Welcome to Episode #93. I’m your host, Kristi Angevine. I'm here to help you bring more awareness to why you do what you do, so that you can be more intentional and live your life on purpose instead of on autopilot. In today's episode, I'm discussing what happens when a rigid plan goes sideways and you turn that into a personal indictment. Cheery topic, right? Let's get started.
Welcome to Habits On Purpose, a podcast for high-achieving women who want to create lifelong habits that give more than they take. You'll get practical strategies for mindset shifts that will help you finally understand the root causes of why you think, feel, and act as you do. And now, here's your host, Physician, and Master Certified Life Coach, Kristi Angevine.
Well, hello, hello, everybody. Welcome to the podcast. I have a very fun topic for you. This topic is the pattern of a bunch of different habits coming together. And because I like to keep things practical, a very simple but powerful solution to counter it.
So, let me describe this pattern to you and see if you can relate to it. You have a project or a goal. You research said project or goal. You, as one of my friends says, you overanalyze the fuck out of things. Then you find the perfect solution.
As you start executing towards your perfect solution, you end up having blinders on to anything that is not perfect. Anything that deviates from the perfect solution. Then, when things don't work out, it's a calamity. And because it's a calamity that things didn't work out, you conclude that you totally suck.
You start catastrophizing about all the terrible things about yourself, about the project, and then you subsequently shut down. From this shutdown state, there's a massive barrier to getting up and getting started again. It takes forever to get out of this kind of mental depressive rut of pessimism about yourself, about the world, about the challenges in front of you.
Then you get a little bit of brief respite, imagining that the goal that you really want is complete. And so, that helps you get out of your rut just long enough to get started again, looking for the perfect solution. And then, the cycle continues. This is what happens when you combine perfectionism with all-or-none thinking, disqualifying the positive, and a habit of personalizing things.
So, let's take a closer look. Let's find what are the beliefs underneath this pattern. Well, the beliefs underneath this pattern are: Perfect is important. Things are either all good or all bad. And when things don't go as planned, it's proof that I'm inadequate at my core.
Here's the truth. When you let go of achieving perfection, you actually come so much closer to meeting your goal. Well, how does this happen? How come? When you let go of achieving perfection, you actually don't put blinders on. You don't have the ‘there's only one acceptable solution’ blinders on, that keeps you from seeing alternative approaches when you run into a snag in the original plan.
So, how do you quit something that might seem like an intrinsic personality trait for you? Well, as you hear me say all the time, the first thing is always awareness. When you know that you have this tendency, you can start detecting the subtle and more obvious places it shows up in your life.
If you can relate to this tendency, I want you to take a minute and consider the different areas of your life. Do you have this happen at work? Do you have it with your personal goals? Does it perhaps show up in your finances, and your education of yourself about your finances?
Does it happen in your intimate relationships? Do you see this happening with parenting? Or perhaps with fitness? Does it play out in family relationships? Does it play out in your friendship relationships?
Once you know when and where this tendency happens, you're going to start noticing it happening much more quickly than when you're not aware of it. And the cool thing is, it doesn't really matter where your awareness of this tendency kicks in.
It might be that your awareness kicks in, in the aftermath of things going sideways. When you're feeling down because you're beating yourself up. It could be your awareness kicks in, in the thick of working toward the perfect solution and you catch yourself looking, researching, thinking, “This is it. I found the exact way.”
It could be that your awareness kicks in as you're doing this excessive research towards the perfect plan. It really doesn't matter where your awareness kicks in, just that it does. The goal is simply to start noticing and to pay careful attention, more quickly.
Then, once you have awareness, once you notice, the next step is to bring in the most effective thing ever, which is self-compassion. Now, self-compassion is no soft skill. Most of us have a habit of having a really rapid inner critic, not a rapid sense of self-compassion for ourselves in difficulty.
