Is Perfectionism Holding You Back From the Practice You Want?

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

“Mommy!” the little girl shrieked with enthusiasm as she pointed at me lying on the ground under the ski lift from the chair she shared with her mom, “that’s my ski instructor!”

“Are you okay?” the mother shouted down, sounding concerned. With my feet pointed uphill and my skis, poles, hat and gloves laying all over the slope I had had what skiers call “a garage sale” on the intermediate ski hill. This is a fall so epic that you lose everything that can come off of you.

This whole thing started when I announced, “I never fall” one day to my fellow ski instructors. I taught children’s ski lessons at a small ski resort during high school and college. (Photo depicts me featured in a Wisconsin State Journal photograph on January 2, 1990.) “Really?” one of the most tenured instructors asked. “That means you’re not skiing to your edge.” He went on to explain that I would not likely progress much more with my skiing if I never pushed myself. He challenged me to practice my technique more aggressively and warned me that I would likely fall if I did.

I have always been a stubborn person. I believe that I can do almost anything if I just try hard. The idea that I was a mediocre skier who’d reached my peak performance at the age of 15 was unacceptable. I had taken so much pride in my lack of falling that I didn’t notice that I really was not progressing with my skiing. I took a lesson with an advanced instructor. Then I set out to try hard.

One run later after my lesson there I was, lying on my back after tumbling dramatically down the slope where I had landed ironically right under the ski lift with my student directly above me. I did not regret it. While I took a lot of heat from the instructors who witnessed the fall, my bruised ego recovered and I went on to learn moguls and perfect my parallel skiing. But better yet (since I can no longer ski like that!) I learned that my perfectionism was holding me back.

Are you playing to your edge in your financial practice? Are you willing to “fall” in the sense that you coach your client to think and act bigger? Do you take risks, like not getting referrals, because you try hard to get a client to take care of their financial health even if it means you might lose them as a client? If you have never encountered any resistance, a lost case, or a lack of referrals given from a client as a direct result of you acting as a professional and doing your job with the highest integrity then you have an opportunity to find your edge.

Do you think prospective clients and current clients meet with you to stay exactly where they are? Do they deep down wish to leave your meeting with no action taken? If so, they are not your client. You are serving no one by playing it safe.

It’s time to put your own worries aside that you’ll scare a client off, be denied referrals, or be spoken badly of by your client because you did your job. Your job is to get insurance in force and to help people start saving for the future. If the people you see are not doing these things consistently and to the degree necessary, ask yourself what are you really focused on? Is it your “perfect” record of being “liked?”

Think of the professionals we rely on to get us results who we may not like along the way: doctors, nurses, personal trainers, police officers, attorneys, accountants and more. There may be moments you despise your personal trainer for pushing you harder but later you are very happy with the results. Are you willing to be disliked in the best interest of the client and the client’s family if that’s what it takes to have a courageous conversation?

Find your edge. Let yourself fall in the interest of finding out how great you can be.

Coaching Tip Playing to your edge is difficult because it requires discomfort, vulnerability and often repeated failure. Acknowledge to yourself and others what you are doing. Plan for your “fall” and imagine yourself being better for it. It is an investment in your self-improvement. You can stay as you are or you can find out what is really possible. If the idea of having a bigger practice and engaged clients excites you, make your move. What do you have to gain?