Running Your Practice Imperfectly Can Lead to Your Best Year (and You) Yet

Pictured left to right: Martha Beck and Alissa Gauger

Pictured left to right: Martha Beck and Alissa Gauger

by Certified Life Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly,” writes Dr. Martha Beck, a life coach and author, in her book “The Joy Diet— 10 Practices for a Happier Life.” (Dr. Beck trains and certifies the Unleash Your Practice coaches.)

If you are like many Financial Representatives (FRs), perfectionism may be in the way of you creating the practice you really want.

Ask yourself these questions:

Do you have a strong inner critical voice?

Are you often paralyzed into inaction because you can’t do something “right"?

Do you give up easily if it looks like things won’t go according to your high standards?

Are your standards and goals beyond reasonable?

Are you highly sensitive to other people’s feedback or criticisms of you?

Do you become sad or low when your very high goals cannot be met?

Are you a black and white thinker?

If you answered yes to many or most of these questions, it’s time to give yourself permission to suck! What would your practice be like if you allowed yourself to play to your edge, fail sometimes and do something rather than nothing at all?

Is your inner critic stopping you in your tracks? Most humans have one! Listen to the way you talk to yourself. Would you talk to a good friend like that? If not, it’s time to stand up to your bully. Try just thanking your inner bully for trying to “help” but saying inside your head to him or her, “Thanks, I’ve got this.” Instead of letting the unhelpful thoughts stay in your head (where they might feel pretty true), try saying aloud “I’m having the thought that…” and then saying the criticism. For example: “I’m having the thought that I cannot phone because no one wants to meet with me."

Another aspect of perfectionist behavior is avoiding discomfort. Playing to your edge when, for example, prospecting or phoning, could result in rejection. It might make you question your credentials, experience, age or other aspects of yourself. What is avoiding discomfort costing you? What are you waiting for to be “perfect” before you finally work with the clients you really want (your CFP, a little gray hair, more years under your belt)? What could happen if you drop that story and try it today—and let yourself do it very badly? You may benefit from reassuring yourself that it’s perfectly okay to try and not get it right immediately. Don’t cross the line and push yourself into extreme discomfort—a little goes a long way with discomfort and it will move you to your goal more effectively. Do you lose steam in the middle of a case or a project if it isn’t going “perfectly.” The client may be wanting to implement the plan in a fashion that you deem unacceptably imperfect. Is your perfectionism creating an inhospitable working relationship? Will you allow the client to fumble along badly until they figure things out? Are you willing to stay with it to engage the client and move them in a better direction in general—even if it’s miles away from what you had in mind? Would it be better to sign a life or two and bring on a new client who meets your criteria—even if they want to do it imperfectly?

Do you wait to phone or prospect until your language is just right? Or hold off on activity until you’re completely organized, caught up and “ready"? Are your standards for taking action so high that you just do nothing? What do you have to lose by just doing something (and not well, perhaps)? How about just doing a couple dials with your existing language? Or prospecting the way you do now, even though “it could be better.” How will you know when that perfect day comes?!

When you receive feedback, do you brace rigidly against it and begin mounting your defense? What are you missing out on when you refuse to hear what people think? What if you welcomed it and asked for it? What might become possible for you and your practice? Is your inner perfectionist reacting to the feedback instead of your true self hearing the true that it might contain? Can you find something helpful in it that will be useful in helping you to grow?

Are you riding a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows due to your extreme way of running a “perfect” (but yet flawed) practice?

The roller coaster is a ride with high highs and low lows. Where can you lower your standards and maintain some daily activity instead of pristine Granum level activity or nothing at all? If you can only do activity when you’re on top of the world, your perfectionism is causing you to miss out on the continuous compounding benefit of doing at least a little every day!

Related to the roller coaster is its cousin--black and white thinking. You are all in or all checked out. Reflect on this behavior if you relate and notice what’s happening when you’re on versus off. By any chance does running your practice “correctly” feel like an unattainable crash diet? If so, you are likely creating an extreme that cannot be maintained. Try adding up a few good steps in a helpful direction each day. Some days will be very productive, others less so. You are a human and not a robot, after all!

Coaching Tip Draw a picture of your inner critic on a piece of paper and give him or her a name. By personifying this voice in your head you will hear it more for what it is and lessen its power. "In time, as you neutralize the destructive power inherent in this aspect of yourself, you may well lose all fear of it. By just externalizing and rejecting your inner critic, you can decrease your anxiety considerably,” writes Beck in her article “Reforming the Perfectionist in You."