When Good Is Good Enough: Overcoming Perfectionism

When Good Is Good Enough: Overcoming Perfectionism

ADHD and perfectionism often go hand in hand. And it can be a particularly devastating trap to fall into. Learn how to avoid a perfectionist mindset and recognize negative self-talk as Lauren Krasnow, a certified leadership and executive coach, shares some of the techniques she uses in her practice.

To learn more about Lauren Krasnow, go to her website HERE.

Please continue to reach out to us with your questions and episode ideas! Write an email or record a voice memo and send it to [email protected].

Thanks to our sponsor, OmegaBrite Wellness! Distraction listeners, you can SAVE 20% on your first order with the promo code: Podcast2020 at OmegaBriteWellness.com.

Click HERE to learn more about our sponsor, Landmark College, in Putney, Vermont. It’s the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin and our recording engineer/editor is Scott Persson.

Check out this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Hallowell:
This episode of Distraction is sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD. Formulated by OmegaBrite, wellness, creators of the number one, Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third-party tested, and it works. Shop online at OmegaBritewellness.com. And by Landmark College offering comprehensive support for students with ADHD and other learning differences. Learn more at [elsiedistraction.org 00:00:00:33]. Landmark College, the college of choice for students who learn differently.

Dr. Hallowell:
Hello and welcome to Distraction. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. My guest today is here to help our listeners who struggle with perfectionism. She also can talk about any number of other topics. She’s a professional certified leadership and executive coach to lawyers at major corporate law firms and other professionals. She herself was a long time, big firm, practicing lawyer. She was recognized as top lawyer coach by Diversity Lab and her own words she said, quote, “One lawyer recently told me that I have a gift for getting right to the heart of an issue with a great combination of candor, sensitivity, and humor.” What a great combination those three are. Well, welcome to Distraction, Lauren.

Lauren Krasnow:
Thank you so much, Dr. Hallowell. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Dr. Hallowell:
Well, it’s lovely to have you. You want to just launch right into your thoughts about perfectionism?

Lauren Krasnow:
Sure. Let me start with, all of us struggle with this from time to time and if you’re one of them, which is basically everybody, there’s nothing wrong with you. The only question is how much of an issue is it for you and what do you want to do about it? I actually had the pleasure of studying with you in one of your seminars. And we talked a lot about perfectionism specifically with ADHD and some of the biochemical reasons that it can be harder for people who have ADHD to get themselves out of perfectionism in terms of the self-talk.

Lauren Krasnow:
And I guess I would say one of the best things that I have seen people do in terms of attacking perfectionism is just first becoming aware of it. It’s so very easy for us to conflate the voices in our head with reality. And I think disentangling them is always one of the most important steps and actually a huge chunk of solving the problem. I don’t know if you have anything to say about that, but that to me is once you do that it’s so much easier to actually look at what’s actually going on.

Dr. Hallowell:
Once you do, which… I lost you for a second.

Lauren Krasnow:
Once you just disentangle what’s real from what’s just the running commentary in your head about how bad something is or how good it has to be or the should’s that we put on ourselves. This has to be perfect. And instead of actually saying, “Is this good enough?” we say, “This has to be perfect because…” fill in the blank, “It has to be perfect because I will have failed so-and-so. Somebody in my life who is expecting me to be perfect, or I will… Some parade of horribles will happen.” And that’s not usually the case. I don’t think so. Usually one-

Dr. Hallowell:
No, you’re…

Lauren Krasnow:
… of the most important things is to say what’s real and what’s actually this running commentary going on in my head?

Dr. Hallowell:
And you’re so right. It’s so hard for these folks to do that, because they feel their perception is reality. That they’re abject failures unless they’re perfect.

Lauren Krasnow:
Right. I’m a huge fan of the Calm App. And I know-

Dr. Hallowell:
Yes.

Lauren Krasnow:
… some people are fans of meditation and mindfulness and some people may now be rolling their eyes. But I’m not talking about doing a 20 minute meditation every day, I’m talking about just training yourself for two minutes at a time to be able to have your mind be still so you can recognize in that gap and say, “This happened,” and actually the response that I’m having and saying, “This has to be perfect,” there’s actually a space, a small space where you can say, “Is this actually true?” And I think a lot of us are so conditioned that it becomes automatic. We don’t give ourselves the luxury of being able to see what’s real and what’s not real.

Dr. Hallowell:
Yeah. Would you say it’s pretty hard to do yourself and it’s easier if you can work with someone like you, someone who can coach you out of the bad mental habit of getting down on yourself if you’re less than perfect?

