Perfectionism: use it? or lose it?

A lot of people believe that perfectionists make the best students. They have drive, ambition and a desire to achieve. surely this would make them excellent students?

Take a look at this video from my Study Coaching Programme, in which I explain why perfectionism can make studying tougher:

Did any of that sound familiar? Do you relate to any of the challenges I mentioned?

how does perfectionism affect your studies?

As a perfectionist, you generally want to make sure that you are properly prepared for a task. You will only perform that task when you know what you’re doing and are comfortable with the fact that you are capable of doing it properly. You want to be confident in your abilities before you try something.

For a perfectionist. This paragraph makes perfect sense.

A good student will see a bunch of flaws in the paragraph:

  • It’s not possible to be fully, perfectly prepared for an exam that is specifically designed to be unseen, uncertain and unknown. (Unless you saw the paper before the exam, you will NEVER know what you’re going to get.)
  • If you will only ‘try’ something if you feel ready, you will avoid doing questions when you study, because you want to make sure that you can pass them before you try them. You can’t pass something you haven’t tried. And if you can’t try because you feel you won’t pass, then you’re standing on your own feet! You’re stuck in a never-ending loop.
  • Are you hoping that the exam will contain questions you’ve seen before? Will this prepare you for your professional career? Are you hoping that your clients will only ever ask you to solve problems for them that you can find in the textbooks or that you studied?
  • It’s physically possible to go from ‘not knowing’  to being an ‘expert’ instantly. You cannot become an expert after one lecture, one tut question and one study session.
  • If we wait to ‘feel’ confident before we do anything, we’ll never get anything done. The things worth doing are scary, and require bravery. Bravery is doing it, even though you are NOT confident

Now, read that first paragraph again. Does it still seem like approaching your studies and exams this way makes sense?

why do I include this in my study coaching?

“I plan to do questions. Somehow, I just don’t get there”

Have you said this before? I hear this from my students ALL the time.

The most important part of your studying is the time you spend at your desk, on your own, with your work. All the lectures, tut sessions, lovely sets of notes, huge selection of past papers are helpful, BUT will only be valuable if you USE them properly.

How you use your resources depends on just you. When it’s you, alone at your desk, how do you study? What impacts your decisions? When you end up doing more revision and not a question, why did you do that?

If you plan to, intend to, absolutely mean to do questions, but don’t get there, what’s stopping you?

What makes our decisions for us? Our minds. What influences our minds? Our habits, personalities, emotions, mindset.

If you’re a perfectionist, it means your brain will make decisions that meet it’s requirements. “Know your stuff better”; “Study more theory before you try a question”; “I don’t want to fail. Not even a practice question”.

Without realising it, your perfectionist natures are making decisions about how you study. Don’t you think that’s something you should be aware of? Don’t you think it’s worth working on?

Your anxieties and stress levels will affect your exams

Being a perfectionist is EXHAUSTING! You are constantly worrying about whether you’re doing stuff right, whether you’ll pass, whether you’re studying enough, hard enough, long enough. Whether you’re smart enough.

It’s like having someone standing over your shoulder 24 hours a day, constantly giving you something else to make you worry that this is all going to fall apart.

Students see this as ‘warm and fuzzy’, and not as important for exams as learning their Financial Statement formats. In truth, this anxiety will affect you far more than any topic. Your anxieties, left unchecked, affect every moment of your day, it distracts your mental energy when you study, and DURING exams!

Your brain will make decisions to try decrease anxiety, by avoiding the situations that cause the anxiety. ie: Proper studying. Doing questions.

Again, your study decisions and effectiveness are based on something other than the topic you’re studying!

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Yvonne Starkey CA(SA)

Yvonne Starkey CA(SA)

I coach accounting students who are struggling with their study habits and mindset, and want their studies to be as effective as they used to be. See more on my about page

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