Ditching Perfectionism, with Jodi Flynn
Episode 99: Ditching Perfectionism, with Jodi Flynn
Jodi Flynn knows very well that Type-A people are a “special breed.” That’s because she works as a career coach for Type-A women...and if her additional list of titles (speaker, author, podcaster) doesn’t already give it away, Jodi is Type-A, too. While a Type-A woman’s desire for perfection can lead her on a journey to the top, Jodi points out that it can also hamper her efforts to get there through unnecessary self-doubt and burnout. In this episode, Jodi walks us through the rewards and challenges of holding oneself to the highest standard, and she outlines helpful practices that all women can adopt to let go of unrealistic expectations of what we can accomplish. In doing so, she believes we’ll find that we are actually able to accomplish more.
00:12 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. This is your host, Kristy Wallace, here with my co-host Maricella Herrera, and we are being silly in the studio today.
00:22 Maricella Herrera: And when are we not? [chuckle]
00:23 KW: I know. [chuckle] We are. It's very early in the morning, we are already talking about wine.
00:30 MH: When are we not? Again.
00:31 KW: True, true. It's a particularly rough day, so...
00:38 MH: So then it's been a long week, but it's been good.
00:40 KW: Time is like slipping like the grains of sand through an hourglass. [chuckle] These are the days of our lives. I don't know... [chuckle] remember, how that went? But that's how I feel, it's like going way too fast.
00:52 MH: Recoding the Young and the Restless next. [chuckle]
00:56 KW: So Maricella, I have a question for you.
00:58 MH: Yes. I may or may not have an answer.
01:00 KW: Would you consider yourself Type A?
01:02 MH: So, I consider myself Type A minus.
01:06 KW: What does that mean? [chuckle]
01:07 MH: I don't know. I do consider myself Type A. I am Type A. When I compare myself to others which I do a lot because I'm a Virgo and that's what we do. I don't think I'm that much of a Type A person, granted when I compare myself to others, I'm like talking about my B-School friends who are investment bankers, and that type of Type A. So, I think for the general population, I am. I don't think I would have gotten where I am if I wasn't, or do what I do if I wasn't because I like that. Yeah, you? You are a Type A.
01:42 KW: Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely I am. Yeah, like hands down.
01:46 MH: But I think a lot of the people on our team are Type A.
01:49 KW: I believe that there's... As with all things comes self-awareness and understanding what your personality type means for you, and the pros and cons, and it evolves depending on your work environment, your home environment. There's just so many different... It's so complex. But yeah, I'm definitely a type A.
02:10 MH: Yeah, I'm too.
02:11 KW: If you are a type A or if you are not, I think you're gonna really enjoy the conversation with Jodi Flynn. She has her own podcast, Women Taking The Lead, and she came out with a book actually which is sitting in front of me in the studio called, Accomplished: How to go from Dreaming to Doing. It's a great book, and I particularly like this piece on activities that are your kryptonite. It's really about what are those daily tasks or activities that you put off, that you don't wanna do, that hold you back or blockers in your ability to get things done. And I think that that is definitely something that holds me back is...
02:52 MH: What's your kryptonite?
02:55 KW: It depends 'cause sometimes I'm very much in the mood for spreadsheets and analysis and sometimes I just keep putting it off. I think it's either projects where I'm not 100% sure how I wanna approach it. And so, it's subconsciously me needing the extra time to process and think about it or sometimes it's just big projects that require my undivided attention for extended periods of time. Yeah, and writing actually, I love writing, I was an English major in school, but now when I try to blog, that I put off in part and I know why it is, it's because I overthink it.
03:43 MH: Right.
03:43 KW: Like I want there to be a thesis and some unique perspective in this 20-page report. And I'm not satisfied with the 150-word funny dialogue or whatever it is. So, I think I just need to redefine what that looks like for me.
04:02 MH: You just need to do it with a glass of wine.
04:04 KW: Everything with a glass of wine.
04:06 MH: No, not spreadsheets, that's with coffee.
04:09 KW: Okay.
04:11 MH: Actually there's research that when you need to be very focused, you should drink coffee, and when you need to be creative, you need to drink alcohol. They usually say beer, but I'd go with a glass of wine.
04:21 KW: Okay.
04:21 MH: But yes, there is research.
04:23 KW: Alright, I mean research proves it?
04:25 MH: Right.