For those of you who have a strong inner critic, learning to practice self-compassion is like the mental and emotional equivalent of doing one-handed push-ups. It is difficult, but it is highly effective when it comes to changing your habits and changing what you do on autopilot.
Now, one of my favorite quotes about self-compassion comes from Kristin Neff. She says, “Self-compassion is a practice in which we learn to be a good friend to ourselves when we need it most. And to become an inner ally, rather than an inner enemy.”
There are a lot of things about this quote that I really love. Number one, she points out that self-compassion is a practice. Meaning, it's not something that just happens. But it's something that we can work at and that we can cultivate. And not only that, but it's a practice in which we learn to do something.
What do we learn? We learn to be a good friend to ourselves. When do we learn to be a good friend to ourselves? We learn to be a good friend ourselves when we need it the most, when we would be a good friend to others. I love that she raises the distinction between being an inner enemy and an inner ally.
So, if you have a strong tendency to criticize yourself, beat yourself up, personalize things, indict yourself for failures and mistakes, you have the habit of a strong inner critic. Or, in other words, you have a tendency to default to being an inner enemy, as opposed to an inner ally.
What do you think it might look like for you to channel being an inner ally or a good friend to yourself, when it comes to setting up a perfect plan, having the plan go sideways, and then beating yourself up, catastrophizing, and taking it really personally?
So, what this looks like is, as soon as you notice a perfectionistic, all or none, negativity bias and personalization pattern, you pause. And in that pause, you decide on purpose that you're going to be a good friend to yourself. Because in this moment, that's what you need most. You decide on purpose to channel being an ally to yourself.
What makes a good friend and an ally? Well, a good friend, they make you feel seen and heard and understood, and they are friendly. They are rooting for you. As an ally, they do things on your behalf from warmth, and sometimes from tough love.
What would a good inner friend or a good ally tell you as soon as they notice this might be a pattern? That might sound like,” Hey, we've been down this road before. We're really good at it. But today, let's not. Oh, yeah, this makes so much sense. I'm about to do what I've done 10,000 times before. But I don't have to do that again.”
Or it might sound like, “Hey, love, it's going to be okay. You're going to figure this out, you always do.” Or self-compassion, and being a good friend to yourself, can also be a very straight up, no b.s., splash of water on the face with, “Hey, wait a minute. Oh, hell, no. We're not doing it this way anymore.”
Step two, be a good friend to yourself, channel self-compassion. And then, step three, you have to actually do something differently. Part of this pattern, that is so painful, is the inaction.
It's the inordinate research before you start. The spells of procrastination and fondling ideas without making decisions and executing. The shutdown after things go sideways, and you make it mean that you're a screw up. This inaction is a straightjacket before, during and after.
So, to counter this, you have to do something. You have to take action now. Because without action, the best ideas in the world just languish and eventually die. They sit on the shelf, they get dusty, and you forget about them.
In contrast, small actions done over and over and over will build momentum. And this applies to small actions that are on default, that are not in service of you, as well as small actions that are intentional, deliberate, and in service of something you want.
So, once you recognize that you're about to do the old way, and once you acknowledge and you treat yourself with compassion, like a good friend would, you have to take a small, realistic, doable action now. Ask yourself: What's one thing I can do right now to get closer to my goal? Don't ask yourself: How do I create a whole new system, or whole new paradigm, to approach my goal? Ask yourself: What's one concrete thing I can do now?
Personally, I notice this type of pattern show up in a variety of places. But particularly lately, it's been coming up when it has to do with exercise and movement, and my goals for fitness. So, to counter this pattern for myself, what I just did about 25 minutes ago, is I stood up from typing, and I did 10 air squats. It is simple, it is doable, it is concrete, and it is in service of my goal of fitting in movement where I can.
Maybe your simple, concrete thing is that instead of continuing to feel massive overwhelm about what to make for dinner, you take 15 minutes and you just start chopping vegetables now. Even if you're just chopping a cucumber that you're going to put it in a plastic container to save for tomorrow or the next day, because you're not exactly sure what you're going to do tonight, you just start taking productive action now.
