8 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism

Perfectionists struggle to get their work done on time, mainly because of the false belief that everything has to be done flawlessly.

Allan Mallinger’s addresses this in Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by offering the following advice.

1. Instead of telling yourself “It’s got to be flawless,” tell yourself “No, it’s got to be completed!”

2. Focus on how good it feels to make progress on a task rather than continually judging whether the work is good enough.

3. Draw up a realistic schedule for the work, remembering that ideal performance and conditions will never happen.

4. As each checkpoint arrives on your schedule, move on to the next part of the task regardless of how good your work is to this point.

5. Each time you start getting sidetracked by details or with thoughts on how the work will be evaluated, stand up, take a deep breath, re-focus on the goal, and move forwards.

Imagine yourself swimming down a river, with the current, toward a goal. You have to arrive there before dark, or it will be too late. Whenever you get sidetracked by details or fine points, envision yourself losing the current and drifting slowly out of the main river into a stream, and from there into a never-ending maze of smaller and smaller streams. They are seductive and interesting, but you lose momentum when you investigate them. Get back into the main river and move into the central current again! (57)

6. Aim for average.

If certain tasks daunt you because you dread having to meet your own standards of perfection, it may help to imagine what a B-minus student, writer, attorney, or radiologist would accomplish. Force yourself to perform only that well, in the interests of accomplishing the task. You’ll be amazed not only by the amount of work you’ll produce, but also by its quality; it won’t suffer as much as you think. You’re not a B-minus worker, and that will show through, no matter what you do. And with fewer trivial details to obscure them, your main points will carry more force and be clearer. (58)

7. Practice for #6 by doing as many little B-minus exercises as you can — whether it’s writing an email, painting a room, cooking, mowing the lawn, etc.

8. Do your work in short, structured periods of time rather than long, open-ended sessions. Mallinger says that “Many of my patients accomplish more in a few two-hour blocks per day than in an unplanned eight-to-nine-hour workday. The quality of their work is every bit as good, and they have far more free time.” He concludes:

Do the finest piece of work you can, given the limitations of deadlines and the legitimate requirements of your health, family, social life, and leisure pursuits. Remember that all of these dimensions are crucial to your enjoyment of life.

Previous posts on Perfectionism and Control: Part 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4Part 5, Part 6.

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On Disciplining Abusers And Protecting The Sheep
Some good basic advice here on the church’s responsibilities in a situation of marital abuse:

The church is to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27). An abuser has essentially orphaned his children and abandoned his wife. He has turned his vocation as a caregiver and protector on its head and corrupted it. Where the husband is meant to be a source of strength and safety, he has become weak and a source of fear and violence. If so, the church must step up and step in. Wives and children of abusers must be able to see in the church a refuge, a place of safety and help. Abused church members are the most vulnerable of all of Christ’s lambs and to them we owe a duty of special care and protection.

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This Simple Chart Can Help You Get A Grip On Your Tech Addiction
Another that could transform your studies.

Learning Repentance from the Psalmist
A broken arm and conviction of sin:

The excruciating pain in my arm was my body telling me something was wrong. Our emotions function in a similar way for us.

Why Man and Woman Are Not Equal
It’s not what you think:

Woman is the most powerful living force on the globe. She creates, shapes, and sustains human civilization. The first step in weakening her power is to convince her that she must overcome her femininity. This, ironically, is precisely what the most vocal strains of feminism have advocated. Yes, woman should have equality in the workplace, in politics, and in the public square. But to render her more like man in order to accomplish this, and to judge her womanliness a hindrance to her ascendancy, is to get things exactly backwards. It is to treat her as much less than she truly is.

Target Reports Sluggish Sales Following Restroom Controversy
Am I wrong to take pleasure in this? They haven’t had a penny of mine since their decision but I don’t think that accounts for the full extent of the losses.

