Chunk it down — This is for the overwhelmed goal setters. Get really specific on goals of all sizes. For example, if you have a goal to set up and publish a website for your business, and you put on your to-do list, “work on website,” your brain is going to see that and say, “what the heck does that even MEAN!? That’s so much work and I don’t know where to start. I’m not feeling motivated, I should just do it later.” And then nothing gets done. Instead, chunk it down into bite sized, manageable tasks. So “working on the website” becomes “step one, research 4 different website hosting platforms and sign up for the one I like the best”. Your brain will see that kind of task and immediately know what it needs to do, eliminating overwhelm.
Many successful people are perfectionists. At the same time, they have the ability to say “Done is Better Than Perfect” and just complete and wrap up a project. What is the best way to overcome the stalling and procrastination that perfectionism causes? How does one overcome the fear of potential critique or the fear of not being successful? In this interview series, called How To Get Past Your Perfectionism And ‘Just Do It’, we are interviewing successful leaders who can share stories and lessons from their experience about “how to overcome the hesitation caused by perfectionism.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Baker.
Nicole Baker is a Life and Mindset Coach who helps perfectionists not only set goals, but actually follow through on them. Having grown up in a family immersed in the personal development world, she has been attending seminars and absorbing personal growth tools her whole life. She is the CEO of Life Coach Baker and the host of the Life Coach Baker Podcast. Learn what type of perfectionist you are by taking her free quiz here.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I had a very unique upbringing — both my parents worked in the personal development field as everything from seminar coordinators for Tony Robbins, to Ropes Course builders, to Life, Money and Business Coaches, so I really grew up in the industry. However, when I was in elementary school, I became the victim of brutal bullying. I was a kid who had a lot of emotions (hello, fellow empaths out there) and not much of an idea of what to do with them so this type of abusive behavior caused me to fully shut down and feel like I had to put on a “perfect persona” in order to be loved and accepted. As a result of this decision, I developed body dysmorphia, I entered abusive friendships/relationships, and basically destroyed my self-worth and confidence.
It wasn’t until college where I hit my breaking point. I was told by a professor that if I didn’t get my confidence up, I would have to leave the program I had worked so hard to get into. I looked at the teacher delivering this painful news and this imperfect, powerful voice came alive; I said, “Watch me try.” I called my parents and exclaimed how I’ve been hearing this personal development stuff for years, it’s time to implement it. Now. And bless them, they coached me, no holds barred. Long story short, not only did I fully embrace this type of daily mindset work, but I also graduated from that program (cum laude might I add) and now, I am asked back to the school to deliver workshops about overcoming perfectionism and building confidence.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If what you’re doing isn’t working, then stop doing it harder” — Martha Beck
This might be the perfectionist’s motto. I heard this quote when I was trying to “do it all.” I was working at a tech company, waitressing in downtown Chicago, and starting my business. I kept saying to myself, if only I keep pushing, if only I keep doing “all the things,” then I will find success. I was driving myself into the ground, working nonstop and spending hours trying to make sure everything was perfect. I then heard this quote and I swear to you, my whole world shook. I realized I was doing the same things over and over again and cursing the world as to why it wasn’t working… I just thought that all I needed to do was double down on the same old things. This time planning out my week, I made intentional notes for each task. I asked three questions for each item: “how is this helping me?”, “how is this hurting me and my overall goal?”, “how can I adjust if it’s not working.” I started to adapt the mantra of “work smarter not harder”. I outsourced tasks, hired a coach, dove into my limiting beliefs around money and productivity equaling my worth, started doing more of what I love and doing things imperfectly. In less than a year, I 10x’d my business’s income, quit my day jobs, and have been living a burnout free lifestyle!
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
This might be the hardest question in the bunch. I listen to podcasts and read obsessively, this is a skill I’ve developed over the past few years and it is now a part of my every day. But there is one podcast that stands out to me the most: Don’t Keep Your Day Job.
When I first had the idea of starting my business (and this is the same for most soon-to-be CEOs), I noticed I was getting into a habit of comparing myself to others. It sucked, I hated it, it only flared up my perfectionism that I was working so hard to rid myself of, I felt like a total imposter wanting to start this business… and yet… I kept logging onto social platforms and going down the doom scroll rabbit hole. Finally, I came across Don’t Keep Your Day Job with Cathy Heller. In each episode, she brings on a powerhouse in the business world and talks to them in the most real, human-to-human way. Listening to this podcast truly inspired me to actually take the leap of starting my own business — I never would have done it without Cathy and her platform.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1) Never losing sight of why I’m doing this work
When you’re a perfectionist and especially when you’re a perfectionist who wants to start and scale a business, there will be bad days where things aren’t working, you feel like you’re screaming into the void, or you host a masterclass and no one shows up. I’m gonna be real, those days are hard. But the only way I got through without giving up, was because I held onto why I was doing this in the first place. That vision/mantra was like a lighthouse, guiding me in my early days.
