I came across an article the other day discussing an MD's work on identifying "stress signatures." According to Stephanie McClellan, MD, there are 4 stress profiles she thinks women exhibit. (Which one sounds like you?)
While this work is geared towards women, the research on her hypothesis is in its infancy, and the research on stress is very complex and being done in many disciplines, it brings up an important point: it's worth our time to built awareness about our experience of and reactions to stress. As aptly stated by Dr. James LaValle, "we are a primitive nervous system in a modern world." Our human system (mind and body) are built to respond to "threats" in order to help us be energy efficient and keep us safe. And in today's "always on" culture, stress is a part of performance and life in more ways than our mind and body were initially built for (check out this 60 Minutes episode where about 10 minutes in they show Anderson Cooper's stress reactivity to his phone notifications).
So, get to know your stress profile. What triggers stress for you? Is your reaction one of defeat, negativity, pessimism, tension, reactivity, demotivation, control, worry, overthinking, isolation...something else? On the other hand, do you embrace stress and feel energized by it? What's your typical tendency? Why? What situations/contexts trigger different reactions? Why? What's your reaction to immediate stressors versus as they build up over time? To daily hassles versus bigger stressors? When does your reaction to stress help you perform optimally versus create an obstacle? Do you tend to view (and think/talk about) stress negatively or positively?
Get to know what triggers your stress, who you are under stress, and what the consequences are. And if you find there are ways your reaction isn't working for you or those you lead or are on a team with, then you can do something about. You can shift your mindset about stress, implement strategies, train your mind, etc. (consider doing all this with a mental performance coach who can guide and support you through this).
Stress can make us feel out of control and be a big distraction since we then often start to focus on things we can't control/influence or get stuck focusing on how we're reacting knowing that it's an obstacle to our performance. Getting to know who you are under stress and how it impacts you/others is the first step to putting the control back into your hands and helping you build and strengthen your resilience. It's like NBCUniversal's long-standing PSA initiative started in the late 80s reminds us "the more you know..."
Are you a perfectionist? Chances are that if you are a high performer, whether in sport, business, law, the performing arts, or any other performance context, you likely view yourself as a perfectionist or have perfectionistic tendencies.
Though we often give perfectionism a negative connotation, perfectionism just like any personality characteristic can have both good and bad qualities. On the "good" side, striving to be perfect (or a better way of framing it would be striving for excellence) and continuously pursuing growth is often essential in the pursuit of success, greatness, and big goals. However, on the flip side as a perfectionist you likely hold yourself to very high standards and constantly reinforce that whatever you are doing or have achieved is not good enough...and you also likely take that a step further and reinforce whether you realize it or not that you're not good enough.
So perfectionism isn't just a characteristic we can have, more importantly, it's a mindset that can be a truly formidable obstacle.
Mindset = established set of attitudes or beliefs
When you have a perfectionistic mindset, your beliefs about your actions, your achievements, and yourself as a whole are always being called into question. You have high standards, and/or have high standards for others or think they also have high standards for you, and thus you're always measuring yourself up against those standards. Since being perfect is in most contexts and situations completely impossible, you develop and reinforce the belief that you're never good enough and that whatever good things you've done or have accomplished don't matter. This then becomes a need you constantly strive to get met as well as a limiting belief with many challenging consequences to things like your confidence, motivation, focus, ability to lead or be a good teammate, and ultimately your performance.
Our attitudes and beliefs are extremely powerful (for example, see the fascinating research being done on the power of mindsets) and often are developed without us being truly aware of it. But this is something we can take control of. You can train your mind to reframe your perfectionistic mindset and choose one that is going to better support your pursuit of excellence. Maybe that means striving to be gritty or brave or resilient or whatever other word or phrase best captures the attitude or belief you want/need to have about yourself, your actions, and your achievements.
You don't have to stop striving to be better, but you could likely benefit from changing the perspective that needing to be better means that you're not good enough. And focusing on being perfect is probably not the most important attitude or belief that is going to help you grow and reach your goals.
What mindset will you train yourself to have?