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Fight the urge to be a perfectionist

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The problem with perfectionists: They may not realize that they have a problem.

“[Perfectionists] are very proud of it. And the culture highly values and reinforces their attitudes,” according to Alice Provost, an employee assistance counselor at the University of California, Davis.

But perfectionists sometimes panic when things don’t turn out just so. Or they procrastinate on tasks, out of fear that they won’t be perfect. They’re also at high risk for mental distress, from depression to compulsive behavior to addiction.

Struggling with it’s-got-to-be-perfect tendencies? Here’s something to try as an experiment: Slack off on purpose.

That’s what Provost asked a group of perfectionist UCDavis staff members to do: Leave work on time. Don’t arrive early. Take all the breaks allowed. Leave the desk messy. Allow yourself a set number of tries to finish a job; then turn in what you have.

Then ask, “Did you get punished? Did the office continue to function?”

The brief experiment may go against your work ethic, but you could also gain a better sense of when “good” (versus perfect) is good enough.

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