Episode 45: 10 Signs You’re A Perfectionist

ST45: 10 Signs You’re A Perfectionist

Are you smart and ambitious but procrastinate and get in your own way? Chances are you’re a perfectionist – even if you don’t realize it! In this episode, I’m sharing 10 signs you’re a perfectionist and my tips on how to overcome perfectionism.

I get so many emails from readers and listeners saying that they can relate to what I talk about on the podcast but they don’t think they’re a perfectionist. So I thought it was about time that I explained what I mean when I talk about perfectionism!

Perfectionism is something that underlies every single podcast episode I’ve ever recorded, but I’ve never actually done an episode on exactly what perfectionism is and how to overcome it. In this episode, I’m diving into the perfectionist mindset and talking about where it comes from, how to tell if you’ve got it and how to move out of it. I hope you find it helpful!



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Are you smart and ambitious but procrastinate and get in your own way?


Hi and welcome to episode 45 of The Smart Twenties podcast. My name is Sam Laura Brown and this is a podcast where I share personal growth and life advice and today I’m going to be sharing 10 Signs That You’re a Perfectionist.

And this morning before recording this podcast episode, I was interviewed on two different podcasts and we were talking about all the signs and symptoms of perfectionism. Not that it’s a disease that definitely made it sound like it is, but all the signs that you’re a perfectionist and what it really is and then how to start overcoming it and moving into the growth mindset and it’s something that’s really an undercurrent through every single episode I’ve recorded but I don’t think I’ve actually done an episode on what perfectionism really is. I know I’ve done a Youtube video with the same title as this podcast episode, but I didn’t actually want to go and re-watch that video because that was in May 2017.

I had a quick look at it and I’ve learned so much about perfectionism since then that I just wanted to do an updated version on that and I get so many emails from readers and listeners who say, “I can really relate to what you talk about, but I’m not a perfectionist,” when really they actually do have that mindset but I thought it might be helpful to go through what I really mean when I’m talking about that perfectionist fixed mindset because it’s really hard to figure out how to move past something if you don’t actually know what it is. And for me, I didn’t know that perfectionism. Not that I want to label myself because then that can be quite a self-fulfilling prophecy when you’re like, “I’m a perfectionist, so then I’m going to have all these limiting beliefs and then you can feed into that story.”

So I try not to label myself as a perfectionist, but in terms of helping people and communicating things, I find that using that term or the term a fixed mindset, which I used quite interchangeably. It’s really helpful so you can actually start to get some resources and start to figure out how to then move into the growth mindset and build shame, resilience and all of these things that are really important for getting into the mindset that’s really going to help you reach your full potential. So I’ve actually spent already two hours talking to this morning on those podcasts episodes and it’s really funny, the more I talk, the more I wanted to talk, so I just felt so energized by having those conversations and because we were talking so much about this topic, I realized that I haven’t actually spelled it out for you guys on my podcast. So that’s what I’m going to be doing in this episode.

This is really just what I’ve learned from the last five years of my personal development work. It has been such a journey to learn all of this and I’m still learning so much about it and different ways to get out of the mindset and how to really work with it and have it work for you and helping people really understand what it actually is. Because a lot of people think that perfectionist are really neat and tidy and when they look at themselves and look at the life around them and see that it’s not neat and tidy, there’ll be like, “I’m not a perfectionist because if I was I wouldn’t be procrastinating so much,” when really that’s what a perfectionist is. It’s having these really crazy high ideals, but then really struggling to meet them.

So I’ve got 10 symptoms of perfectionism. There are so many different ones, but I just wrote the 10 ones that came to my head first, so I’m going to be chatting through them. Just have a think about your own life and maybe a particular goal that you’re working towards. You might be thinking about a business that you have or that you want to start. You might be thinking about health and fitness. You might be thinking about relationships. It’s also very interesting because with this fixed-mindset perfectionist self, we can have that mindset in one area of our life, but not another area. So I’ve found for me the biggest area of my life that I’ve had this mindset is when it comes to school and business and anything relating to intelligence, and I’ll talk more about why that is, but I’ve found that even though I’ve still had a fixed mindset in a lot of ways around health and fitness, I’ve really been able to get myself out of that and I spoke about that a few episodes ago my health and fitness journey and how I’ve gotten myself out of the all-or-nothing mindset and into a growth mindset where I’m willing to show up even if it’s going to be a shit day.

So it can really show up in different areas. And then if there’s an area– this is just something you can think about, if there’s an area where you don’t have these perfectionist tendencies, you can then use that as a way to create a growth mindset in other areas of your life. So for me, health and fitness or something that I have been able to create a growth mindset in more easily. So I’m willing to do things that won’t work out. I’m willing to try things and fail it them. I’m really willing to just not make progress for a long time and not make it mean anything. Whereas in business I find that a lot more challenging, so I’ve looked at my health and fitness area of my life as an example and to get out of that fixed mindset in my business, I’ve actually applied a lot of things that worked for me and my fitness journey.

So if fitness is something that you are really not all-or-nothing mindset around, then definitely go back and have a listen to that episode as well. Because I really go into everything, like my whole journey and how I got myself out of that all-or-nothing mindset, which is so challenging because you’re trying so hard and it also takes a lot of efforts to procrastinate. Even though we kind of don’t realize that because you’re like beating yourself up and you’re feeling so guilty and it still feels like a struggle to procrastinate. So you’re really putting in all this energy and not getting any results. So it’s been so empowering for me to get myself out of that mindset when it comes to health and fitness and now I’m doing the same thing with business, but perfectionism, before I go into the symptoms, what it is is really just a mechanism to avoid the feeling of shame.