04:25 KW: So, we should do that?
04:26 MH: Right.
04:27 KW: Okay, awesome. Well, let's get to my interview with Jodi, I hope you all enjoy it. And if you have not checked out the Ellevate Podcast ebook yet, which is this phenomenal guide that Maricella really put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into it's compilation of some of the great lessons learned, stories, obstacles overcome by our guests on our podcast. You should check it out, go to ellevatenetwork.com and you should see it on the home page.
05:07 KW: So, Jodi, I would love for you to tell me, because this is gonna turn into my own personal therapy session but I would love you to tell me how you help ambitious, overworked women in business to achieve their goals who are working less? I'm pretty sure you wrote that specifically for me, and if you could just solve my problems in the next 20 minutes, I'd really appreciate that.
05:29 Jodi Flynn: [chuckle] Alright, Kristy. There's no problem. We will take care of this easy-peasy. Well, so Type A women, I work with Type A women because we're a special breed [chuckle] and it's those ambitious, go-getting, high-achieving women that typically is the descriptor for Type A. And so, you might have seen on my website, I talk a lot about Type A women, and that's what I'm talking about. Specifically, I focus on these women because I am one of them and I understand their unique strengths as well as their trials and tribulations that they're faced with. So the strengths of this ambitious go-getting women is, they value excellence, they're reliable, they produce high-quality work, they're goal oriented, time efficient. Does all of this sound familiar to you?
06:22 KW: It does, yes.
06:23 JF: Okay. But on the flip side of things, when we go into overdrive, when we get really driven, really focused on a goal, then we can fall into perfectionism, needing to be in control, there might be some micromanaging or what I call getting into the weeds of things, we have this need for recognition or we really wanna wow people, and that can cause us to also do people pleasing and then we're not honoring our boundaries, we'll give too much in an effort to over deliver and these tendencies can cause conflict, burnout and diminishing returns on time and energy. So, how I help these women to achieve more while doing less, is we start tackling those things: The perfectionism, the need to be in control, the not set boundaries, not taking care of yourself. And when you focus in on those areas, all of a sudden, you do find you have more energy, more time, things are going more smoothly, relationships are better, and so you're able to achieve more while relaxing more.
07:32 KW: And it certainly resonates with me, I feel in a way that I having kids, I have three kids between the ages of 3 and 8, forced me to let go of a lot of the micromanaging and being in control, but yet, I haven't let go of wanting to be perfect and the best at everything. And so, it's a struggle because I'm like, "I've learned to let go of having to do everything and how to manage it and I've become much better at outsourcing, but yet I still wanna be the perfect parent and the perfect boss and the perfect leader and the perfect everything," and so that creates a lot of conflict.
08:14 JF: Oh, yeah, absolutely. More internal conflict probably than external conflict, but that's where it all starts.
08:20 KW: Absolutely. It's all in my head. It's all in my head.
08:23 JF: Right? And that's where it starts from. And that's very typical of Type A women. The standard for yourself is so high, you can never achieve it and you probably relive your mistakes and you might beat yourself up over those things too. Really, the focus on is on acknowledging what you have been able to accomplish, what you are doing right, what is going well. 'Cause I think sometimes, like I said, when we can get stressed out, you've done a good job of letting go of the things you've realized. If I don't give up control over these things, a lot's gonna fall apart. So you made the sacrifice to give up those things but you're still holding on to the judgments you have about yourself. And if you can focus on what you're doing right and become kind of like your own fan and cheer yourself on almost like... The perspective I often give my clients is, "Well, what if you were your sister or your best friend? What standard would you hold them to?"
09:31 KW: That's such good advice. And Katharine, our producer, is sitting right next to me like, "Yes." Because I think we need to be our own biggest fan, and they love that perspective if you're a sister or a friend. We so often are our harshest critic and if you turn it to being your biggest fan, suddenly the situation takes on a whole different nuance and impact and vision and view of it.
10:04 JF: Mm-hmm. Another thing I'll do with my clients is also see like what are the benefits you're getting out of holding yourself to these standards, and what price are you paying? So if you were to say, what are the benefits you're getting from having this perfectionism and need to do everything right, be the perfect mom, daughter, wife, sister, friend. What does that get you?