Maybe instead of continuing to torture yourself on how to figure something out, some really complicated riddle that you just don't understand the answer to yet, you reach out to a friend or to a colleague and you ask them for their perspective. You ask them if they have any ideas that might help you.
Now, another variant of this question, of what's one concrete thing I can do right now, that I really love, is what imperfect but reasonable thing can I do right now? This change in languaging serves as a reminder that perfection is not the primary goal.
Sometimes, when we're in the middle of this pattern of seeing one particular goal and seeing all the ways that it didn't work, we need that reminder. So, to counter the ‘trying to do it perfectly,’ get blinders on, feel like it's a total calamity when things don't work, then take it personally, catastrophize, shut down and withdraw phenomenon… I wish there was a shorter word for this combination of habits.
But to counter this, number one, you have to first be aware of it and start noticing it. When you do it, start noticing when and where it shows up for you and pay close attention to that.
Step two is, once you notice it you pause, and you bring in self-compassion, even if it feels really clunky or contrived. You be a good friend and a good ally to yourself.
Then, the third and final step is you take concrete action. For bonus points, something that I find really solidifies taking the concrete action and brings everything together is, in the moment or just after taking your concrete action be a good friend to yourself then. Notice that you're doing something different than your usual.
And acknowledge it. Do a micro celebration. Simply say something like ‘nice work’ to yourself. This micro celebration is a tiny way to counter the usual harsh critic.
Now, when you deploy this plan over and over and over and over, you will unlearn an old habit. What will go in its place is really incredible. It will be a habit of paying attention. A habit of meeting yourself like an ally instead of a critical enemy. A habit of being really flexible, and being able to pivot away from something that doesn't work, and pivot into taking reasonable, useful actions.
The lovely thing is it develops an overall mindset of not making things mean terrible things about you, when life is life and things don't go perfectly. Reasonable, concrete actions, repeated over and over, will help you get closer to your goal so much more than trying to make things exactly perfect.
Now, this episode would not be complete if I didn't mention the intentional beliefs that you can cultivate, that will propel you, to dismantle this old pattern. So, I'm going to offer you some that you can take and try on for yourself.
Number one, everything counts. Everything counts, especially the small things. Number two, I get closer to my goal when I let go of trying to achieve perfection. I always like to add an “actually” there. So, I actually get closer to my goal when I let go of trying to achieve perfection. Number three, imperfect is safe; everything doesn't have to be perfect. Number four, I'm either winning or learning, and learning is just data.
Now, if you have intentional beliefs that help you with countering perfectionism, countering all-or-none thinking, countering negativity bias, and personalizing things, I want to invite you to join me on Facebook, in the Habits on Purpose Facebook group.
Share your intentional beliefs that help you. Together, we will come up with things that will be so helpful to one another. So, come join me there, won’t you? I hope you found this episode and this approach to be really valuable, and that you start implementing it in your real, everyday life today.
Until next week, I'll talk to you later.
Well, I hope you found this episode valuable. If you want to learn the “how” of being more aware of your thinking and your beliefs, so that you can create some real changes in your ordinary everyday life, I would love to connect.
It's my mission to help you understand why you feel and act and think as you do, so that you can be more deliberate in this one life that you have. To do that, I work with clients one on one.
And for women physicians, I also have a group coaching program that runs about every six months. For more information about private coaching, go to HabitsOnPurpose.com/consult.
To get on the waitlist for the next Habits on Purpose for Physicians group coaching program, and be the first to hear about the next start date in 2024, how you can get CME, the early enrollment bonuses, go to HabitsOnPurpose.com/waitlist.
Thanks for listening to Habits On Purpose. If you want more information on Kristi Angevine or the resources from the podcast, visit HabitsOnPurpose.com. Tune in next week for another episode.