12 Step Program For Recovering Perfectionists

I have a confession to make. I am a recovering perfectionist. It has been 3 years, 7 months, 2 weeks and 3 days since I last did anything 100% perfect……

What is the significance of the timing? Well that’s when I started becoming successful.

To hear my full confession and the 2 big  (but very simple) things I did to break my addictive perfectionist habit, take 4 minutes to watch this video below. I’d love to hear your comments. They don’t have to be perfect 🙂

Janet’s 12 Step Program For Recovering Perfectionists

This program is based, very loosely, on the 12 step program from Alcoholics Anonymous. In true recovered perfectionist style I wrote the headline and made the video before I had worked out what the 12 steps are. It just sounded like a good idea.

So here goes…..

Step 1: Acknowledge that perfectionism is a disease you suffer and your life has a permanent handbrake on because of it

Step 2: Acknowledge that most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to really notice too many details about yours.

Step 3: Accept that what you may consider a half-done job and no-where near as good as you can do, with heaps of steps missing, and glaring unprofessional gaps, and embarrassing mistakes, and leaving yourself wide open to criticism and such a bad hair day and……….. other people think is actually pretty good.

Step 4: Make a commitment to yourself that this is your year for taking imperfect action

Step 5: Tell 3 people that this is your year for taking imperfect action

Step 6: Write the phrase “Count to 3 and jump on 2” in thick texta and stick it near your work-space (close to where you can see it all the time, like on your computer)

Step 7: Go to your nearest pool. Stand on the high board. It has to make you a bit nervous, so whether it is high or the water is really cold or some sort of similar situation.  The idea is find a situation where you have to jump off an edge, you will be perfectly safe when you land, but the act of jumping is scarey.

Step 8: Stand on the end, count slowly to 3 and, without thinking too much, jump on 2.

Step 9: Repeat step 8 over and over again until you can jump on 2 without really only counting to 2 in your head.

Step 10: Teach another person how to jump on 2. This will help you own this solution and the act of teaching others is one of the most powerful ways for you to see, from the outside, that others have the same struggles as you and if you can help them, well you can help yourself.

Step 11: Set a tight deadline to do something you have been procrastinating over and announce the deadline publicly (you can do that here if you like). You need to tell someone and ask them to keep you accountable.

Step 12: Meet that deadline no matter what. Accept no excuses from yourself and accept that to meet that deadline you will probably have to do only a fraction (probably 80%) of what you would like to do. But do it anyway.

Step 13: (OK so this is a baker’s dozen) Congratulate yourself on actually doing something you have put off for ages. You can watch this short video if you like on the very clever way I use to celebrate that is a lot of fun.

Now don’t be tempted to then stuff around for ages making your 80% project 100% perfect. You can tweak it a little but never. ever try top make it perfect. While you’re doing that your next project is lying dormant, nagging you at the back of your mind and wearing down your confidence.

Rinse and Repeat.

I’d love to hear your comments below. They don’t have to be perfect.




  1. Hi Janet,
    Love the 80 / 20 different perspective – you go girl.
    Love the authenticity 🙂

  2. Alison Filihia says:

    Brilliant and perfect (or not so perfect) timing for me to read. Especially as I decided this week to take the chance and look for a suitable clinic for me to work in partime. Not just work from home. I have have contacted a couple and both sound great. Now I am stressing over which is the perfect or right one, will it be successful, trying to make it perfect, will I fail. I think you are right, count to 2 and jump on 3 sounds good. Also I remind myself to “let go of the outcome” and send myself love. x

  3. Alison working out of the home can be a great thing for you. I did this for a few years. Even though I had an office at home I moved into an office space so I would start taking myself seriously as a business woman. It also demonstrated to my family that I had a business, not a hobby. It was such a powerful thing to do. After 2 years I took myself seriously enough to move back home and love it. Good on you girl.
    And hey, if it doesn’t work no great loss. Just move your business back home.

  4. Anneliese Hastings says:

    I’ve just put 80:20 on my current notepad. My father has a saying about doing things well (can’t remember that actually wording) which became ingrained! I’ve been trying for years to get past that. I’ve had some success changing my thinking but I really like the ration and the jumping at 2 ideas.

  5. Anneliese I was brought up with the idea of doing everything well and it is a hard thing to break. I’ve reframed that now though. Now I think , if I commit to something I will commit 100% or not at all. That 100% may be that I have committed say 1 hour per week to it, but for that 1 hour I am 100% committed, but never 100% perfect.
    That is why I knock back more opportunities than I am given because I don’t want to spread myself too thin. If I say yes then I will show up and deliver 100% all of the time. But it’s 100% energy and 100% focus, not 100% perfect. It can be really hard to tell the difference sometimes.

  6. Louise Ledbrook says:

    Thanks for this Janet

    I am a perfectionist and although I know 80% is usually good enough I still end up getting stuck not finishing things because I don’t have the time to make it perfect.

    I needed this little reminder, thanks

  7. Perfectionism can be both a curse and a blessing. We can use it in our lives to assist us in accomplishing goals we have set for ourselves. Perfectionists are driven. That’s the blessing part. The curse is the obsessive portion of perfectionism in which tasks are often the center of attention until complete. When a perfectionist works on a project, it may consume their life until it’s flawless. This pursuit of precision sometimes includes verbally thrashing ourselves for not having done a little bit better. We say things to ourselves like, “That part looks pretty good, but I wish the other part would have turned out better.” When complimented on certain tasks done well, we may reply with a comment about something we could have improved. There is also the shame associated with perfectionism that can often lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair. When one is constantly setting unattainable goals and failing to reach their expectations, depression will eventually ensue. This is the curse.

    Cheers then.

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