So there’s all of these fears that we have and procrastination and all these symptoms, but really like the reason that we’re scared of judgment isn’t because we’re scared of judgment in and of itself. It’s because we’re scared of feeling that feeling of shame and it’s the same with all of these things that I’m going to be talking about.

What we’re really doing is trying to avoid that emotion of shame, which is actually quite twisted and interesting when you think about it because we shame ourselves if we’re in the fixed mindset, shame ourselves so often and beat ourselves up so often that we’re actually creating exactly what we’re trying to avoid. We do this in so many ways. If you have the, the perfectionist mindset because you’ll be trying to avoid the disappointment of not achieving your goals and to do that you disappoint yourself in the present by not even creating a goal.

So often in perfectionism– it’s really were creating a lot of the emotions that we’re working really hard to avoid, which is why it’s quite a frustrating place to be. I’ve actually just thought of another symptom that– I’m just quickly writing down so I can talk about it. Sorry, just one second. I’ve got this list in front of me. As you guys probably already know, I just love chatting along and talking through things and so I’ve got my notes in front of me, like just turned up points now 11 because I thought of something else that’s really good to talk about.

So anyway, perfectionism can also be called the fixed mindset, which is something that I’ve learned from Carol Dweck. Her book mindset is phenomenal and she also has a great interview that I’ve mentioned numerous times on Tom Bilyeu’s Youtube channel all about the fixed mindset and perfectionism.

So the fixed mindset, it’s called fixed mindseta because it’s really having this belief that your intelligence, your natural abilities, your talents, all of that was decided at birth. It’s fixed, it can’t be changed and therefore everything we do is evidence of whether or not we’re good enough. The growth mindset on the other hand is a belief that talents, IQ, natural abilities, all of that, they can be improved with effort and practice and so people in that growth mindset don’t make failure mean anything. They are willing to do things like– they’d rather do something that they haven’t done before than do what they already know how to do. It’s so interesting in that book mindset because Carol talks a lot about different experiments that she’s done, particularly on young children, which I find fascinating because it’s something that so many of us have developed from such a young age, which is why it takes so much work to get out of this mindset, but they can give– like they can ask questions in a certain way and set up so someone’s either in a fixed mindset or a growth mindset and they got these kids into the fixed mindset and got them to do a puzzle and then they asked them, “Do you want to do this puzzle again, or would you like to do a new puzzle that might be a bit more challenging?” And the kids in the fixed mindset do the puzzle again and again and again because they only want to do what they’re going to be good at. They’re getting praised for the results, so they want to make sure that they’re going to get a good result and the best way to get a good result is to do something you’ve already done before. Whereas the kids in the growth mindset will really want to do the new puzzle. They don’t care that they might not get it right. They just want to learn and grow.

So many of us intellectually think we’re in the growth mindset, especially if you’re really into personal development. I know that when I first heard about the fixed mindset and the growth mindset, I was like, “Oh, for sure I’m in the growth mindset,” like I love personal development so much there’s no way that I am not in the growth mindset, but when I really got into it, I was so in the fixed mindset because I intellectually know that failure is part of success, but I’m still doing everything in my power to avoid failure. I’m making it mean something and still very much in that mentality that it’s evidence of whether or not I’m good enough, which is something I’ve really come a long way with and I’m sure I will mention as I go through all of these different symptoms, but when I’m talking about perfectionism and the fixed mindset, it’s really important. Even though I’m like giving it a label. It’s not who you are. Like we often want to label ourselves so that we can and be consistent and we can be right about ourselves.

Human nature is that we always want to be right and we especially want to be right about who we are. I spoke about this a lot in my episode on the power of self-image and how to transform your self-image, so I won’t go into it here, but for example, with perfectionism and the fixed mindset, if we get too attached to having that identity and “Oh, that’s just who I am,” I’m just like– I get people saying like, “I’m just a natural procrastinator.” No, you’re not. It’s just something that you’ve learned and it’s something that you can online. So I think it is very important that I’m not saying like, this is just how you’re always going to be, because I know myself, I’ve managed to get myself into a growth mindset and different areas of my life.

It’s not just who I am, they’re just things that we’ve learned, especially from a young age and a lot of the reason that so many of us get into this fixed mindset. It’s very, very common is that in school and from our parents we’re always praised for being smart. I know that if you’re probably– if you’re listening to this, you’ve probably been praised a lot for being smart. You identify yourself as being an intelligent person and when we get that praise and approval for being smart, instead of having that motivate us to achieve even more, we think about it in terms of, “Okay, well then I have to make sure I’m good at everything I do,” and because it’s challenging to be good at new things. It means that like the kids with the puzzle, we just keep doing the same puzzle over and over again.

We do the degree that we think will get good marks in and that everyone will praise us for. Especially like for me, I did Law and Finance which make me look smart. I didn’t like– that wasn’t a conscious intention at the time, but I definitely– in hindsight, I can see that that tied into doing what I think smart people do and kind of perpetuating that self-image, but it also meant that I didn’t try things that I could have failed that because I just wanted to be smart. I just wanted to keep receiving that praise and approval for being intelligent. So often what we do is instead of really setting huge goals and going out to achieve them. We shrink our world so that it can be this small manageable set of things that we’re good at.

So I’m going to start talking about the symptoms now because I could probably go on forever and I know I’m going to cover a lot of what I want to say about it as we go through, but it really is a mindset that you can change out of and you might not relate to every single one of these. So chances are that you will, but just have a think about everything and really focus particularly on just thinking about one area of your life or just listen along and I’m sure something will come to mind, but really don’t just listen to this and be very passive about it. Really start thinking, “Okay, like is there somewhere in my life where I can relate to that?”

