Those who take on the weight of the world, yet who constantly find their own efforts lacking, are more prevalent than one might think.
One such executive told me, “It’s like I’ve got a ton of bricks on my shoulders,” and the weight keeps being added as issues and needs arise around them ... "I get totally exhausted."
It’s a pupu platter of perfectionism and responsibility on overdrive—and it becomes ingrained as the executive / leader / person feels trapped in it: “I can't let it go -- it's how I got to where I am…”
Research has also shown certain firms actually select for overly-self-critical / overly responsible people, as their obsessive work habits are appealing for a time (e.g., high end law firms, high end professional service firms.) Many years later, though, we’re talking a heavy toll of burnout, family problems, resentment, and illness.
I suggest to such execs that you're not trapped -- it’s NOT how you got to where you are—that you got to where you are because you are smart, capable, and motivated. That you got there in spite of, and not because of, these bone-crushing habits.
Two practices for you to try, if you or someone you know may fit this profile:
1. Manage Your Gremlin: Catch / dismiss the voice that says, “It’s never good enough.” Recognize right in the moment it’s happening that it’s whispering in your ear, and give it the rest of the day off. Good enough is OFTEN good enough, especially on the small stuff.
2. Offload, offload, offload: If you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders, and you’re a perfectionist, it’s time to offload responsibilities to others more often than not—until it’s actually uncomfortable for you. Delegate, and if you can’t then don’t take it on.
If you are a perfectionist on responsibility overdrive, try these practices, and let me know what you discover.