Heather, an independent business owner, prides herself on her extremely high standards, even jokingly referring to herself as a "perfectionist." When going about her daily activities, she dreads making even the smallest mistakes, which puts a damper on her productivity. She tends to take on only familiar challenges in order to guarantee that she will excel.

Recently Heather noticed that she has difficulty relating to and encouraging her team members, who perceive her as tense and rigid. She longs to be able to inspire them, but finds she can see only their flaws.

Heather admires her friend Tyler, another home-based entrepreneur. They belong to many of the same associations and network together at business meetings. Tyler and his team consistently come up with innovative strategies and achieve their goals before the target date. Tyler's confidence is remarkable and his team members demonstrate self-assurance and an easy rapport with him. Heather wonders how Tyler can be so relaxed and happy and still be so productive.

Tyler's advantage is that he focuses on progress, not on perfection.

Striving for perfection and rejecting anything less can become an obstacle to innovation, creativity and satisfaction in the accomplishment of everyday tasks and goals. Focusing on progress will highlight the fact that everyday tasks and goals are actually baby steps on the way to the achievement of the highest accomplishments.

By focusing on progress, you'll learn to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. Here are six progress-oriented strategies you can use that will free you from excessive self-criticism and increase your creativity, satisfaction and confidence.

1. There is no such thing as perfection in life. Know that perfection is not an oasis—it's a mirage! You'll never arrive, because it simply isn't there. Once you realize that everything in this universe is flawed, you can relax and focus on improvement. This new focus allows you to draw self-assurance from each little improvement as it manifests itself along the way. You will find that as your confidence builds, your freedom of thought increases.

2. Practice intelligent goal-setting. Determine your ultimate goal, then set doable, measurable goals at definite intervals on the journey. At each of these intervals you can measure progress, adjust your sights, and make changes if necessary. It's easy to slip into a self-defeating pattern by setting goals and standards that are too difficult to achieve. Commemorate each interval on the journey: applaud your achievement, taking stock of how far you've come and where you are headed.

3. At the end of each day, take an inventory of anything and everything you have accomplished, and celebrate it. Progress is not just about bottom line results. Be sure to include upbeat attitudes, positive thought processes, kind words and generous actions on your list. You most likely have gained character strengths, leadership skills, personal insights and communication skills during any given day, week or month. Begin recognizing all your accomplishments and gaining greater resolve from them.

4. There is real reward in enjoying the journey and acknowledging your work without judging it. Perfectionism often creates a cycle of procrastination—the standard is set so high that you find yourself overwhelmed and paralyzed at the outset. Exercise your nonjudgmental attitude toward others as well, regarding everything around you as a work in progress. Everything in life is moving and changing. Develop and maintain your positive vision of where you want to be, then exercise the patience needed to allow your work to come to fruition. Banish the energy-draining tendency to make negative comparisons between yourself and others. Rejoice in your associates' successes, knowing that you are in league with winners and your ship will soon come in, too.

5. Give yourself permission to grow and to embrace missteps. Some of the greatest discoveries are the result of trial and error or outright blunders. If you stop making mistakes, you stop progressing and learning. Loosen up and value the process. You'll find your productivity and happiness will increase exponentially. If you come upon a misstep, celebrate it as an opportunity to reassess your goals, network with a mentor, and increase education or training. When you embrace mistakes as touchstones of development, you can't help but learn and grow as a result.

6. Never underplay your accomplishments. Banish self-talk such as, "Well, it was okay, but anybody could've done that." Instead, encourage yourself and others around you by recognizing the significance of smaller tasks as part of the ultimate goal. Employ positive self-talk: make a list of inspiring, self-enhancing statements that describe how far you've come and exactly what you have gained in your journey so far. Read these affirmative lines to yourself aloud each night or morning to bolster self-assurance and ignite your passion to succeed.

Consistently put these strategies into play, and you will be surprised as you exceed your own expectations. Constantly focus on progress and learn to have fun along the way. Celebrate each baby step. This isn't complacency, it's stamina building.

Success in any endeavor is like a long-distance run. If you want to zoom across the finish line at the end of the course, then say goodbye to perfectionism's unreachable expectations, fear of mistakes and excessive criticism. Say hello to progress and begin embracing it daily. Perfectionism is a deal-breaker. Progress is a star-maker.

MARTI MACGIBBON is a certified mental health
professional, motivational speaker, veteran
standup comic, author of
Never Give In to Fear
and member of the National Speakers Association.
www.networkingtimes.com/link/MacGibbon