Because just building that self-awareness really does help to move things forward in terms of getting out of that mindset and into a growth mindset. And I think as well, there’s not this like, “You’re in fixed or you’re in growth mindset,” I see it as more of a spectrum, so there’s fixed like 100% fixed mindset at one end and 100% growth mindset at the other end, which they’re both just a set of beliefs and you’re just trying to move up the spectrum closer to the growth mindset. So I feel like I’ve definitely made a lot of progress, but I’m still working on moving towards that growth mindset. But that’s also like a growth mindset approach to get into a growth mindset and not having it this all-or-nothing. You’re either in a growth mindset or your night, it’s kind of like degrees and you can begin to change different beliefs that you haven’t changed the way that you do things and changed way that you praise yourself. So now that we’re 15 minutes in, I’m actually going to talk about the 10 Signs That You Are A Perfectionist. I’ve mentioned quite a lot of them, but I’m just going to really get into each of them.

So the first one is that you have an all-or-nothing mindset. A lot of us talk about the all-or-nothing mindset as if it’s just the way that we are. I can either eat, I have to eat no Maltesers or a whole packet of Maltesers. There’s no in between. I’m either going to the gym every day or not at all. I’m either eating healthy 100% or not at all. I’m either super motivated with my blog or I’m not posting it all like we often talk about it. We can self-identify, but then we label it like that’s the only way we could ever be. So if that’s been you and your you just hear yourself saying, “I’m just an all-or-nothing person,” I really encourage you to just catch yourself and if you don’t even replace that with something else, just remove that from your vocabulary. Because as I was saying, self-image is really a self-fulfilling prophecy. And if you keep telling this story that you’re an all-or-nothing person, you will keep being an all-or-nothing person.

So even if it doesn’t feel true yet, just start to say no, I can do things in moderation or whatever it is. I know for fitness, I’ve really created the belief that there is no like falling off the wagon. I think so many of us have got this idea that you’re either on the wagon or your office, like all-or-nothing. And I just like to see it as a continual journey. Some weeks I go six times, some weeks, I go 3 times, some weeks ago, one time, but I’m always in the habit. It’s never like I’m in it or I’m not. So just be really mindful of the language that you’re using with all of these too we like to say, “I’m just an all-or-nothing person. I’m just a people pleaser. I’m just scared of what other people think.” Just start to pay attention to how you describe yourself to other people because it feels like we’re just observing the facts when really we’re actually creating that identity for ourselves and living into it. Because as humans we always want to be right, especially about ourselves. But the kicker is, and the good thing is that we can always find evidence for whatever we want. We just have to train our brain to look at it, look for it so you can start looking for evidence of things you have been able to do successfully in moderation, even if it’s just one thing you can start to instead of focusing on all the times, you’re all nothing. You can start focusing on the Times that you’ve been successful at something in moderation or whatever it is. So the all-or-nothing mindset like the reason that we have that is because it’s very vulnerable if you’re in, if you have the fixed mindset and you believe that you have these natural set of abilities and talents and everything is evidence of whether or not you have enough of them, it’s very vulnerable to be doing something and not getting a result and not getting positive feedback.

So what we do, I’ll use health and fitness as an example because it’s such an obvious one that shows up for so many people healthy eating. You will be eating healthy to an absolute tee and then, “Oh, the coworker brings in some donuts. Oh, just have one donut. Everyone’s having a donut. I don’t want people to question me. I don’t want to be the weirdo who’s not eating anything…” so then we have the doughnut and then we label it as being off the wagon, etcetera but the reason that we do that is because it’s often really painful to be trying something and not succeeding at it. So we’re great while we’re succeeding, especially in those initial stages when we haven’t done it for long enough to get any kind of positive or negative feedback. But then once we start to hit those first few stumbling blocks, which are always inevitable, then it’s like, “Okay, well I’ll just abandoned this!” but often we don’t abandon it really blatantly. What we do is we make excuses. We say that we’re too busy. Basically, we try to blame everything but us so that we can still hold onto our potential. Because remember, the fixed mindset is really around wanting to believe that we have all of this potential and one way that we protect ourselves and this identity around having potential is by not fully trained anything. Because if you don’t fully try then you can never fully fail. You’ll always have the excuse of like, “Yeah, I would be more successful if I tried harder.”

So the all-or-nothing mindset can be like one that just feels like it’s happening on autopilot. It definitely used to feel like that for me, I felt helpless to stop it. And after this, after I go through the symptoms, I’ll talk about a few different things you can do to help you get into a growth mindset. But yeah, that all-or-nothing mindset is really something that we’re doing to try and avoid the vulnerability of putting in an effort and not getting the result. And the reason why I try to avoid that is that basically will shame ourselves if we’re in that situation where we’re not achieving things. I just thought of another really good symptom. Now it’s going to be 12. That’s all right. Okay. I’ll make it to bonus ones.

So number 2 is people pleasing and this is one that I think a lot of people struggle with. I would say most people I know regardless of whether or not they identify with being a perfectionist or the fixed mindset or if they even know what that is, I think from a young age we’re really conditioned to want the approval of everyone around us, especially our parents. I think when it comes to parents, it’s kind of this belief that they should– like we have this idea as a society that your parents should love you unconditionally. So it seems more painful that if your parents don’t of you, it’s like the ultimate disapproval because of anyone in the world– they’re the ones that should love you. So I think most people have one parent or the other or both that they are trying to please, even if they don’t consciously realize it, often they will have constructed their lives in a way that their parents will approve of. So people pleasing is something that for me, I have definitely struggled with my whole life. I know that when I was younger I definitely craved approval from other people, but it just shows up in so many sneaky little ways of like choosing a certain career path and like even little things, like I would notice that when I was going shopping for clothes I would like look at something and be like, “Oh no, not really. Don’t really like that!” And then I’d see someone else look at it and show interest. I’d be like, “Oh, maybe I do like that!” And just this constantly to try and fit in and people please and just have everyone approve of me. And so that’s a huge symptom of the perfectionist fixed mindset is really wanting everyone else’s approval beyond your own approval.

