The Cost of Being a Perfectionist or a Workaholic



Are you a perfectionist and/or a workaholic? In today’s world most professionals are working long hours. Doing a good job of course is essential to winning and keeping clients/customers but some people go a bit overboard. Do you attend to the smallest detail yourself, work at your desk through lunch and stay at work late into the evening? If you said yes, you are not alone.

I recently heard a speaker refer to workaholism as the only addiction that can appear on your resume. I’d add perfectionism to that too. People (Maybe just Americans?) today brag about workaholism and perfectionism. Both seem attractive to managers who believe they are getting a person who will produce mountains of perfect work! Dream on!

What happens to the person who works incredible hours or the one who is never satisfied with the quality of the work? These people are candidates for burn out and illness and will always be unhappy about lack of time for fun and family. If they have any extra time to consider alternatives they will be the people who want to change careers. Otherwise they run on empty and feel that way too!  They are not happy at work.

Is this you? Do you have a critical inner voice that tells you, you never do your work well enough or fast enough? Does your critic tell you your work will only be worthwhile if you make it perfect? The problem is that that fault finding critic is NEVER satisfied and your days just get longer and longer. You never feel happy or fulfilled.

My time management tips might be helpful initially but sooner or later there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Sometimes too the work ethic in a firm creates pressure to continue these bad habits. Firms who encourage this give up more than they realize.

Creativity only comes when the mind is allowed to rest. How many of us get lots of wonderful ideas as we lie down to go to sleep at night? It may be the only time our minds are quiet enough.

The Boston Globe ran a story several years ago about a repair foreman for the public transit system who found a solution to a work problem that had plagued the system. The foreman found the solution by observing the butcher in a butcher shop on his day off! Wonderful ideas come when a person has time to relax and be a creative.

I’ve had my own experience with perfectionism. In the singing workshop I did a couple of years ago. My goal was to sing a song on stage in front of an audience. The night of the performance I was extremely nervous. I’d practiced and practiced but occasionally I did forget a lyric and it usually happened when I was scared.

Sure enough when I got out on the stage my mind went blank! I took a couple of breaths and miraculously the words came back so I could start. As I continued singing some of the words escaped me again but I managed to get through the song by putting in other words.

No one else seemed to notice and the audience acknowledged me by clapping vigorously. My colleagues congratulated me and told me how wonderful I was. I’d accomplished my goal to perform in front of an audience but I didn’t get the feeling of satisfaction that I expected because it wasn’t perfect.

The choice to be a workaholic and/or a perfectionist is in the hands of each individual. I know perfectionism is hurting me and I want to change. Making a conscious effort to change my inner messages is a first step. For those of you working long hours and hating it. There is a solution for you too. How do you figure out what the steps are? A coach can help!

Take Action

Do you have a tendency to be a perfectionist and/or a workaholic? Is it negatively impacting your life?

  1. Make a list of activities you wish you had time for. Choose one activity and plan to do spend some time doing it in the next week. Do this weekly for the next month and then revisit your list.
  2. Take an exploratory bike ride or walk. Get lost! Really!!! Is there a benefit? Think about how this might apply to the work that you do?
  3. What do you need to do to get out of your comfort zone and stretch? Do you know how to enjoy your mistakes? Write me a note to tell me what you are doing and how you are enjoying the mistakes. I have lots to learn here too!
  4. Is this article too late for you? The Now What? program can help you find your purpose in life and to explore a whole assortment of potential careers that could be a vehicle for your purpose. Want to try an assessment to see if it is right for you? Send me an email ( with Now What? assessment as the subject.Coaching Offer

    Do you want to become less of a workaholic or perfectionist?  If  you seriously want to get rid of one or both of these traits, I would love to coach you.  With coaching you define the baby steps that move you toward your goal.  I’ll support you and help you celebrate success and examine failure so that you can make work and life more in line with what you want. The goal is to be happy at work!  Interested?  Call me at 781-598-0388 or email me at


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