Lauren Krasnow:
Yes and no. I would say yes a lot of times I work with people… The most of the people I work with are lawyers at big law firms and they tended to be the people who did very, very well academically. I firmly believe that there are a lot of different ways to be smart. And most of these people are smart in the traditional academic sense.

Dr. Hallowell:
Right.

Lauren Krasnow:
And they have a lot invested in that emotionally and as a means of self identity. And I think because they’re surrounded by other people in the same [inaudible 00:05:15], there’s not a lot of checks and balances or questioning that goes on. And that’s why I do believe that working with a coach is very, very helpful because it’s somebody who can say, “Wait a minute. Did you notice that you just said this to yourself or did you notice that you just made this assumption?”

Lauren Krasnow:
And a lot of times the answer is no. I always tell the people that I work with, that I’m going to keep on calling them out and saying things like that. But my goal is that they get to the point where they’re able to do it for themselves. And most of them are. And I think it’s just something that we don’t even realize is as automatic as it is. And I say this as someone who lived it for many years and now somebody who gets to help other people identify that in themselves.

Dr. Hallowell:
You lived it as a perfectionist?

Lauren Krasnow:
Yeah. As a perfectionist for sure. Definitely. And when I was a lawyer and when I was in school, I would think, “This has to be perfect or else,” and as I’ve gotten older I’ve thought, “Why? It actually doesn’t have to be perfect.” And as a parent that’s been one of the biggest gifts is looking at my kids and saying, “They’re not perfect. Nobody’s perfect. And they’re still terrific.” And it’s a really liberating way to feel. But I think it’s very antithetical to the way a lot of us grow up and the way a lot of us are in our earlier younger professional days.

Dr. Hallowell:
Particularly the high achievers. How old are your children?

Lauren Krasnow:
I have a tween and a teen. And it’s funny. I’ve actually had this conversation with a number of friends and family members where I… “How much should your kid try?” And I said, “Well, if an A is a 90 or an A is a hundred and the kid’s goal is to get an A for whatever reason, let’s just say for college purposes or whatever. Do you want your kid to try to get the hundred or do you want your kid to try to get the 90?” And I think many people just assume that of course you would try to get the hundred. Why wouldn’t you?

Lauren Krasnow:
And I actually don’t believe that. I actually think that people are motivated by different things, figure out what you’re motivated by. And if there’s an intrinsic motivation that is encouraging the person to want to learn more or whatever, that’s great. And I’m not advocating slackerism exactly but I am saying, I work a lot with people now who 20, 30 years after they graduated from school are still trying to get the hundred and they don’t need to. And I say, “Why? Why are you doing that?” And they don’t really know, except that it’s a habit.

Dr. Hallowell:
Right. It’s the success cure that you… If you can pile up enough A’s then [inaudible 00:07:55] or other you’re all that. And I gave a talk some years ago at my high school. I went to a prep school in New Hampshire called Exeter Phillips Exeter and a very rigorous school where everyone is competing and wanting to go to Ivy league colleges and whatnot. And so, I gave a talk to the student body and I said what you really should do during your high school years is fall in love with a person, with a project, with an activity, with a piece of music, with a blade of grass. But the most important thing you can do here at Exeter or any high school is fall in love because that’s sustainable. A’s fade into distant nothingness but falling in love, that leads to getting an A, that sustains itself. And I think oftentimes kids, they need to hear from people like you and me to give them permission not to be seduced by the success cure, by the glitter of the A’s and what they think that might be.

Lauren Krasnow:
I love that. I love the concept of falling in love and I really believe that for two reasons actually. First I believe falling in love, generally paradoxically leads to whatever measure of success because when people do things that they’re passionate about that’s when they tend to be the best [crosstalk 00:09:24]-

Dr. Hallowell:
Exactly.

Lauren Krasnow:
… in the world of ADHD, hyper-focus et cetera. But I also think, and I learned this from you when I studied under you, is I believe all of us have our super powers. We all have our gifts. And if we’re sitting there trying to eke out some level of perfectionism, when good enough would have been fine, the energy and the time and the attention that we would have spent going from good enough to perfect is diverted. And from us doing something that I believe we could really use our, I don’t know, I hope this doesn’t sound cheesy, but purpose. Something that is really meaningful to us and something where we could have a really big impact on ourselves and on other people and on the world.

Dr. Hallowell:
Yes.