So the reason that we want other people’s approval and to please other people is usually because we don’t approve of ourselves and we’re trying to compensate for that by pleasing other people. And we think, if enough people can just be happy with us, then maybe we can be happy with ourselves, which obviously like perfectionist end up really getting frustrated because they’ve got all of these achievements and they’re getting all of this praise and it’s still not enough and it’s comes down to really not approving of ourselves.

So one of the best ways to get out of perfectionist and the fixed mindset is to really start approving of yourself, appreciating yourself. And so many of us have this idea that if I’m happy with where I am and if I’m grateful for where I am, then I’ll get so complacent and I’m not going to change and that’s because we’ve really learned that the only reason to change something is to make yourself happy.

So you have to make sure you’re unhappy. Otherwise, you don’t have a reason to change. And we create all of this dissatisfaction just so that when we change, it’s justified, even though that’s not the point of changing something. And I’m really learning how to be grateful and happy where I am and to want more. They’re not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to be dissatisfied to want more. And I think I’m not alone in the fact that like if say a friend’s telling me like I’ve quit my job, I’d be like, “Oh, what was wrong?” Like we always seem to ask, “Oh, what’s wrong,” because you wouldn’t change something unless something was wrong, and so we often create all of this dissatisfaction so that we have an excuse to grow and I used to beat myself up so much with this belief of like if I’m kind to myself, then I’ll just get so complacent and I’ll just be happy with being average.

So I need to beat myself into success basically. And thankfully I have really started to learn that that’s not how it works and that I’m actually achieving so much more when I’m kind to myself and it makes sense when you think about yourself as being your friend and that if you had a friend who wasn’t achieved– like we naturally do it with other people were very encouraging. We show them what’s good about them instead of pointing out the things that are bad about them and yet we think with ourselves that doing that will actually not be effective. Even though we see it be so effective with our friends. We think– oh, you know– you encourage a friend, but when it comes to yourself, if you encourage yourself and you’re really kind to yourself, then you’ll just get complacent even though it doesn’t work that way.

So people pleasing is number 2, so just have a think about whether you’ve made certain decisions or you’re acting in a certain way just to get someone’s approval. Usually, we are. Sometimes, it’s hard to identify who it is often it’s like this vague other like of what we’re scared of what other people think, and this runs into my next one which has been scared of judgment, so we have this fear of what other people will think and often that’s not the real fear. We just keep it so vague so that we don’t actually have to face a real fear, which is usually the disapproval of one particular individual. It can sometimes be like someone you don’t even like, but for some reason, you just really are craving their approval. It can often be a parent, as I was saying, or it could be like a guardian or someone that you look up to as a parent– parental figure.

So yeah, that’s something to really think about is fear of judgment. Often if you think I’m just scared of what other people think, really have a dig into it and see if there is actually a particular person. Usually, it takes a little bit of digging because we try to be so vague so we never have to realize it but I know that with a lot of my coaching clients, it always seems to come back to one particular parent that they hadn’t even realized.

They were just scared of what other people would think and then when we really start to dive into it, it’s like, “Oh actually I’m doing this because my dad has, you know, really wants me to be in this kind of job,” or whatever it is. And once we actually see the real, the real person like that, we’re scared of being judged by and get specific. That’s when you can overcome the fear. It’s when we keep it being this vague “I’m scared of what other people think” That’s when it’s so hard to tackle, but once you can get it to something really specific, like I’m scared of what my dad thinks, I’m scared of what my mom thinks, I’m scared of what my brother thinks. I’m scared of what my best friend will think.

Then you can actually see it.

And most of the time when you see it for what it really is, you’re like, “Oh, that’s just silly because they’ve already been so supportive,” or even if they haven’t been so supportive– one thing that I really helped my clients do is often get them to understand from a different perspective, their parent’s motivations.

So we often think that people want us to do a certain thing because otherwise we’re doing it wrong or being irresponsible and that they’re going to withhold love and affection and wanting to see us. But usually the reason that our parents will want us to be in a secure job, they’ll want us to be responsible with money and all that kind of stuff is really just because they love us and they want us to be happy and they’re in their own way just trying to control that and trying to make us happy and it’s just crazy when you think about it because so often we are miserable trying to please other people and if we could just like, they would actually be more pleased if we were happy and if we pursued whatever it was and sometimes it takes a bit of warming up to get people on board, especially like this fear of judgment really comes from judging yourself and then projecting that judgment onto those around you, particularly those closest to you.

I know that I definitely did that when I started my blog. I judged myself hardcore and I assume that everyone else in my life, even though they’d been completely supportive of everything up until that point, I just assumed that they would think all of the horrible things that I was thinking about myself. So getting over a fear of judgment– one thing as I was saying that is really helpful is getting super specific. Not Letting yourself continue this dialogue of “I’m just scared of what people think” really ask yourself. Know who exactly am I scared of? Like whose opinion am I really trying to really try to get approval from here?

