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The Perfectionist's Handbook: Take Risks, Invite Criticism, and Make the Most of Your Mistakes Hardcover – September 6, 2011


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Frequently Bought Together

The Perfectionist's Handbook: Take Risks, Invite Criticism, and Make the Most of Your Mistakes + When Perfect Isn't Good Enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism + The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470923369
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470923368
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #542,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"You're such a perfectionist." Are you supposed to feel insulted or flattered when you hear this comment? Is someone saying that you are detail oriented, organized, and driven to excel? Or that you are controlling, rigid, and self-defeating? Is your perfectionism a good thing, or does it get in your way?

In The Perfectionist's Handbook, Jeff Szymanski helps readers navigate their way out of the "perfectionism paradox": If your intentions are good (wanting to excel) and the outcomes you want are reasonable (to feel competent and satisfied), why would your perfectionism backfire and result in unhappiness, stress, and unwanted results? Many people consider their perfectionism to be one of their most valuable attributes and critical to success in achieving one's life goals. Advice aimed at trying to stop you from being a perfectionist doesn't ring true.

Jeff Szymanski, a clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), helps readers understand when their perfectionism will pay off, and when and why it sabotages you. Specific strategies are outlined throughout the book to help readers identify the difference between their "healthy" and "unhealthy" perfectionism. There is no reason to eliminate perfectionism altogether—rather, build on what is working and change what is not. In addition, The Perfectionist's Handbook helps readers to:

  • Distinguish between intention and strategy as a way of improving outcomes

  • Identify diminishing returns and ways to redistribute time and resources

  • Make the most of mistakes rather than being preoccupied with trying to avoid them

  • Learn to focus on your "Top 10" list as a way of getting the most out of your life

  • Interact with others more effectively as a way of improving performance

  • Establish more balance in your life

Transform your perfectionism from a liability to an asset. Let your instincts lead you to achieve your goals—but also learn to enjoy your journey and its rewards.

From the Back Cover

Praise for The Perfectionist's Handbook

"Dr. Szymanski offers the reader both research-supported and user-friendly techniques that can enhance productivity without compromising the pursuit of excellence. The Perfectionist's Handbook is an obvious example of how the author practices what he preaches."
PHILIP G. LEVENDUSKY, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School; Director of the Psychology Department and Psychology Training and Senior Vice President for Business Development and Marketing, McLean Hospital

"The Perfectionist's Handbook is the perfect book for those who struggle with perfectionism. Dr. Szymanski begins by clearly outlining the features of perfectionism then describes the various ways to manage tendencies that get in the way of a perfectionist's life. After reading this book, readers will have new ways of managing their perfectionism in order to get tasks completed."
MICHAEL A. JENIKE, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Medical Director, OCD Institute, McLean Hospital

"This handbook weaves a self-described perfectionist's personal story with insights from clinical experience. It is the 'perfect' formula for education and action."
PAUL HAMMERNESS, MD, Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; author of Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life

"Jeff Szymanski helps readers determine when 'good' is good enough. Whatever your area of effort, you will be more creative and productive by learning the art of Adaptive Perfectionism!"
SHELLEY CARSON, PhD, Department of Psychology, Harvard University;author of Your Creative Brain


More About the Author

Jeff Szymanski, PhD, is the Executive Director of the International OCD Foundation; a Clinical Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School; and a Clinical Associate in Psychology at McLean Hospital.

Customer Reviews

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It is written in a common-sense manner, and brought a lot of clarity to the issue without being overly dense and academic.
CMed
As I worked my way through the book, I recognized all manner of correlations between efforts to develop healthy perfectionism in an individual and in an organization.
Robert Morris
It is an outstanding book, one which I would highly recommend to anyone who is struggling with perfectionism, or even wonders whether they might be.
KRLWL

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By KRLWL on December 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is undoubtedly the best and most helpful book on perfectionism that I have ever read. I had never fully recognized how perfectionistic I had become in my work as a physician and how the perfectionism was actually hindering my providing optimal patient care rather than helping. I also knew that I wasn't being the kind of mother and wife I wanted to be, but didn't realize that it was perfectionism that was getting in the way of my doing things for and with my family. Dr. Syzmanski's book has been extraordinarily helpful in the way it distinguishes between helpful and hurtful perfectionism, and it provides excellent strategies for dealing with the hurtful perfectionism so it no longer is in control of one's life. I have shared this with 12 of my colleagues, and every one of them has come back and talked about how helpful the book has been to them and also to the patients with whom they work. It is an outstanding book, one which I would highly recommend to anyone who is struggling with perfectionism, or even wonders whether they might be.
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Format: Hardcover
I agree with Jeff Szymanski that perfection is best viewed as an on-going process rather than as an ultimate destination. As he observes, perfectionism "isn't necessarily a bad thing to be eliminated altogether. Quite the opposite is true, in fact; your perfectionism might be one of your most valuable attributes and the source of your success and self-esteem." He divides the material into two Parts. In the first, he explains what perfectionism is (definition, types, characteristics, benefits and perils, etc.); in the second, he explains how to maximize the benefits of healthy perfectionism. Although his approach is clinical, based on an abundance of real-world experience, he immediately establishes a direct and personal rapport with his reader that he skillfully sustains throughout the narrative.

For example, in Chapter 2, he helps his reader to formulate a "perfectionist profile" (measurement of Unhealthy to Healthy range on a seven point scale) that provides a clearer sense of personal strengths and weaknesses when it comes to perfectionism. "This exercise will also help you consider which of the following chapters are relevant to you in terms of understanding what your strengths are and where you might consider making changes." With all due respect to Szymanski, I presume to suggest that all of the chapters be read.

One of his key points is that developing healthy perfectionism depends on two factors: achieving wide and deep self-awareness, and, being not only willing and able but also determined to make whatever changes may be necessary to eliminate (or at least reduce) unhealthy attitudes and behavior. As I worked my way through the book, I recognized all manner of correlations between efforts to develop healthy perfectionism in an individual and in an organization.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dan Rhoads on May 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I agree with the other positive reviews below. The content is excellent, and it is well organized and easy to read. i found it most helpful that Dr. Szymanski does not characterize perfectionism as either positive or negative, but as a trait that can be viewed as part of a continuum, and one that can be helpful in some circumstances and detrimental in others. As a person who works in a field where perfection is rewarded and often necessary, this approach allowed me to re-evaluate areas of my life where it was neither necessary nor desirable. I have given this book to several people (including my accountant, who I hope will continue his perfectionism in his work but be freed from its tyranny in other areas) and they have all found it very helpful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By nola77 on February 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book came to me in a time when my performance anxiety was at an extreme level, and I had to perform in a concert but couldn't get negative thoughts to stop, worrying that people would harshly judge my performance, etc. I found that this book did two things for me: 1) did NOT state that perfectionism is something to be eliminated entirely, which I personally think is impossible :) and 2) put forth the principle that perfectionism is something to be seen as a strength if you know which specific areas of perfectionism you need to learn to manage. That's the key: even the word itself, perfectionism, has a bad connotation. How about turn it around and learn how it can work for you if you manage it in a healthy way?

Yes, it had a very slight slant toward the workplace, but all in all, I found it very helpful. I had a completely different experience studying this book than many highly recommended self-help anxiety books. When you're anxious, a long-winded book is that last thing you need, and this fit that requirement for me. The Perfectionist's Handbook: Take Risks, Invite Criticism, and Make the Most of Your MistakesI have added it to my personal library.
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