10:34 KW: Do you think that your clients... Do you think that many of the women know that they're holding themselves to such a high standard? Or is it just the way you've always been and so that's the norm? And then it kind of takes that awareness of actually, your norm is pretty extreme?
10:49 JF: I think it's a little bit of both. I think it's been there for a long time, and a lot of this is learned behavior. We fall into this over time. For some reason, somewhere in our life, we felt the need where we had to step up and do everything right, we had to prove ourselves, everything had to be done just right in order to achieve a certain outcome. So there was probably something pretty significant in our life or a series of events where we took on then that mentality, and then we just continued to live it out over and over again. But women who have that mentality, they go between racing, racing, racing, racing, working really hard, and then burning out, and then recovering, and then racing, racing, racing, working really hard, burning out, and recovering. So they recognize the pattern's not healthy because when you hit burnout, that you do have that moment like, "Oh, my gosh. What did I just do to myself?" But then you almost can't stop yourself from picking... Like, as soon as you feel better, then you're like, "Oh, great. I have all this energy, now I can dive right back into work and being the best at everything."
12:01 JF: So I think it's a pattern that's been going on for a long time, but there is a part of us that knows like this isn't healthy, this doesn't feel good. And the other thing is, when you have a standard you can't ever achieve, that impacts your self-image. That is what makes us so susceptible to self-doubt and the inner critic, and I think this is typical, probably. I'm gonna go out there and say this, more common with women than with men, I know men have inner critics, but perfectionism is more prevalent in women than it is in men. And when there's perfectionism, there's gonna be self doubt, there's gonna be the inner critic because how can you feel good about yourself if you can never achieve your own standard?
12:46 KW: How did you personally get to the point where you have these amazing insights? Because hearing you talk I'm like, "Whoa, she's got it together, she knows her stuff." How did you get to this point?
13:01 JF: I think it was just my own story. When I was a child, I was so, so shy to the point where I trained myself to breathe silently so I wouldn't draw attention to myself. That's how shy I was. In my house, when I was at home with my family, I was myself, I was a bit of a wild child, but as soon as I went out the front door, I would shut down, clam up, and I just could not be myself and went through most of my schooling like that, it was just a series of experiences where I had to push outside my comfort zone, I had to start talking to people, make new friends, and then when I went to college, I was introduced to the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, and that book made me realize how much stress I was under just trying to be in the world, just trying to interact with people trying to make it, and I did definitely have those type A tendencies at that time as well. And it helped me to let go of a lot of it, to not be so hard on myself too. I loved one of the agreements. I don't know if you've read the book, Kristy, but one of the agreements is always do your best.
14:20 JF: And the book talked about how, that when you're sick, when you have a cold, the best you have is to take care of yourself, to get rest, to drink chicken soup, to drink water, to sleep. That's you at your best, when you're sick. So, it really allowed me to accept myself in each moment because what we have to give moment by moment, hour by hour, and day by day is different. And it allowed me to just acknowledge like, "Okay, this is the best I have to give right now."
14:53 KW: It's true. I was sick this past week, and it was this internal struggle because I needed to sleep and I needed to rest, but I was so stressed that I wasn't working and I wasn't doing things and so it was like my body's like, "Take a nap." But yet I'm like, "No, I need to go out and do things." And so I'm not doing anything well because I'm fighting against both of those mindsets.
15:20 JF: Yes, and I'm laughing to myself too because I also want to acknowledge, I'm a work in progress as well. As much as I say this, I have those days where I'm really sick and I'll take a day off, but then the next day I'm like, "Nope, I took a day off now I gotta jump right back in, I gotta get back into it." And what ends up happening is, I wipe myself out, trying to get back into the swing of things too fast, and then I'm probably sick longer than I would have been if I'd just taken the time I needed to recover. It's great to have the insights and the tools, and all of these things are helpful, but we have to practice them in order for them to work.
16:00 KW: Sure. So you have a podcast, you are a fantastic thought leader writer, you've got a great, I guess blog articles, and you are a coach, and you also are involved with the Maine Women's Conference. So I would say, that you are wearing a lot of hats and you're doing a lot of things, and I'm incredibly impressed by that but have no idea how you managed to do it all.
