Perfectionists can be valuable assets in business. Setting high standards for themselves and others, they often serve as critics who can help eliminate flaws and weaknesses in products and processes. Always on time (or before time), they can be counted on to do excellent work (assuming they don't get mucked up in a pile of details) and strive to always appear at their best (even if they're not).

But these high achievers can be some of the most miserable people around. They can be inwardly or outwardly reactionary and easily annoyed by others who operate at a different pace or have laid-back personalities. They often suffer from anxiety, frustration and exhaustion. Life, after all, is messy and unpredictable, and new challenges and things which could be done better lurk around every corner.

If this is you, wouldn't it feel good to cut yourself some slack, be the most patient person in the room and stop butting heads with people who--face it--will never live up to your impossible standards? It's just a matter of adjusting your thinking.

1. Understand you don't know the whole story.

A slow driver holding up your commute might be a 16-year-old novice or an 86-year-old who is insecure about her driving abilities. What if the person is sick and driving himself to the doctor? What if she just learned terrible news and keeping up with traffic is the least of her concerns? The point is you will never know anyone's complete back story.

2. You can withstand the frustrations which surround you.

Some people have what psychologists call a "low frustration tolerance (LFT)." It's the tendency to hold distorted beliefs such as "I can't stand this" or "this is driving me out of my mind." This kind of thinking contributes to behaviors such as avoidance, addictions, outbursts of anger, procrastination, and negativity that alienates others. To raise your tolerance for frustration it can help to intentionally expose yourself to situations that trigger feelings of discomfort and annoyance. Acknowledge your frustration and set a timeframe you'll force yourself to withstand it. Recognize the long-term rewards for not feeling frustrated in the situation and admit that you tolerated the circumstance just fine.

3. Reframe demands into preferences.

People often become angry because of believing that others should behave in a certain way even though we live in an imperfect world filled with flawed human beings. Perfectionists can harbor far less anger if they examine their beliefs and reframe mental demands as preferences. For example, "People should clean up after themselves in the break room" becomes "I prefer it when people clean up after themselves in the break room." That way, when someone fails to perform to your expectations you're more likely to be merely disappointed instead of pissed off. It's not to say you have to agree with people who do things differently than you'd like, or that you can't try to enact change. But in the end, the only person's behavior you can truly control is your own.

4. Ask yourself if the annoyance, anxiety or pressure you're feeling will matter in a year (or a decade).

It probably won't. Therefore, calm yourself with deep breathing, meditation, prayer or whatever else will help you gain a peaceful perspective. For me, blaring "Into the New" by Mark Peter Revell transports me from negativity and frustration to a state of feeling sublime. (Weirdly, it's background music for a recent LG commercial.)

5. Count your blessings.

Any student of history understands how vastly different modern society is, compared with the rest of the human timeline. Before the commercialization of antibiotics--which only just occurred in the 1940s--90 percent of children with bacterial meningitis died, strep throat could be fatal and ear infections sometimes spread to the brain. And the fact that you enjoy modern conveniences such as running and hot water, refrigeration, and transportation that doesn't involve a four-legged creature should help color your thinking regarding minor inconveniences such as slow lines, inept people or whatever other bumps you stumble upon during your day.

Published on: Jan 13, 2017
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