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The Perfectionist's Handbook: Take Risks, Invite Criticism, and Make the Most of Your Mistakes by Jeff Szymanski, PhD

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Chapter 6

Translating Mistakes into Strategic Experimentation

The Seduction: Mistakes Are Avoidable

Bethany wakes up on Monday morning ready to start her new diet. She thinks to herself, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Bran cereal with skim milk, half a grapefruit, and a slice of plain wheat toast—a good start. At lunch, it's half a chicken sandwich, a small salad with lemon juice instead of dressing, and some carrot sticks. Around four o'clock one of Bethany's coworkers offers her a cookie. She figures that she's been good all day—so why not? However, after she eats the cookie, Bethany feels that this one slip has completely wrecked her diet. So she decides to give up. She orders a pizza for dinner and eats a quart of ice cream after. Before going to bed she has an entire bag of chips. Why not? The diet is already ruined. If she had just forgone that one cookie …

Do the mistakes you make feel equally catastrophic? Many perfectionists feel that no matter how much time they put in on a project, if they (or worse, someone else) see one mistake, the entire thing is useless. The rational part of most individuals recognizes that this kind of perfection is unachievable; after all, everybody makes mistakes. But you feel terrible when you make a mistake—filled with shame, humiliation, and anxiety. You believe that if someone else recognized the mistake, you should have too. In your opinion, mistakes are avoidable. In addition, don't you often criticize others and think ...

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