and until all mistakes, shortcomings, and obstacles are non-existent, you will miss the boat. Get started today.
Here is a list of the top 10 worst phrases in sports due to their allusion to perfectionism and the extreme:
10. “I have to…”
9. “I need to…”
8. “I ought to…”
7. “I should…”
6. “I must…”
5. “This is it OR This is everything..”
4. “Do or die”
3. “Make it or break it”
2. “It’s now or never”
1. “Don’t miss “OR “Don’t (anything)”
All competitions and practices are important, but nothing is “special.” When you make a particular competition “special,” you are most likely to put additional pressure on yourself, which can cause you to change your approach and deviate from the very actions that got you success up until this point in time.
Instead, use phrases like, “I will,” “I choose to…” “I want to,” “I’m going to.” Phrases like this allude to a Jehovian command that cannot be supported by facts. Approach competition with a willful attitude, not an obligatory one.