And then the other thing, and again this is about every point we’ll come back to– is really doing the work on yourself to not be judging yourself because that’s really what makes judgment from other people’s sting it’s when we’re projecting that onto everyone else or people are saying things to us and we’re letting ourselves believe it because we kind of agree with them like it’s. We don’t want people to think negative negatively of us even though we’re thinking negatively of us. So it’s really creating that belief in yourself so that when someone says, “What the hell are you doing?” You’re like, “I know what I’m doing,” or whatever it is, but it’s such a huge part of getting over what people will think yes we all know intellectually it doesn’t matter, so I’m not going to go and talk about that. What I do want to talk about is getting super specific with who that person is. Usually. it’s one person. Usually, it’s a parent just as a bit of a hint and then just really working on your own belief so that any comments people say will just be like water off a duck’s back– you’re really not concerned about it.

When I first started my blog, if I had the feeling that if someone said to me, what the hell are you doing? I’d be like, “Oh my God, what the hell am I doing? I’ll just shut this thing down right now!” Whereas now if someone’s like, “I don’t get blogging, like what is it? Is it a journal? Like I don’t know what you do.” I have so much belief in it now that I don’t need the approval of everyone. I don’t need people to understand what I’m doing. Most people in my life, zero clues what I actually do. There’ll be following me and supporting me and I really appreciate it, but they don’t really know what I’m doing and that’s completely fine, but that has come from me approving of myself and approving of what I’m doing.

Number 4, procrastination and withholding efforts. So they’re kind of the same thing, but procrastination is a term that most of us use for it and that most of us can really identify with. So as I was saying before, I think with perfectionism, a lot of people think, oh, they’re stupid, neat and organized, and you know, they’re really doing everything to the best of their ability. That’s not really perfectionism. That’s a high achiever. And I want to be a high achiever, not a perfectionist. So perfectionist procrastinates particularly up to the last minute. There’s also this fallacy around believing that you perform better under pressure. That’s not really true. I used to believe that I performed better under pressure. The truth was that without the pressure in terms of my mindset, I just couldn’t bring myself to be vulnerable enough to give 100% effort and not get the result. So I created this story that many people also have.

It feels like you’re just observing the fact that yes, you do work better under pressure. The reason you work better under pressure is that once you get to that final point, you give yourself permission to drop the standard. Because you don’t have enough time and because there’s that deadline you’re actually forced to push through the discomfort that you normally can’t get through because it just feels so vulnerable to give it a hundred percent. So if you’ve had this story that you work better under pressure, please stop telling yourself that story. The truth is that you’re really just trying to avoid yourself and the only way that you can get through the discomfort of putting in an effort is when there’s an imminent deadline and when you’re physically forced to do it. So I really like detached– I had such– I really believed that was true for me because sometimes I would try and do an assignment early and I’d get a better mark when I did it the night before. But I now like to believe that I can do my best work in any condition so I can do it under pressure or I can do it beforehand as well.

And honestly, now that I’m in such a better mindset around it, I do way better work before, like if I’m doing it ahead of time, but it’s more challenging because I then have to be mentally aware enough and do the conscious work of feeling all the uncomfortable feelings that come up when you could fail and when something might not be right and push through it. But I’m so much more inspired when I’m not stressed and it’s such a good example of this is my Instagram quotes that I write. I love writing them, but sometimes when I don’t have anything prepared and I’m like, “Oh, I have to figure out the perfect thing to say!” And you know, I want to have something really good. I just kind of come up with a thing and one thing that I’ve always also started doing, which is a bit related, is that if I have one I think is good enough, but something still feels slightly off, but it’s not 100%. I’ll still post it. And it’s just a reminder for me that the world keeps spinning and that imperfect things are still helpful, but with procrastination as well and this belief that we work better under pressure, part of the reason we’ve created that story is that it leaves unexcused available.

If you start an assignment on the first day, you’re given it and you really put in a lot of time and a lot of energy and a lot of effort and you do everything you know you’re meant to be doing and then you get a really bad mark that sucks. Like that feeling when you’re in the fixed mindset, you’re like, “Oh my God, this is so embarrassing. I feel so ashamed.” So what we do is we wait till the last minute so that if we don’t get a good mark, and I’m just using uni and study as an example because I think most people can relate to it, but this definitely applies if you have a business and you’re creating content or anything like that, that will put it up to the last minute. Also, job applications, by the way, huge if you’ve been procrastinating on them, have a think about this.

So we procrastinate until the last minute so we can say, “Oh, but I would’ve done better if I tried harder. I would have gotten a job if I didn’t, if I actually applied properly,” like we say that kind of thing so that we get to keep living in this realm of full potential even though we’re not actually living it, we’re just trying to hold on to this identity and to do that we need to withhold efforts so we have an excuse so that if we don’t succeed we can. We can say, “Well, yeah, I would have if I’d tried harder.” So really have a think about procrastination and withholding effort in that sense of like what feelings are you trying to avoid when you’re procrastinating? Is it that just really I get like when I want to procrastinate or even– procrastination isn’t always super obvious like when you think of procrastination, you might be thinking, “Oh, I’m watching Netflix, but you might actually be spending a lot of time procrastinating and you’re actually– it feels you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing, maybe you’re studying all the time, maybe you’re working on your business all the time.

A lot of the ways that I procrastinated have been in more productive ways and that’s one of the bonus points they added to talk about productivity because it’s huge with this as well. This need to feel productive, but I’m like a lot of my readers and listeners find me through Pinterest because they’re procrastinating, but in a way that feels productive because they’re gathering information or you might be procrastinating by filling your time with really unimportant tasks so that you can still feel productive, but you’re just not actually doing the important things that you know you need to do or you could be having taken on 20 different projects at once so that you don’t actually have to try it 100% at any of them and you can use one project to procrastinate on another project at.