Lauren Krasnow:
And I always think people who are in the throws of perfectionism sometimes forget to look at the opportunity cost of, “What am I giving up by working so hard to get from the 90 to 100? And is it actually something that I’m choosing with intention or is it just something that I’m doing either based on fear or based on an automatic habit?”

Dr. Hallowell:
Yeah, absolutely. You reached a branch point in your life when you were a lawyer at a big firm and then you decided to go in a different direction. What was that all about?

Lauren Krasnow:
So, I really liked being a lawyer but I didn’t love it. And I think I always had this feeling that I was doing something that I wasn’t meant to be doing. And I don’t know if everybody feels this way. I think a lot of people have these feelings, I’ll call them intuition, and they ignore them. And there’s all sorts of reasons we ignore them. For convenience, maybe you’re attached to a certain income or you’re attached to a certain prestige or status, or you’re trying to impress a family member, quite often a parent. And looking at what that means to give all of that up is terrifying.

Lauren Krasnow:
And I think it’s really hard for people to come to terms with that. But the flip side is if you go along and are led by what I call a fear-based decision instead of a conscious intention and you wake up and you sometimes wonder, “What did I do? Was this the right thing for me?” And I don’t know that I believe that every single person has to be madly in love with their job. I think there’s a lot of hobbies and a lot of other things that people can do that can give them that of satisfaction. But I really, I do encourage certainly everybody who I coach, I encourage them to really think about designing their lives to be intentional so that the choices are born of a conscious intention as opposed to just default happening.

Dr. Hallowell:
And how do you help people who are holding back out of fear?

Lauren Krasnow:
I think like many coaches, I really help them look at the fear and own it. And I think a lot of people because they’re in this world where they’re surrounded by other people who are doing the same thing that they’re doing and frankly maybe also driven by fear, I think a lot of people are in that practice and asking themselves, “What do I want?’ They think, “What should I do instead?” And I say this as somebody who used to be one of those people.

Lauren Krasnow:
And one of the very, very first things I do as a coach is if I hear this right away, I say, “Can we come up with an agreement? Do you mind if I call you out every time I hear you say the word ‘should’? ‘I shouldn’t do this,’ or, ‘I have to do this.’ And they say, “Fine,” and we make it a game and we make it fun. But I’m very, very vigilant about observing that and recognizing it. And a lot of times people are very, very surprised because I think a lot of times we don’t realize what we say to ourselves and hearing it can be the first step into saying, “Is this something that I actually want or is this something that I want to change?”

Dr. Hallowell:
So, let me give you a… Not a hypothetical, a real example. Patient of mine in New York a few years ago, working for a well-known investment banking firm. He said, “I begin my mornings meeting with the three other guys for coffee. And each one of us starts our day by saying, “Will any of us have the nerve to quit today?” and we never do. But there he’s held hostage or he holds himself hostage because he can’t imagine giving up the six figure salary and the bonus that comes with it. How would you advise him? How would you approach him?

Lauren Krasnow:
Well, I think first we would spend some time unpacking what is the fear about and a lot of times it’s just fear of the unknown. And then I believe that there are sometimes… This is not me coming up with this framework that I’m about to share, it’s actually Stephen Covey. But the framework of scarcity versus abundance. And I think that is as tied into fear and fear versus conscious intention. I think if we believe that the universe is somehow going to provide for us and that things will work out and that we own our own power enough to make things happen, I think then we’re more willing to take risks.

Lauren Krasnow:
And I think if we don’t, then we’re more willing to stay in a place of fear and make decisions that come from a place of fear. And one of my favorite quotes is, “Where attention goes energy flows.”

Dr. Hallowell:
That’s great.

Lauren Krasnow:
And I believe that a lot of times when people are coming from a place of fear, they’re focusing all their attention on what they might lose and not enough attention on what good things might happen from taking a risk.

Dr. Hallowell:
And what if he says back to you, “But Lauren,” or, “Dr. Krasnow,” or whatever your folks call you, “I don’t have the talent. I don’t have the talent to go out on my own. I don’t have the talent to do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is start a marina,” let’s say, “And I don’t think I could do that. So, I’m better off staying here with my half million dollars a year and playing it safe.”

Lauren Krasnow:
Well, there’s two things that I would want to know. The first is, well, what are your talents? Let’s get granular and let’s look at what your talents are and how you could see yourself using them. And then just like any coach, I would say, “Well, what are the costs to you of staying in the status quo versus the benefits to you? And what would the costs and benefits be of an alternative course of action?” And I think people tend to be very gloss over the benefits of the alternative, very superficially, and they tend to talk about the cost very superficially. And I think really digging down deep sometimes gets people to say, “Wow maybe this cost is greater than I really acknowledged myself, or maybe the benefit would be greater. And maybe I really do have the talents to make this happen. I may be deficient in skills XYZ, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t get them or that I can’t hire somebody with a complimentary skill set, et cetera.”

