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Goal Setting Tips for Perfectionists

Goal Setting Tips for Perfectionists

The end of one year and the fresh start of a new one is the natural time for most of us to reflect and set new goals.

I prefer to think in terms of goals, which are action oriented, rather than resolutions. Resolving to eat more veggies or meditate more often isn’t going to happen without a plan. Actionable goals create a framework for success. But I don’t really care whether you call it a resolution, a goal, an intention, or a theme. I still maintain, that if anything is going to change you need it to be well defined, within your control, measurable, realistic, and important to you.

There are tons of great posts this time of year about how to be successful with your goals or resolutions. Since the focus of the Happily Imperfect blog is on overcoming perfectionism and people-pleasing, I wanted to give you some valuable tips specific to these struggles.

Tips for Setting Goals when you’re a Perfectionist or People-Pleaser

  1. Focus on progress not perfection. Life isn’t really divided into successes and failures. There are a lot of what I call partial-successes (otherwise known as progress). It’s motivating to acknowledge progress. It’s demotivating to focus on failures.
  2. Use forgiveness and self-compassion for those times when you’re not perfect.
  3. Get support. Perfectionists tend to want to do everything themselves. We also try to avoid the shame of failure by not telling others about our goals. Whether it’s in-person or virtual, a support system has been shown to help people achieve their goals.
  4. Important changes take place incrementally. Have patience and don’t try to change everything all at once.
  5. Remember, you can only control yourself. Make sure the result you’re looking for is actually within your control. Don’t make a goal to get a promotion this year. You’ll be more successful if you make a goal to get all of your assignments done on time, for example.
  6. Enjoy the process. It’s not all about the end result. If I successfully save $2500, but have pissed off my husband with my nagging, controlling, and worrying, this isn’t really a success. Yes, I succeed in saving the money, but ruining my relationship isn’t worth it. I might be better off if I only save $1K without nagging, criticizing, and being a “Debbie Downer” all year. (This is also a good example of a partial-success.)
  7. Check that your goals are really based on what matters to you not what you think you”should” be doing. It’s easy to create goals based on criticism from others or what everyone else is doing. Do I really want t lose weight or do I just think I should because of those comments my Mom made about how many Christmas cookies I ate?

OK, so what are you planning to work on this year? I created this list of common goals for perfectionists. Take any that speak to you and leave the rest. Like I said, this isn’t about me telling you that these should be your goals. Part of knowing and loving yourself, is being able to identify what you want and need.

Perfectionist Goals



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Goal Setting Tips for Perfectionists

Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin is a licensed psychotherapist and codependency expert practicing in San Jose, CA. She is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance and several ebooks including Navigating the Codependency Maze.  

To learn more, visit Sharon's website. And please sign-up for free access to her resource library HERE (worksheets, tips, meditations, and resources for healing codependency, perfectionism, anxiety and more).

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APA Reference
Martin, S. (2016). Goal Setting Tips for Perfectionists. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Jan 2016
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