How to Battle Impatience as a Perfectionist

One trade-mark of the Type A personality is impatience. Type As are always in a hurry and never seem to slow down, much less stop.

At times Type As are impatient with their co-workers, friends or family but above all they are impatient with themselves. As a proud Type A perfectionist I have a lot of experience in this department.

Anytime I learn a new skill I want to be great at it. That in and of itself isn’t bad but the problem is, I don’t want to be great after 10,000 hours of graft and intense practice. Oh no, I want to be perfect today. What’s so unreasonable about that?!

The reality is that life requires patience. Over the last three years my journey has made me realize the importance of being patient with myself. It’s not easy but it’s totally worth it when you can figure it out. So here are some tips I’ve learned the hard way.

Impatience is a classic trait of Type A perfectionists. Learn three key strategies to help you become more patient and successful.


1. Find the joy in being an amateur.

Ok, you’re probably laughing your head off right now. I know I would have been if someone said this to me three years ago.

Joy? In being bad at something? Ha, no chance.

But here’s the thing my fellow perfectionist – being an amateur is not the same as being bad at something. Not at all.

There is no way I would walk up to my 14-month-old niece (an amateur walker) and say, “Wow little girl, you are really bad at walking. Maybe you should give up about now.”

I know that seems like a ludicrous example but it’s designed to show you how ridiculous we are for demanding so much of ourselves so soon. There is no need for it!

And guess what? If you can embrace being an amateur, you will also get the incredible joy and sense of achievement that comes from steady improvement.

2. Focus on the journey.

Ok you have probably heard this about a million times by now. Most likely you’ve pinned it to your inspiration board, you’ve tweeted it and you have a post card with these words somewhere in your work space. But let me ask you this: do you believe it?

If you believe it then presumably you would live it but I’m betting that, just like me, you believe these inspirational words are for “them”… you know them, those other people who just don’t have the drive or the dedication to work as hard as you do. These words are not for you. You are singularly focused on the result – that’s what makes you such an asset to your team.

I’m sorry to tell you this but that isn’t true. If you are too focused on the destination and how quickly you can get there you lose the journey and the lessons it is waiting to share with you. So my advice is to take it a little slower (not snail pace you understand but just a little slower than a sprint) so you can take in what’s going on around you.

There’s some pretty great stuff out there but you miss it when you rush through in a whirlwind of to-do lists.

3. Rest to avoid burn-out

One of my new favorite books is Essentialism by Greg McKeown. There is one line in particular that I just love and I think you might relate to it too:

“For a Type A personality, it is not hard to push oneself hard. Pushing oneself to the limit is easy! The real challenge for the person who thrives on challenges is not to work hard.”

Sound familiar? It does for me to!

McKeown also talks a lot about “protecting the asset.” By this he means taking care of ourselves so that we can perform at our highest level when we need to. Think of the emergency oxygen mask on a flight. The security announcement always includes a line about putting on your own mask before helping others. Have you ever wondered why? If you pass out, how are you going to help someone else?

The exact same principle applies to perfectionists in daily life. If you work yourself into burn-out then what next? Who can you help when you are relying on a team of people to get you back up and running?

As an impatient perfectionist you may be thinking that rest is going to slow you down. Paradoxically, it will actually speed you up! Your brain performs so much better if it’s well fed and well rested so why not give it a go?

You may choose not to find the joy in being an amateur or not to enjoy the journey but please, I’m begging you, do not ignore the importance of rest. Stress can have insanely damaging effects on your health so make sure you give yourself (and your body) some time off every now and then.

Until next time,
Aileen x

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