Stocks fell 5 percent after America’s second-largest retailer reported a loss of quarterly sales for the first time in two years—down 7.2 percent.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses our Brokenness to Display His Grace by Michael Beates $2.99.

The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship by Thabiti Anyabwile $2.99.

Finishing our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with your Aging by J I Packer $3.99.

New Book

Married for God: Making Your Marriage The Best it Can Be by Christopher Ash.

Many people get married without ever understanding the real purpose of marriage—which leads to disappointment, dissatisfaction, and conflict. This raises the obvious (but often unasked) question: What is the purpose of marriage? Helping readers reorient their view of marriage so that they see it as part of God’s grand plan for the universe, this book offers a refreshingly God-centered explanation of one of the most foundational human institutions that exists. Christopher Ash helps us see that personal fulfillment is not the goal of a good marriage, but rather the by-product of a union focused first and foremost on glorifying God in and through everything. Only then will husbands and wives truly experience the joy that comes from loving and serving God together.


HISD assistant principal shares inspirational story: From gang life to new role
Tristan Love is one of Houston ISD’s youngest assistant principals ever. It’s an astonishing accomplishment, considering the 26-year-old was once an active gang member.

Making Mistakes Makes Friends

In Allan Mallinger’s book Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control, he zeroes in on the common core belief of perfectionists–that other people won’t like you as well if you make a mistake, or you don’t know things, or you allow your faults to show through.

Mallinger begins his takedown of perfectionism by insisting that the opposite is the case, that the need to be right all the time often repels friends and associates. 

Nobody will ever feel empathy for you, love you, or enjoy being close to you simply because you are right or because you hardly ever make mistakes. It’s true that people may admire your abilities or knowledge. Being competent, circumspect, and smart is a plus, but these qualities alone will never win you love. (53).

So how do we change this core falsehood of perfectionism? With two statements (that sound suspiciously Christian):

1. “I don’t know.”

Next time you are asked a question and don’t know the answer, say so. Just say, “I don’t know.” Don’t fudge; don’t reel off a dozen possibilities to avoid admitting ignorance; don’t offer something you do know but that doesn’t answer the question. Just “I don’t know.”

2. “I was wrong.”

Next time you’re wrong about something, just admit it. Don’t explain why you made the mistake. Don’t show how anyone would have made that mistake under the circumstances. Don’t insist that your answer actually was correct but was misunderstood.

Mallinger says that instead of repelling people such admissions of imperfection will draw them to you.

Why not make some mistakes this weekend. It could make you some friends.

Previous posts on Perfectionism and Control: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

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4 Reasons Preachers Must Find Their Own Voice
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The Intellectual Roots of the Sexual Revolution
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The Pastor’s PTSD
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How the Percentage of Americans Who Go to Church Every Week Is Changing
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“A new survey suggests the logistics of going to services can be the biggest barrier to participation—and Americans’ faith in religious institutions is declining.”

Help Me Teach the Bible: Rosaria Butterfield on Teaching with Openness, Unhindered
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This is a wonderfully balanced and holistic look at the factors that contribute to worry.

Kindle Books

God and the Nations by Henry Morris $2.99.

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp $2.99.

Beneath the Surface: My Story by Michael Phelps $1.99. A bit dated but a good weekend read for $1.99.


Sanctification and the Christian Life: A Google Hangout with Sinclair Ferguson and Burk Parsons

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Report Debunks ‘Transgender’ Label For Kids
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Having Mental Illness Is Like Being In Fight Club
“If you really want to help those who are struggling, don’t assume they’re sinning. Listen. Ask questions. Ask them what it feels like. Pray for them. Be present with them. Don’t prescribe solutions. There may be a time for that, but certainly not right away.”

The Pressure Of The Pastorate
“The #1 mistake I see pastors make is living in isolation. We don’t mean to, but we just get busy, overcommitted, overextended, exhausted, and sometimes even numb. After a long week of ministry, many of us just want to go home and binge on Netflix or self-medicate in some other way. What’s missing in the lives of many megachurch pastors I know is genuine friendship, camaraderie, koinonia, and intimacy. We are missing relationships that are FOR us and WITH us, not just BEHIND us or UNDER us.”