Dr. Hallowell:
And you’re probably really underestimating your own talents because after all you wouldn’t have get… You wouldn’t have been hired at this high paying job at a New York investment ban, if you didn’t have a lot of talent. So, and the talent that you have can be transposed to the marina. You’re [crosstalk 00:17:00]-

Lauren Krasnow:
Absolutely. Thank you. That’s a great point. Absolutely.

Dr. Hallowell:
Yeah.

Lauren Krasnow:
One of the things I learned that actually, particularly when I took the course that I did with you, looking at your strengths in a different capacity. One of my favorite expressions is Einstein, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, then it will spend its whole life thinking it’s stupid.” When in fact Einstein believes, as do I, that everybody has a genius. Everybody has genius in them.

Dr. Hallowell:
Yes, absolutely.

Lauren Krasnow:
And I think a lot of times people spend times measuring themselves against a certain situation without taking themselves out and saying, “Well, in a different context, this could be unbelievably powerful.”

Dr. Hallowell:
Exactly.

Lauren Krasnow:
And one of the gifts of my job is that I get to be on that journey with people as they do that and discover that, and then bring those gifts to bear for their own lives and the lives of others. And it’s so rewarding. It’s unbelievably rewarding.

Dr. Hallowell:
You’re not just with them, you’re setting them free. You’re helping them break what Blake called mind forged manacles. You’re helping them break free. And that’s a [crosstalk 00:18:05].

Lauren Krasnow:
They’re helping them break free. I’m asking questions that I’ve been trained and skilled and practiced to ask because of my background in training, but they do the work themselves and it’s so empowering to see somebody really live into their own greatness. I feel like I did it myself, not to say that… Not in an unhumble way, but in a way of example, that I believe that anybody can do this and everybody should do this because I think the world would be better if everybody were living their talents to the maximum effect.

Dr. Hallowell:
Yeah. You’re not saying it in a non humble way, you’re saying it in a celebratory way. You’re celebrating. You, “Look, I took this chance and it made all the difference,” and you’re celebrating. And I think you’re, by implication, exhorting other people to celebrate too. To make the changes that will turn their lives into a celebration.

Lauren Krasnow:
Yeah. Thank you. I love that. Looking at it as a celebration because I really genuinely believe that. I believe that everybody has power within them. And the only question is when they realize that and then decide what they’re going to do with that.

Dr. Hallowell:
Well, you wouldn’t be able to do as well as you do it if you didn’t really believe that, I think, anyway. Well, Lauren Krasnow, what a pleasure to have you on this podcast. I could talk to you for an hour but we’re not supposed to go that long.

Lauren Krasnow:
Yeah. Thank you so much. What a pleasure to be here. And I just want to give a shout out to you. You really have inspired me by encouraging me to think about my own strengths. And as I said, I’ve gone on to do that with other people and then as they go and become leaders, they do it for other people. So, I just will say, I think everybody… You never know what ripple effects your own stepping into your own strengths and greatness will have. So, I want to say thank you to you Dr. Hallowell.

Dr. Hallowell:
Thank you so, so very much. I really, really appreciate that. It means a lot to me. Well, if you’d like to learn more about Lauren… Now you tell me if I get this right, Lauren. Go to voltapeople.com. V-O-L, V as in Victor V-O-L-T-A people.com/Lauren-Krasnow-coaching. Did I get that right?

Lauren Krasnow:
You did. Thank you very much.

Dr. Hallowell:
Volta people.com/Lauren-Krasnow-coaching. You’re a tremendous resource and we’ll put a link to your site in the show notes. Please continue to reach out to us at [email protected] And like and follow Distraction on social media. Remember to subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already so you never miss an episode. Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. The podcast is recorded and mixed by Scott Persson and produced by Sarah Guertin. I am Dr. Ned Hallowell thanking our very special guest Lauren Krasnow. Goodbye for now.

Dr. Hallowell:
The episode you just heard was sponsored by OmegaBrite CBD. Formulated by OmegaBrite wellness, creators of the number one Omega-3 supplements for the past 20 years. OmegaBrite CBD, safe, third party tested, and it works. Shop online at OmegaBritwellness.com.

Share:

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *