BREAKING THE CYCLE OF PERFECTIONISM
A NOTE FROM KERRY ANN
During February, I find myself dashing from one campus to another to work with faculty. While I'm traveling, my team has put together some great resources just for you! First and foremost, we have a brand new facilitated learning community: How to Craft and Submit A Winning Book Proposal in 4 Weeks. We are also offering a great core workshop (How to Align Your Time and Your Priorities Every Week) as well as a powerful guest expert workshop: Successful Strategies for Faculty Diversity. In addition, we want to introduce you to our newest Institutional Member (Indiana University) and also invite you to a webinar about how your college or university can become an NCFDD Institutional Member. And finally, our newsletter contains some great information about our new Career Center, this month's Campus Workshops, and our feature article "Breaking the Cycle of Perfectionism".
I hope you feel inspired by our February Newsletter to continue to learn and grow with us!
Kerry Ann Rockquemore, PhD
President, National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity
NCFDD CAREER CENTER
CHECK OUT THE BRAND NEW NCFDD CAREER CENTER
In response to repeated requests from our members, we've decided to open a Career Center. Job seekers, will find specialized training on how to be successful on the academic job market. And employers can make your position known to one of the largest and most productive communities of under-represented faculty in the U.S. Both posting and searching are open to all: click here.
The NCFDD Welcomes
Our Newest Institutional Member:
Would you like additional information about what NCFDD Institutional Membership is and how your college, university, or professional organization can become an Institution Member? Please join us for a preview call on February 19th, 2013: http://bit.ly/XLMD3z
FEBRUARY TRAINING WORKSHOPS
THIS MONTH'S CORE WORKSHOP:
Align Your Time with Your Priorities Every Week
In this live workshop you'll learn:
- What works…and what DOESN'T work when it comes to weekly plannning
- Why weekly planning is the bridge between your semester plan and getting control of your workday.
- The 30-minute technique that will help you make sure that the most important things get done each day.
- And much more...
This is a HANDS-ON workshop where we will not only learn the technique, but actually practice it!
Facilitator: Kerry Ann Rockquemore
Date: 2/7/2013Time: 3:30 PM ET For more information and registration: click here
THIS MONTH'S GUEST EXPERT WORKSHOP:
Successful Strategies for Faculty Diversity: Valuing Faculty Work that Promotes Equity
For those of us who care about diversity in higher education - faculty, administrators, diversity officers and advocates - increasing diversity among our faculty is one of our greatest challenges. This workshop will explore effective strategies for promoting faculty diversity with a focus on rewarding faculty for teaching, conducting research and making service contributions that promote the institutional commitment to equity and diversity. Topics will include:
- Valuing contributions to diversity in faculty searches and hiring
- Recognizing diversity work in faculty merit and promotion reviews
- Allocating resources to create incentives for diversity work
- Using data strategically to make the case for faculty diversity
The session will refer to new policies and program at the University of California as case examples, and explore how each strategy can be adapted for colleges and universities, large and small; public and private. The session will also address legal issues that impact faculty diversity programs and provide guidelines for avoiding legal challenges to effective diversity efforts.
Facilitator: Sheila O'Rourke
Time: 3:00 PM ET
For more information and registration: click here
***NEW*** FACILITATED LEARNING COMMUNITY
How to Craft and Submit A Winning Book Proposal in 4 Weeks
Facilitator: Badia Ahad
You may have a completed dissertation, a few rough book chapters, or even journal articles you'd like to transform into a coherent book project—but where do you start? The path to getting your book published begins with a good proposal. In this workshop, you will translate your research projects for a broader market, learn how to "sell" your book to academic presses, and have a completed book proposal ready to send to your preferred presses in four weeks!
All NCFDD Facilitated Learning Communities are FREE for Individual and Institutional Members!
Time: 4:00 PM ET
REGISTER HERE TODAY
Breaking the Cycle of Perfectionism
By Kerry Ann Rockquemore
Last month, I decided to start a series on academic perfectionism based on a few core assumptions: 1) perfectionism is a pervasive problem for academic writers, 2) the culture of the academy exacerbates existing perfectionist tendencies, and 3) overcoming perfectionism is not only possible, but leads to greater productivity and job satisfaction.
While many people conflate perfectionism with positive attributes such as striving, ambition, and high standards, I suggested that recent research demonstrates that perfectionism can actually have a negative impact on professors’ productivity and leaves many people in a perpetual state of frustration, disappointment and self-inflicted misery.
So if you’re a self-described perfectionist and you’re happy and productive that way, great! I certainly have no desire to change what’s working for you. But for those of you who know that perfectionism is keeping you from living up to your full potential, hindering your writing productivity, and creating frustration for you on a daily basis (because things in your department are far from perfect), I invite you to focus this month on how to break the cycle of perfectionism.
The cycle of perfectionism is predictably simple:
- You set goals that are impossible to reach.
- The unreachable goal creates paralysis.
- Avoidance, procrastination, and self-sabotaging behavior ensue.
- If there’s an actual deadline, you engage in a frenzy of activity at the last minute, which ironically guarantees that the outcome will be far from perfect.
- A less-than-stellar performance triggers self-flagellation in the form of internal criticism, blame, and judgment.
- In order to move forward, you set yet another unreachable goal with the promise that this time you will just work harder.
Does this sound familiar? If so, you’re a perfectly normal perfectionist. Please know that this description is simply an observation of a common pattern (not a judgment). I’ve experienced it myself, observed it repeatedly in many academics I mentor, and know that this cycle (no matter how many times you’ve been through it) can be disrupted in the short term and eliminated in the long term.
Breaking the Cycle
While perfectionism has deep roots, there is one sure-fire way to break the cycle: get out of your head and bring other people into the loop. That’s right, I’m not going to suggest that you do a lot of inner work, self-reflection, or delving into your childhood to find out when you got the message that your worth is determined by your achievements. And that’s because I believe there’s a speedier path to disrupting the cycle of perfectionism that is rooted in the most fundamental fact: perfectionism festers in isolation.
In other words, academic perfectionists tend to have a distorted perspective on normative expectations, the amount of time that tasks take, and/or the their own processes of getting things done. So the quickest and most effective way to break the cycle is to build feedback loops into every step of the cycle where you habitually experience cognitive distortions. I want to suggest that there are three specific points of intervention in the perfectionist cycle that are ripe for disruption: 1) goal-setting, 2) doing the work, and 3) interpreting your performance.
At the beginning of each semester I lead an open course on how to create a semester plan. The perfectionists in the group perpetually set unrealistic goals (this summer someone told me he was not only going to finish one, but two book manuscripts!). So instead of setting goals in isolation, you can disrupt the perfectionist cycle by sharing your plan with departmental mentors. Time and time again, when perfectionists articulate their unrealistic goals to more experienced colleagues, their mentors let them know they have planned more work than time allows. It often leads to a powerful clarifying conversation about the actual goals and expectations of their department, and an adjustment of expectations. Making goals explicit and sharing them is a quick and effective way to help you set realistic expectations that are aligned with how you will be evaluated.
Do The Work
Procrastination and perfectionism go hand-in-hand. If you are a perfectionist, you have such high expectations of your performance that it can be difficult to actually get started on the very thing you have set out to achieve. So you avoid writing and procrastinate doing the work necessary to perform at the highest level until you can no longer avoid it. To disrupt your procrastination, use the same formula: get out of your head and bring other people into the loop. There are many ways to create community, support and accountability for doing the work: get a buddy or accountability partner, create an accountability group, join an online community, start a write-on-site or teaching support group, and/or form an N-Committee. Each one does the same thing: 1) it gets you out of your head (with all the rationalizations that live there), 2) it forces you to produce consistently and 3) it will help you to break the last-minute, binge-and-bust cycle of setting yourself up to fail.
Get Support to Interpret Your Performance
The final point of intervention in the cycle of perfectionism is how to interpret your performance on various activities and tasks. Here again, bringing other people into the loop helps to disrupt the cognitive distortions common among perfectionists.
For example, I often work with faculty who think that they have failed in the classroom. I know better than to believe them without evidence, so I always ask to see their most recent teaching evaluations. Most of the time, there are a very small number of disgruntled students while the vast majority of students have give the course the highest possible rating in terms of content and instruction. The distortion at work is over-generalizing a handful of negative data points to the exclusion of the overwhelmingly positive pattern and drawing the erroneous conclusion "I’m a failure as a teacher."
When I ask these same faculty members what the department, college or university averages are for comparison, they have no idea. And the reason they have never thought to use data to situate their performance is because their expectation (and their comparison point) is perfection. Whether in teaching, service, or writing, getting regular feedback on your performance and having others help you interpret that feedback is a powerful way to reduce the kinds of distortions inherent in perfectionism.
This month, I challenge you to:
1. Ask yourself if the cycle of academic perfectionism looks or feels familiar to you and if so, ask yourself if you’re ready for change.
2. Imagine what it would look like for you to create points of connection to disrupt your cycle of perfection.
3. Pick ONE point of intervention you feel comfortable starting with and ask someone for support today.
Breaking the cycle of perfectionism requires identifying your cognitive distortions and changing your behavior accordingly. The most effective way to do this is to initiate conversation with others, open yourself to feedback, and create connections in the moments where you loose perspective. You’ll quickly adjust from perfectionism to healthy striving, and best of all, you’ll become a better teacher, more productive scholar, and more satisfied professor in the process.
Peace and Productivity,
Kerry Ann Rockquemore
ABOUT THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR FACULTY DEVELOPMENT & DIVERSITY
The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity is a professional development, training, and mentoring community. We work with colleges, universities, professional organizations, and individuals towards one goal: helping faculty make a successful transition from graduate student to professor. We offer on-campus workshops, professional development training, and intensive mentoring programs.