16:30 JF: You know what's really funny, Kristy? I was looking at your LinkedIn profile today too, and I thought the same thing. How is she on all of these boards and these committees, these associations, and doing what she's doing. But I think it's amazing how much we can do when we manage ourselves. So first, thank you for the acknowledgement. I do have a lot going on, and how I do it is, first and foremost, I manage my energy by managing my mindset. I think a lot of people lose energy and can't do everything they wanna do, because they're so bogged down from their mindset, and they lose energy from that. So I have practices in place to stay positive to, like I said before, to let go of perfectionism, 'cause that's exhausting, let go of those standards, and taking really good care of myself. And externally, I have systems and processes that I live by. I live by my calendar, my spreadsheets, my to-do list to keep it all organized, and I outsource, I have a virtual assistant who helps me to check off the to-dos on those lists, and I've gotten to a point where I've said no to things that don't energize me and I don't have a passion for. I do a lot of work, but I'm very energized by the work that I'm doing, the podcast, my business, the coaching, the Maine Women's Conference, supporting other people in the community. It's all things that I'm excited about and I get energized by.
18:10 KW: Well, thank you for that. And as you're talking, I was thinking about the things that I do, and for me, a friend had made this observation and it resonated with me, which is, I was lamenting the fact that I don't have any hobbies, I was like, "Oh," and she's like, "Well, all your boards and all the other things you do are your hobbies, they're the things that fulfill you personally and you get excited by," and that is true, but it means that there's very little time with all that for me. And so you've been talking a little bit about self-care and self-reflection, what does that mean? And how do we make that more of a focus as a way to really help us be better leaders and better individuals by focusing on ourselves first?
19:00 JF: Well, for me, I would say my self-care and the mindset work that I'm doing, I'm gonna have to bring this up, even though there's a part of me, I've become more transparent about this on my podcast but I think it's an area where I think as leaders we sometimes think, "Oh, should I go here?" But for me, the core of my self-care practice is my spiritual practice, it fuels all of my self-care. And as of the day we're recording this episode, I'm about 80 days into a course in miracles. I don't know if any of your listeners have done it. I've been wanting to do a course in miracles for years, but was too intimidated by it, and finally recently, I was like, "Nope, I'm doing it." So right now I'm waking up a little earlier in the morning to carve out time to do the reading and the meditations, and it starts my day in such a state of peace and gives me a great mindset for looking at things. And as a result of doing that, I've been repairing relationships, I've gotten new inspired ideas for my business and in my community, and I'm not saying that I'm not facing challenges and obstacles in my life, that doesn't go away but I would say because of this practice, that I have more ease in facing these things.
20:25 KW: I appreciate you sharing that with us because I've talked to a lot of women who I admire and who I think are incredibly inspiring, and that's a common theme that I hear about being grateful, being more intentional, creating... And however you do that, meditation. I have never heard of miracles, but I really wanna know more about it. Now I'm like making notes like, look that up. Or intention boards or things like that. And that's a big part of it, is that self-care and I just don't think we prioritize that enough or make the time for it. How did you make that as something that you do everyday?
21:15 JF: You know, for years I was kicking myself because you know how there were just some things in your business, you just intuitively know, like if I did X that would really make a difference in my business or my career. And for years, what kept coming to me was, "I know if I meditated in the morning, that would really make a difference in my business and it took a long time for me to pick up the practice. It was like one of those things where I start and stop, start and stop. But finally I just got to a point where I was like, five minutes a day, I can commit to five minutes every morning to meditate and I put it on my to-do list. So, if I didn't get it done in the morning, it sat on my to-do list all day till finally I get fed up in between meetings or something, I would just be like, "Okay, I'm just gonna stop what I'm doing, I'm just gonna sit quietly, I'm gonna meditate." So it made it easier and easier over time to do a little bit longer, and so when I decided to do a course in miracles, I was like, because it's a book that's broken out into three volumes, so it's three volumes within one book and the first part, the text, it's very dense and it's not an easy read.
22:27 JF: And I'll read one section a day and it can take me anywhere from a half an hour to an hour and a half to do. Based on what the content is or my resistance to the content too because a lot of the concepts challenge our inner critic and our ego mind. So sometimes you're reading something and your inner critic will go wild, so now you're dealing with that. Or an inspired idea in my mind will start to wander so I will say, I am dedicating more time to this. I'm probably the typical woman has, but this isn't something I just woke up one morning and said, "I'm gonna carve out an hour for my spiritual practice." It's like building a muscle, it's something I started with five minutes a day, and I've been able to increase it over time.