The Effects of Hostility and Betrayal upon the Mind and Body
“Sadly, hostility and betrayal are part of the human experience and even the Christian life. Hardly a week goes by that God does not have me minister to someone who is experiencing this kind of pain in some form. But I can say, for myself, that experiencing hostility and betrayal in the past has changed me. It has made me a different, more compassionate pastor (I hope); and more effective counselor (I think), as does the continued study of the most honest book in the Bible—the book of Psalms.”

Ministry is Discouragement
“My point is simply to say that ministry forces us to face discouragement, to learn to minister through it and even to rejoice in it–and not just once or twice but continually over the course of our lives. Whatever else we may face in ministry, we can be assured that we will face discouragement. It is a constant. And that is why I oftentimes say that ministry is discouragement.”

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Three excellent books for a combined total of $10! That’s a ton of reading, education, edification, and, hopefully, sanctification for the cost of a couple of Starbucks. Plus, there’s a great sale at Reformation Heritage Books with up to 70% of Christian Focus books.

A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament by Alec Motyer $1.99.

What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way you Get Things Done by Matt Perman $3.99.

Humilitas: A Lost Key to Love, Life, and Leadership by John Dickson $3.99.


The Next 500 Years
Here’s a neat video promoting Ligonier’s next national conference, March 9-11, 2017.

The Difference Between Perfectionism and Excellence

What’s the difference between a healthy will to excel and perfectionism?

According to Allan Mallinger in Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Controlthe perfectionist’s credo is:

1. If I always try my very best and if I’m alert and sharp enough, I can avoid error, everyday blunders, oversights, and poor decisions or choices.

 2. I must never make mistakes because they would show that I’m not as competent as I should be.

3. By being perfect, I can ensure my own security with others. They will admire me and will have no reason to criticize or reject me. 

4. My worth depends on how “good” I am, how smart I am, and how well I perform (pp. 37-38).

Based upon Mallinger’s explanation and many of my own observations, we can distinguish perfectionism from a healthy will to excel (excellence) in the following ways:

  • Perfectionism is rigid; excellence is flexible.
  • Perfectionism is self-defeating; excellence is health-giving.
  • Perfectionism never satisfies; excellence gives pleasure.
  • Perfectionism is impossible; the desire to excel is usually possible.
  • Perfectionism does not distinguish between performing heart-surgery and washing dishes; excellence recognizes that some activities require more attention than others.
  • Perfectionism cannot bear criticism; excellence seeks it and tries to grow through it.
  • Perfectionism views failure as catastrophic; excellence views it as part of learning.
  • Perfectionism procrastinates because of the fear of failing; excellence does what can be done each day.
  • Perfectionism prefers safety to risk and rarely moves out of the comfort zone; excellence is more prepared to try new jobs and accept new challenges.
  • A perfectionist must be right all the time; excellence accepts correction from others.
  • A perfectionist’s sense of worth depends on perfect performance; excellence does not tie their identity to performance.
  • A perfectionist can only see what’s lacking in a job or relationship; excellence sees what is good and enjoyable.
  • A perfectionist clutters their communications (and sermons?) with too much boring and unnecessary detail (for fear of leaving anything out); excellence communicates with less detail but with more clarity, color, and effectiveness.
  • A perfectionist might admit to general failings but refuses to be specific; excellence faces up to to both general and specific faults.
  • A perfectionist is hyper-defensive of self and hyper-critical of others; excellence is more tolerant of others failings, having accepted and faced up to their own.

It’s little wonder then that perfectionists are among the most anxious, stressed, and unhappy people on the planet (and so are those who have to live with them). Next time, we’ll begin to replace the perfectionist’s false and destructive credo with a true and constructive credo.

See previous posts on Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control here