Growing up, my parents rewarded me for ‘being smart’. Many parents do the same thing. We praise our kids for doing well in school. Seems like a good thing to do, right? Many educators are now thinking that this is a mistake.
I had an easy time in school with subjects like math, science, english, physical education. I got really good grades, but I didn’t try. I hardly ever did my homework, never studied for tests, and my parents always praised me for getting good grades. In subjects that I struggled with, I knew that to achieve ‘perfection’ or a good grade, I’d have to work much harder. Lucky for me those subjects were art, home economics, and foreign languages. My folks couldn’t care less about those, so I gave up. As long as my grades in the important subjects were good, I got praised. I was never rewarded for my effort.
How does this all relate to perfectionism and procrastination, you ask?
Kids that are praised or rewarded for perfection(grades) versus effort(trying hard) will tend to give up on a task if it is not easy to do. I watched a fascinating program a few months ago that studied the efforts put forth by kids that were rewarded for completion of an initial task and told they were smart ,versus another group that were simply rewarded for trying to complete the task. The kids were then given a much harder task to complete. The study found that the kids that were told that they were smart were less likely to try the much harder task.
You can imagine how this could play out into adulthood. I used to really stress about keeping my house clean. With kids, it’s an almost impossible task! lol. So I questioned why it was so important. Who was I trying to impress? Was I expecting praise by guests when they came over to visit? I don’t know, but I decided that the anxiety I was getting was far worse than letting things slide a bit. So, if you come over to my house, expect it to be lived in. Problem solved!
Same thing goes for trying to be the perfect husband, perfect parent, perfect employee, perfect mountain biker. I will not be perfect at anything. Especially since I am a parent, husband, employee, mountain biker, all at the same time. All I can do is try at all of them, and be myself. That’s the only way I can be happy.
One other thing I’ve started doing with my kids is rewarding them for trying. If I see they are putting in an effort, they get praise! My oldest son has to put away his own laundry. If I see he is not done putting it away, but know that he folded a lot of it, and it took 20 minutes, I praise him. He didn’t finish, but that doesn’t matter. He tried.
As many of you know, I put everything into Remember the Milk. If I have something that I think I want to do but has no due date, I mark it with the tag #someday. Weekly I review this list. Once in a while I will grab a project or task from that list and decide I want to do it, and off I go.
But many times, I decide to let the project or task go. I simply delete it. It is gone from my system and I don’t worry or stress about it. That way, I can just let go. It’s OK to not do things…If I’ve been procrastinating on doing something on my list, I ask myself, will I actually do this task? Probably not? Then, let it go. No more procrastinating on it. It’s gone. Now I can focus on the tasks that actually matter! The more I can practice actually doing, versus visualizing perfection, the more I will get on with life, and not worry about what I’m not doing perfectly.
Here is a quote from the acticle I read today about perfectionism. I recommend clicking the link and reading it!
A belief that your worth depends on meeting lofty standards is a breeding ground for unpleasant emotions, such as anxiety. If you dread the thought of performing poorly, you may experience anxiety anticipating a failing performance. What you fear is based on what you think of yourself falling below your standards. You may also feel anxious thinking that others will also judge you as a failure.
Are you a perfectionist? Could you care less to be a perfectionist? Leave a comment! It doesn’t have to be perfect either…