“PERFECTION IS NOT ACHIEVABLE….IT CAN ONLY BE PURSUED.” John Wooden, Hall of Fame NCAA basketball coach
Want to know one of the biggest causes of sports performances problems out there? It’s something that will erode your motivation, kill your self-confidence and undermine your love of the game. And it probably represents the one biggest obstacle between you and your sports dream! Drum roll please………. PERFECTIONISM!.….That’s right, the one thing that can sabotage your goals and suck the joy out of your sport is your dissatisfaction with anything short of perfection!
All too often I get calls from struggling athletes across all sports, those in slumps, stuck on plateaus or struggling with some other form of repetitive performance problem and when I dig a little deeper into their problems, the individual’s perfectionism rears it’s ugly little head!
Now don’t get me wrong here: It’s absolutely fine and even desirable for you to strive to be the best you can be or to even strive to be perfect. The fact is that we can always learn more, do better, get stronger, faster or more skilled! Your quest for excellence is NOT the problem here. The problem is when you EXPECT perfection in this quest, and then, when you fall short, you use that “failure” as a stick to emotionally beat yourself up!
Perfectionists don’t understand that making mistakes and failing is a critical part of getting better and growing as an athlete and person. Why? because we learn exactly what we did that didn’t work and what we need to do differently next time every time that we mess up or fall on our faces. In this way, our failures provide us with valuable feedback that will help us get better and move to the next level! You don’t have to like failing much. But you do have to learn to recognize that you can’t get to your goals without failing ENOUGH!
Perfectionists hate failing and making mistakes to an extreme. To the perfectionist, mistakes and failures are something that you should feel embarrassed about and something that you want to avoid at all costs! Because of this attitude, perfectionists don’t really take the time to get curious about what they did wrong and what they need to do differently next time. They are too busy being furious with themselves! Perfectionists are also experts at finding all of the warts and flaws in their performances. When coaches and parents weigh in on how well the athlete may have performed, the perfectionist responds by “knowing better!” He/she “knows the real story here and those aroiund him/her aren’t looking closely enough!
To the perfectionist, a 95 on a test is a “Crap, I missed those 5 points!” and feeling disappointed instead of a solid “A” and feeling proud. This makes the perfectionist an expert in distorting reality. They wear tinted glasses that always enables them to see what they did wrong! Of course, the problem with this X-Ray vision that sees through the success and finds the failure is that they never feel like they’re good enough. Deep down, or not even so deep down, the perfectionist feels inadequate. He/she struggles with low self-confidence because they never really allow themselves to celebrate their victories! And if by some miracle, they do manage to perform flawlessly, then they immediately move onto the next performance and the need to do it all over again!
Remember, perfectionism is a doubled edge sword. If you use it the right way, to pursue excellence and continually challenge yourself to get better, it can cut down obstacles in front of you and clear a path to your sports dreams. However, if you use it the wrong way, to continually highlight everything that is wrong with you and your performance, then it can shred your self-confidence, kill your motivation and destroy your dream! STRIVE FOR PERFECTION EVERY DAY, PURSUE IT AGGRESSIVELY…..BUT DON’T EXPECT IT!