23:16 KW: So you have your own podcast, we're talking about podcasts here, why did you start a podcast?
23:22 JF: I started a podcast... The back story is my friend, John, he was in my BNI group, he was doing commercial real estate at the time when we met, and about a year and a half after he joined BNI, or I should say Business Networking International for anyone who doesn't know it, it's a global franchise of organized networking chapters around the world. And so John and I were in a particular chapter together and a year and a half in, he decided he was leaving commercial real state and he was going to start a podcast. And I'd heard a podcast but I didn't listen to any, and I didn't know why people listen to podcasts, they didn't make sense to me. And so we got together for coffee and he told me about this idea he had for doing a seven-day a week podcast for entrepreneurs, and I remember just listening to him and just starting to sweat 'cause I was just getting excited, I was just like, "Oh, my god. This idea's great. I have no idea if it's gonna work, but how exciting." And it turned out he did very well for himself, and he started getting other people in our community that we knew starting podcasts, and I had done a couple local radio shows and had gotten feedback about, "Oh, you're articulate, you have a great voice. You should start a podcast."
24:43 JF: And I just started... More people started saying that and I just was like, "I should." And I think a lot of us get this, where there are things people around us, or we just have this pull to try something and it just gets to a point where you're like, "Why am I not doing this? Why have I not done it yet?" But I knew it was a big deal. You definitely know the work that goes into a podcast and all it takes and the support you need to make it happen. But finally, my friend Kate was like, "Give me a date. When are you doing this? Make it happen." And when I had thought of the idea for my podcast, 'cause my podcast is Women Taking The Lead, I just got so lit up and inspired by what that could be and what that could do and how I could help women to step up into leadership, because at the time when I was thinking about starting the podcast, I was doing local workshops in businesses and for different groups, and I noticed time and again, the women in the workshops, when you'd ask the question like... And maybe workshops on leadership and being frontline managers and getting promoted and taking on greater leadership positions within organizations, and I'd ask all the participants like, "Okay, why are you here?" as a part of their introduction.
26:06 JF: And the men in the workshops would be like, "Oh, because I'm gonna be a president someday," or, "Because I'm a natural leader." And when the women would answer the question, they would say things like, "I don't know why I am here," or, "I was sent. My boss wanted me to come, so I guess, I'm coming," and it would just break my heart. Now luckily, these workshops would happen over the course of six months, they were like a workshop series. So about every three weeks, we need to have a full day workshop, and by the third or fourth workshop the women who had originally said I don't know why I'm here or I was sent, finally would come to say, "I get it. I know why I'm here, like I am a leader." And that made me feel so good that they got to the point, but I'm like, "They're not alone." I know tons of women out in the world who are probably sharing this story or have this story in their head about themselves up like, "Oh, I'm not a leader," and I was just like, "I have to do something about this." And so, all of those things combined, I just got to a point and when my friend called me out, I was like, "By March 2015, I will launch my podcast," and I did.
27:17 KW: So if you had to pick one woman to interview past, present, who would it be? Who is your ideal podcast guest?
27:25 JF: This question is so hard because I'm an interviewer. [chuckle] There are so many women I wanna interview, especially when you have the option of pass, that's really cool, but I would say my current obsession is Marianne Williamson. I read a quote from her book of A Return to Love, at the end of every one of my podcasts, and she's the one who first brought to my attention A Course in Miracles. So she's had a huge impact on my life, and I've downloaded her audiobooks onto my phone and I listened to it in the morning all the time. I just get so inspired by what she knows and the way she thinks and the way she presents information, and I wouldn't wanna just interview her. I'll be honest, Kristy, I would wanna spend a day with her and just soak up everything I could get from her.
28:21 KW: That's fantastic. Well, thank you. Thanks so much for joining us today on the Ellevate Podcast. It was great to catch up with you and to hear all about the things that you're working on. I'm left with a million notes for myself to take action on, so I hope our listeners are as well, and really appreciate you taking the time, Jodi.
28:42 JF: Kristy, I'm so honored that you asked me, and thank you to the listeners for tuning in and absolutely reach out to me if there's anything I can do for you.
28:52 KW: Absolutely. Thanks, Jodi.
28:56 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out, subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @EllevateNtwk, that's Ellevate Network and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, www.ellevatenetwork.com, that's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E network.com. And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks, and to our voiceover artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.
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