2) I adopted the “do it scared” model
For years, I was terrified to do anything outside my comfort zone. This included standing up to others, going to the gym, voicing an opinion, going on stage and looking foolish (mind you, I got a degree in Musical Theatre… this was hard to ignore), and showing up online when I knew I had something big to offer the world. What finally broke me out of the “must take up as little space as possible” and into “what’s going to get me to the next level today?” mindset was getting extraordinarily clear on what my mission is and what I want to bring into the world. Once I got clear on it and was so in love with it that I practically wanted to make out with it, nothing could stop me from going after my goals. Did I have moments of feeling shaken? Absolutely. But I have a support system in my life that knows how to remind me of my greater vision and with that reminder, I’m out of the gate.
3) I got over myself, ignored the “I have to do it alone” voice and hired someone
As I mentioned above, hiring someone is part of what took my business from a mind numbingly exhausting hobby to my full-time job (that doesn’t really feel like a job at all). I never would have gotten here if I hadn’t admitted to myself that I was scared to ask for help because it meant I wasn’t “strong enough”, or “a hard enough worker”, or “weak” or “lazy”. I dealt with those limiting beliefs, realized how much it was holding me back, and leapt into the unknown. I am so glad I took that leap and I am so glad to be that guide for others now.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s begin with a definition of terms so that each of us and our readers are on the same page. What exactly is a perfectionist? Can you explain?
After working with perfectionists for years, I would have to be an ostrich with my head in the earth to not notice patterns. But rather than seeing one type/definition for perfectionists, I find that they typically fall into one of three categories:
1) The Overachiever — Overachievers are hard workers, determined and… basically living their lives on the brink of burnout. They hold insanely high expectations over themselves and spend a large time of their day feeling stressed over their to-do list in fear of looking lazy. They tend to have a huge tie between their productivity and their worth. This can lead to massive burnout, imposter syndrome and the all too familiar relaxing but really thinking of all the things that you could be doing that are “more productive.”
2) The Procrastinator — Procrastinators often get overwhelmed by their big goals, and they have high expectations to do these goals “perfectly.” This makes them panic and cling tightly to their comfort zone, ultimately distracting and busying themselves with tasks that are “comfortable”, but don’t bring them closer to their goals.
3) The People Pleaser — People pleasers are incredibly kind, take lots of pride in doing things for others and rarely do a dang thing for themselves. People pleasers tend to say “yes” to everyone in fear of disappointing someone or making others uncomfortable. This results in the People Pleaser spreading themselves thin and feeling like their voice or opinion doesn’t matter as much as others.
If you’re interested in learning which type of perfectionist you are, take the free quiz on my website.
The premise of this interview series is making the assumption that being a perfectionist is not a positive thing. But presumably, seeking perfection can’t be entirely bad. What are the positive aspects of being a perfectionist? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
I love this question! Perfectionists are big dreamers, they’re so imaginative and they allow themselves to day dream. It’s really not until the heavy expectations come into play that they can feel stuck, scared, and like an imposter, which leads to staying in their comfort zone.
But the perfectionists I’ve worked with have BIG, bold dreams! I am inspired by some of the things I hear when talking to new clients; it gives me chills just thinking about it. The ability to see a future bigger than yourself is a gift, and once the limiting beliefs are addressed, beautiful things happen. Trust that this vision (as clear or as blurry as it is) is meant for you. You can accomplish it, one step at a time. But in order to go after it, you must kiss that comfort zone goodbye! Yes! This means you could fail, look stupid, do something wrong, or even make Uncle Jeff feel uncomfortable at Christmas, but these are the things that make you feel alive! And once you get in the habit of taking action toward what makes you feel good, it’s the best feeling you’ve ever had.
What are the negative aspects of being a perfectionist? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
Limiting beliefs are what really takes a perfectionist from unstoppable to stopped in their tracks. Thoughts like I’m not good enough, not smart enough, I don’t have enough degrees, followers, clout, who would take me seriously, I don’t know how, what if they are disappointed in me go on and on inside a perfectionist’s head. I think of it like a car; perfectionists are flooring the gas, trying to get somewhere, finish a task, or even start one, but this negative mental chatter is like they are simultaneously hitting the breaks. In other words, they’re going nowhere and self-sabotaging. Perfectionists typically have massive to-do lists, projects they’re trying to get done, projects they are stressing over and procrastinating on, plus about 20 things that they are trying to get done for others as well (people pleasers, I’m lookin’ at you). This kind of filling up your plate is a form of self-sabotage, typically rooted in the belief of “if I’m not productive, others will think I am lazy and that I’m not worthy.”