There are so many sneaky ways that we do this and it’s often not the watching Netflix though that can happen to procrastination for an ambitious smart perfectionist is often something that’s really productive but isn’t actually the most powerful thing that they could be doing with their time. So just have a think about that. You might be like, “Well, I’m already working 24/7!” I’m not procrastinating. Have a think about the different tasks that you’re doing. I spoke about it more in my episode that I did on The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, but have a think about doing an 80/20 analysis, so basically, that’s the principle that 20% of your actions create 80% of your results and in the last month or two particularly.

I’ve done a lot of work at saying no to a lot of things and stopping different opportunities that I’ve had so that I can really go all in just a couple of areas of my business which feels so vulnerable and scary. But I know that I was procrastinating by having like a plan B and a plan C and a plan D, plan E and a plan F. So just be aware that there are so many different ways that you might be procrastinating and they might just be with a bit of a productive flavor to them.

Number 5 is having ridiculously high standards, standards so high that you would never expect them of anyone else, and yet you expect them off yourselves. This is kind of one of those ways that we let ourselves keep believing that we have all this potential and it really feeds into this self-identity that were full of potential. So having really high standards, we can feel good about that. Like we get to feel good that we have set the bar so ridiculously high. It makes us feel really ambitious and really smart.

But what we do when we have this crazy high standard is that it’s so paralyzing and seems so out of reach that we can then use that to let ourselves off the hook and justify doing nothing. So one thing that’s been a huge area for me of personal work has been allowing myself to lower that bar. It feels very vulnerable because then you might actually do something that isn’t ridiculously amazing, but I found for me it’s really been the only way to get momentum going is to be lowering that bar to like what I could reasonably expect. This isn’t to say don’t have crazy ambitious goals or anything like that.

Like in my last episode I was giving an update on my 2018 impossible goal, which is potentially what someone could call it a ridiculously high standard, but I’m really doing my best to and it’s such a great tool for me to learn about the growth mindset. But I’m not saying don’t set crazy big goals for yourself, but if it is that by setting your standards so high. For example, with blogging, my blog needs to look like you know, this person’s blog even though they have been blogging already for 10 years, I still need to have it looking like that from the beginning.

If we really have those crazy high standards, often it’s just a sneaky self-sabotage excuse to let ourselves off the hook and do nothing so it takes practice to just allow yourself to make progress in a really imperfect, messy way, but it is really necessary. But if you’ve been having ridiculously high standards, could be that you’re in this fixed mindset and it’s really just so we can feel good about ourselves and this really flows through to number six, which is good intentions and good at planning, but little follow through. So, a lot of you really have amazing intentions though. A few of you I know for sure have definitely like kept your dreams small so that you don’t have the pain of like dreaming about something that you haven’t yet achieved.

So usually though there’s very good intention, “I’m going to eat healthily, I’m gonna really show up for myself and welcome in business. I’m going to make all these plans…” but the follow through is seriously lacking. And again, this relates to everything else, like it’s all super interwoven, but often the follow through is because it’s really uncomfortable to follow through with things. Have you noticed like it’s hard to follow through, especially if you’re doing something new, something you haven’t done before, something you’re not guaranteed to get praise for? It’s challenging to follow through. There are always a million excuses not to follow through. You’re too busy or too tired. You deserve to rest, that’s such a huge one. I deserve a break.

So a lot of perfectionists will have very good intentions. They will really have this ideal of what they want their life to look like. Good at planning though not so good at actually sticking to that plan that often gets abandoned after, I would say about 3 weeks or the plans are in there and it’s like once we’ve got the plans in there and we see we’re not following through with them, it’s easier just to forget about your planner and put it to the side instead of to keep being faced with all the plans that you haven’t followed through it.

So a lot of people will tell me I just keep abandoning planners and it’s– I just forget– it’s easy. It’s nice to think we forget the truth is that we would be continuing with that plan if we were actually achieving everything we’d set out to do, but usually there starts to be this gap between your intentions and your reality and as that gap grows it gets more and more uncomfortable to continue to be faced with all the evidence of your good intentions.

So we just abandoned it and that’s something that I used to struggle with so much. I can still find myself wanting to self-sabotage in that way and just like forgetting about my planner but I am much better at catching myself out on it now and letting my planner to be messy. Like I know that so many people, particularly perfectionist because it’s so pretty one to have a bullet journal.

But I found that for me having really like mess a messy planner by most people’s standards, I would say it’s super neat. But for me it’s messy. I’m sure you can probably relate that people are like, “Oh, this looks so need imperfect!” And in your head you’re like, “If only you knew what my standard was for this planner,” but I let myself be messy while I’m doing my thought downloads every day. I let it be super messy writing, which is messy to me, but neat to most people, but I just let things be imperfect, which just takes practice.

So that is something as well that perfectionist can usually relate to having good intentions and being good at planning and loving planning. And part of that is because planning is really productive procrastination. So it’s amazing to plan a blog, a business to plan your new career, to plan your holiday. Oh, but the follow through, like that’s where you could actually be met with this potential reality that your potential that you’ve been telling yourself you have isn’t actually really bad.

So we just do all the planning and then we make up an excuse, always a justifiable excuse, always very reasonable. Most people don’t follow through with things, so it’s very reasonable to not follow through since most people don’t. But that is something that a lot of perfectionists can identify with.

