Confidence Strategy: Perfection Loop Quicksand

In continuing our focus on hands-on tools to raise your Confidence, below is another of the 108 strategies adapted from Leading with Emotional Intelligence.

Success-driven people always set goals for themselves, but often these goals set them up for failure or frustration. Why? Because the goals are unrealistic to start with and constitute a pattern that is a setup for failure.  This can lead to Being on Your Case, another tool in Leading with Emotional Intelligence and becoming dissatisfied with our performance.

There are three key reasons for this pattern:

    1. These expectation are made automatically without the benefit of critical thinking.
    2. Once made, the expectations are no longer examined for their accuracy or realism.
    3. These unrealistic expectations are adhered to as the Golden Rule and clung to tenaciously.


Dr. Daniel Kahneman writes how the part of our thinking that can analyze these patterns is lazy – we don’t want to think too hard as it uses a lot of brain energy. It is easier to stay on automatic and use what used to work.

Striving for perfection, a characteristic which once served as a standard for effort, quality, satisfaction, and acknowledgement, now operates as a carrier of the “more, better, faster” self-evaluation cycle. If left unexamined, perfection changes from a motivating driver to a relentless torturer. It is quicksand that drags you down in your own unrealistic expectations.

The Perfection Loop illustrates this now-familiar debilitating self-evaluation cycle. How much does it reflect your behavior or the behavior of those around you?

Perfection Loop Quicksand

1. Perfection  —  2. Stress and pressure going into the task; procrastination — 3. Less-than-expected performance — 4. On your case, on others’ cases evaluation — 5. Less confident about yourself and others — 6. Must do better next time.

Awareness First

The first step in Emotionally Intelligent Leadership is awareness of the issues. You have to “name it to tame it.” Once aware of it you can focus on the second aspect of EI, managing it.

This pattern occurs unconsciously, repeatedly, and quickly. Before you know it, you are in it and getting sucked down in your own quicksand. The goal of identifying this loop is to:

  • Become aware of the unproductive pattern.
  • Understand the steps that cause it and how they influence behavior and performance.
  • Know what to change to get different results.


  • Notice if this pattern is common for you?
  • How did it once serve you?
  • How is it serving you now and at what cost?

In the next issue we will look at how to bust perfection.




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