How to Tell if You are a Perfectionist

workoutWorkout Objective:  Build self-awareness and have some fun
Prerequisite: None
Recommended Frequency: Just once
Workout steps: Read the story below and answer the question in it in the comments.   Have fun!


Six months ago, I wrote an article in this newsletter called “Don’t be a Perfectionist.”  It talks about how being a perfectionist can be a major weakness that can affect our ability to excel, manage others effectively, and prevent us from achieving work life balance.   That may be helpful to you if you already know you are a perfectionist.  But what if you are not sure, or you may look at that article title and say, “Oh, I am not like that.”

Well, here is one simple way to tell if you are a perfectionist:  Listen to this story, and tell me what you would do in this situation.

My eldest daughter, Isabel, loves doing puzzles. So, we have been buying her lots of them from Amazon. The latest one is a rainbow, horse, glitter puzzle. She was so excited to get it, that as soon as it arrived, she opened it, sat down, and started putting it together. Here’s the final product:

perfectionist puzzleWhat do you see immediately?  Well, almost everyone, perfectionist or not, will see that there is a piece missing right on the face of the horse.  My daughter was bummed.

  • Maybe it was an incomplete puzzle – an error made by the seller – is it likely?
  • Maybe my younger daughter, Alexis, who was also excited to check out the puzzle took the piece and hid it.
  • Maybe it just got lost when Isabel opened the puzzle and spread out the pieces
  • Maybe …

We looked everywhere, but we had no idea where this piece was. How does this story help you figure out if you’re a perfectionist? Answer the following question: if you were me, which of the following option(s) would you do next?

  1. Return it to Amazon (claiming it’s defective) and get a replacement one.  It’s free to return and get a new one.
  2. Every chance you get, look for the missing piece in your house.
  3. Assume Alexis took it and you probably won’t find it, and just get a new puzzle for Isabel.
  4. Put away the puzzle for now, as the piece will probably turn up.  Once it does, Isabel can play with it again.

So, what is your answer?

Okay, it’s kind of a trick question, because if you selected any of the options above, you are probably a perfectionist. Believe me, I was tempted to do all of the above. It was actually quite hard to stop myself. However, I know from experience that none of these actions are very productive.

I changed my perspective, and realized that the puzzle is still very functional. While it’s a bummer to miss a piece, it’s still fun for Isabel to put together. I also wanted to make sure that Isabel does not inherit my bad habit of perfectionism. While she also didn’t like missing a piece, she went along with me and played with it many more times since.

So, what do you think? I know it’s not a work example, but is it a good test of whether you are a perfectionist?  Share your comments and questions below.  Let’s have a discussion  

Like this post? Help me out by sharing it on Linkedin, Email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.

I am always in your corner.

– Lei

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