From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common reasons that cause a perfectionist to “get stuck” and not move forward? Can you explain?
Overwhelm. Overwhelm. Overwhelm. Many perfectionists get stuck because they are looking at a task or goal too broadly and that causes their brains to go into overdrive trying to figure out how to do this big task all at once. For example, I had a client who had been sitting on the idea of starting her business for years. Every time she thought about it, she went into overwhelm thinking about paying for her certification, making a website, finding clients and all the other little ins and outs that go into a business. When our brain sees a task that is out of our comfort zone, it is programmed to freak out and do anything to keep you inside your comfort zone. Including making up excuses, self-sabotaging and so much more. So instead, her and I worked on breaking things down into small, manageable tasks that she could do one at a time. This took the unknown and uncertainty behind each task and she is now a very happy and very successful business owner.
Here is the central question of our discussion. What are the five things a perfectionist needs to know to get past their perfectionism and “just do it?” Please share a story or example for each.
Prefer to learn through video? Watch my answer here!
1) Chunk it down — This is for the overwhelmed goal setters. Get really specific on goals of all sizes. For example, if you have a goal to set up and publish a website for your business, and you put on your to-do list, “work on website,” your brain is going to see that and say, “what the heck does that even MEAN!? That’s so much work and I don’t know where to start. I’m not feeling motivated, I should just do it later.” And then nothing gets done. Instead, chunk it down into bite sized, manageable tasks. So “working on the website” becomes “step one, research 4 different website hosting platforms and sign up for the one I like the best”. Your brain will see that kind of task and immediately know what it needs to do, eliminating overwhelm.
2) Slow down — Perfectionists move at a thousand miles a minute. Multi-tasking, attempting to get everything on their to-do list done, beating themselves up for not getting everything on their to-do list done, and so on. But they rarely pause and ask themselves, “What really makes me happy?” When we do more of what makes us happy and less of “all the things”, we become much more focused and accomplish our goals faster! Yes, even though we’ve technically slowed down. So take a breath and make sure you are slowing down to enjoy the life you’re working so hard for.
3) Start doing the inner work –Get curious about the mindset work. Read a book on personal development (I have a whole book list on my website if you want some inspiration), listen to a podcast, attend a seminar, journal, work with a coach, mentor, or therapist. When you start to tap into your own inner power, you’ll be shocked at how easily perfectionism sheds off you.
4) Learn about boundaries — Say no, don’t schedule meetings during lunch, set a timer for tasks, no work after 6pm, tell your sister-in-law to get an Uber from the airport so you can get some extra sleep before the big meeting. There’s this horrible stigma around setting boundaries, that it’s “selfish” and that makes you a “bad person.” But if you are not taking care of the amazingness that is you, then you’re pouring from an empty cup, which leads to burnout, anxiety, depression, stress, disease, and much more. You are important. Take care of yourself.
5) Identity with your powerful mindset– When we are deeply rooted in perfectionism, we are making decisions from survival mode. And nothing good, creative, abundant, or fulfilling comes from survival mode. Start to break the pattern of living life like you’re gripping the edges of a seat on the roller coaster by writing out the answer to the question, “What do I want?” When you start to picture your life where you’ve accomplished your goals, you’re able to tap into that incredible, amazing, goal-accomplishing version of yourself and start identifying with their mindset. This is a process, so take the time to write this out. When you start to tap into this mindset daily, it’s very difficult for perfectionism to stick around.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The fact that personal development is not taught in school actually baffles me. If there was one movement I would want to inspire, it would be having a mental health / personal development curriculum for students grades 1st grade through college. This can be anything from learning how to chunk down big goals, create affirmations, make time for self-love, create an empowering money mindset, addressing limiting beliefs and so much more. To live in a world where everyone valued themselves, filled up their own cups, lived out their mission and came at it from a place of love and contribution rather than ego and feeling significant… that sounds heavenly.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
This was a really hard question to answer because I have so many people who would be on this list! But ultimately, I’m landing with Jen Sincero. Her You are a Badass series are some of my most read/listened to books because not only are they packed with amazing, life changing information, but she writes them so conversationally and with such humor that you’re basically falling out of your chair laughing. To think of having lunch with her, sharing story after story, laughing our booties off, while also feeling inspired and just breathing in her energy, gives me chills even just thinking about it. Jen, if you read this, drinks on me?
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m on Instagram at @lifecoachbaker or you can check out my website lifecoachbaker.com. I also have a podcast where I share tactical mindset exercises for perfectionists called The Life Coach Baker Podcast.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!