Number 7 is playing small and shrinking your world. So again, these all kind of relate, but playing small– it’s like the kid with the puzzle that I was talking about before. So we shrink our world like we’ve got these crazy high standards is amazing intentions, this idea of what we want our life to look like, but we don’t think we can meet those standards and we want to make sure that we’re getting the approval of everyone, that we’re not being judged because we are trying to avoid any of the shame that would come with that. So instead of trying to do all these big amazing things out in the world that we convince ourselves to just play this small little game because others will approve of us, you know, the less money you have, the fewer problems you have. Like all of those kinds of beliefs that come into it. And so playing small is something that I constantly have to call myself out on and it’s been really challenging as I’m growing my business and I’m starting to be more of someone who can actually like give advice on things before I was just really sharing all my struggles, but now I’ve actually have figured some things out and it’s really been challenging for me to step into that and to actually put my hand up and say, “Hey, I’m worth listening to over here.”

So that’s something that I’m constantly having to pick myself up on and be like, “Okay, am I actually just keeping everything small and contained so that I can maintain the sense of control and so that I’m always going to be getting approval and I’m not going to be getting judged…” And all of those things that all of this happens at such a subconscious, unconscious level. That it does take a lot of introspection and personal development work to really start to see yourself. But I can definitely say for sure, especially in hindsight, like when I started my blog and all of that even though I consciously wanted success unconsciously, I didn’t want to be successful because then I was opening myself up to all of this potential for shame because people could judge me because something might not work out because I’d fail in a really public way.

So stepping up and actually playing a big game is one of the most challenging things for someone in the fixed mindset and there’s always a million justifiable reasons why we should keep playing small, why we should wait to get started but that’s just something that like– just because you played small in the past doesn’t mean that that’s going to happen in the future and our future hasn’t happened yet and we can actively create. And as I say, like a leopard never changes its spots or whatever, where people talk about people not changing. I do not believe that at all. I think that there might be some different patterns that a lot of us have that I’m really deeply ingrained and take a lot of work to get out of, but I believe that we can completely change our self-image and our identity and our actions because that all comes from our thoughts.

So yeah, if just because you’ve been playing small in the past does not mean that that’s what you’re going to be doing in the future, but just have a think about is there an area of real life where you’re playing really small where you’re not really giving something 100% and while you consciously want success, maybe you unconsciously don’t want success. So just really start to dig into that.

Number 8 is having a full plate of commitments, so I spoke about this before. This is just a super sneaky way to procrastinate, so I thought that I would mention it and I talked about it a bit, but having a full plate of commitments. Like for example, I feel like I’m at very good evidence of this at uni. I did a law degree and a finance degree at like a dual degree, so I have both of those. I also did a deployment of French because I didn’t seem to already have enough on my plate. I was also working basically full-time hours. I was also trying to be a good girlfriend and be a good friend and be a good sister and a daughter and all of that kind of thing and just having all of these different commitments and like my health and fitness and so many of us do this so that there’s always an excuse as to why we’re not really excelling like it’s so vulnerable to actually be like, “No, this year I’m all I’m focused on is one tiny thing.”

Because if you have a full plate of commitments, you can say, “Oh well I’m not doing good at my job because I’m so tired from uni. I’m not doing good at uni because I’m really tired from this. I’m exhausted. I’m so busy,” like it gives us such a good out and we get to feel super productive and because we get a lot of our self-worth from that productive feeling than having a full plate of commitments is something that so many of us are prone to doing.

And I got an email this morning from Doris who is saying that she just has all these ideas and what to do about it, but the way that she said it was like she’s the only one. And so I just want to be clear to everyone that everyone also has a million ideas as well. So if you’re thinking like, “Oh, I wish I just didn’t have so many ideas, like all of these other people,” they have them too. It takes so much constraint and self-discipline to really go all-in on something. So particularly in a business like and having different projects and things.

It’s so common to really want to do a bit of this and a bit of that and a bit of that. But really that’s because it’s actually really scary to go for something all in to put in 100% effort to really like– because as I was saying, we have this belief that if you don’t really try then you can’t really fail. So to try a hundred percent means that you will– it will be more of a sting if you fail, depending on how you think of it– how you think about failure is completely in your control. But you might have habitual ways of thinking about failure and make it mean something about yourself.

So for me, I’ve spoken about this in previous episodes and I will be talking about it a lot more in my next episode, which is going to be my August 2018 live update because this is something I’ve really been focusing on.

So I have had my part time job and I’ve also had. I’ve been doing some freelance writing. I’ve been doing some Pinterest marketing for people. I’ve been doing all of these different like side hustle to my side hustle to my side household thing.

And it was really so that I had all of these like backup plans so that if my main business, which is helping women through my online courses and through mindset coaching, if that’s failing then it doesn’t matter so much because I’ve got all of these other things going on and it gave me a really amazing, nice little subtle excuse that is, “I’m not actually,” you know, “Getting as many students into my courses as I want because I’m spending all this time doing all these other things.”

And in the last month I’ve just given myself such a huge wake up call and snapped myself out of that self-sabotage and have turned down all of these different opportunities and have basically made it so that I have to make money from my online courses and my coaching and then my only options and it’s scary to go all in and not have that full plate of commitments.

And I can feel myself already wanting to add other things in their place. But it’s really just a matter of observing myself, calling myself out on it. I think that as we keep growing, like all of this stuff will keep coming back up, so I’m just constantly trying to catch myself out on it and not beating myself up for doing that. Like I just have compassion for myself. I do my very best to have compassion for myself to understand why I did give myself that full plate of commitments. I really had the best of intentions, but I can see now that wasn’t serving me.

Number 9 is having no goals or super vague goals. I talked about this more in my episode about, I think it was 15 Reasons You’re Not Achieving Your Goals and one of those reasons was having no goals or vague goals, but it is something that perfectionists and people in the fixed mindset are really prone to doing and that is because again, if you don’t really try, you can’t really fail. If you don’t know what to do with your life. You can’t fail at figuring out like you can’t fail at life because you didn’t even know what to do. But like so many of us don’t let ourselves figure out what to do with our lives because if we did then would actually have to do something about it and then we might actually fail at that thing.

So with my coaching clients, particularly, so many of them are really like, they’ll tell me I have no idea what I want to do and then we’ll really dive into it and they know exactly what they want to do. They just haven’t actually let themselves formulate that into a goal because they’re really scared of disappointing themselves because they’ve disappointed themselves in the past. So if you haven’t got any goals, like right now, if I say to you, what are your top 3 goals that you’re working on this year? It’s something that I ask my coaching clients like in the questionnaire before we get started. And most of them say, “Oh, that’s a really hard question,” and it’s because we were so ambitious, so intelligent and so full of potential, but so that we can hold onto those beliefs that were intelligent and full of potential.

We shrink our world and we also don’t set goals so that we don’t even have the opportunity to disappoint ourselves, but the reality is that we’re disappointing ourselves anyway by not even trying. So if you haven’t got– if you had no answer to and I said, what are the top 3 things of what’s your big goal at the moment? That is a really sneaky way to self-sabotage and it’s just something to start calling yourself out on. Like, why haven’t you actually got any goals? And I’m talking about like having a goal of like stop procrastinating, lose weight. That’s way too vague. It has to be very specific so that someone who’s an outside that can tell whether or not you’ve achieved it.

Number 10 is waiting to get all of your ducks in a row before you get started. This is something that a perfectionist love to do. It’s always easy to justify. I just needed to listen to one podcast, watch one more Webinar, read one more book, and then I’ll be ready to start.

The reality is there’s an endless stream of information and one thing that I love about doing coaching is that I get to see that, like when people come to me for coaching that in this place where they’re still waiting to get all our ducks in a row and they’re not quite, they haven’t been able to self-start and then through the coaching they end up starting to take action and so much will happen so quickly and, and they’ll just really create so much momentum so quickly because things like when you actually start something, not only does that help you to overcome fear that you have and I really believe that action does help cure fear, but there are so many things you can’t even plan from before you started. Like so often they’ll get started on something and every week that coming back and being like, “Oh, this thing happened that I was completely unaware of. and there’s this requirement that I’m completely unaware of!” And you just can’t know everything before you start.

The best way to learn how to do something is to start doing it and it’s something that I used to really struggle with. I wanted everything to be perfectly perfect before I would stop, but now I’ve gotten so good. I just have an idea and started like this podcast. I had the initial idea about a year before I started it and I was just like still stuck in this waiting to get all my ducks in a row mentality and then about a year later I gave myself permission to think like what if I started a podcast and then I literally started it that day. And the same with when I started my youtube channel and so many different things like riding my quads on Instagram.

I sorted them the day that I had it and then some things like it’s not like everything that I continue doing it and at the moment I’ve decided that I’m not going to continue putting up Youtube videos regularly because that was one of my full plate of commitment ways that I was sabotaging myself and everyone was telling me they listened to my Youtube videos like podcast episode and it’s just so much easier for me to record it as a podcast episode.

Just in terms of uploading everything. And all of that, so that was something like I’ve had to say no to for now and part of all of this is being willing to say no to good things so that you can get something great and that especially with a full plate of commitments for sure you’ll be able to justify every single thing on your plate, but it’s really having to look at what’s the 20% of actions that are creating going to create 80% of my results and getting rid of all the rest so that you can really go all in, which again feels so uncomfortable in your feel so restless. But yeah, it’s the work.

So these are my couple of bonus ones that I have written down so– never feeling good enough. Even though you achieve everything, like no matter what you achieve and this is something that’s definitely an undercurrent for all perfectionists and people in the fixed mindset. It’s kind of like no matter how much approval you get, how much praise you get, how many things do you sell, how many awards you get.

None of it’s ever good enough. And that’s because, again, we don’t believe that we’re good enough intellectually, we know we are, but at that really subconscious, unconscious level, we have this thought pattern that we’re not good enough and so often perfectionists are so ambitious and really driven to achieve, but it’s never enough.

And number 12 that I wrote down was productivity and really something that I saw in my own life and having this mindset is that productivity really comes from this thought pattern of if I do more than I’ll be more and so I need to be productive all the time. I’m sure you can relate to wanting to feel productive every minute of the day. Not all people in the world want to feel productive all the time.

There were quite a lot of people that are happy to not feel productive, but for perfectionists and very ambitious, intelligent ones, we really have a lot hinged on this feeling of productivity and often we just feel productive doing things that are really procrastination in disguise. But it’s still this real need for productivity.

And one thing that I’ve really been doing, I have every Sunday off and it’s really challenging because there’s always something I could be doing and often, well because I’ve had so much of my identity wrapped up around achievement, I haven’t actually figured out what I like doing in my spare time, which sounds sad, but I’m sure you’ll be able to relate over not actually really knowing what you’d be doing if you weren’t trying to be successful and to achieve more. Like what do I actually enjoy doing?

So now I give myself Sundays, even if I have no plans and no idea what I’m gonna do I make sure I don’t fill it in and just do work for work sake. I actually just let myself be completely unproductive and do nothing. And I know that in time I’m going to naturally fill that with activities that I enjoy doing.

And I’ve already started to find some of those.

Steve and I have a house and I am– like I love doing creative things and just thinking about all the different things we can do with the house and doing up little bits of it, but just other things as well, not just that because that is like a productive thing too but I just let myself do nothing and has zero guilt attached and it’s great to have that clear boundary between home and work and now that I’m working at a co-working space except when I do my coaching calls and podcast recordings I’m at home, but all other times I’m working, I’m at the co-working space I’m at– so it’s really helped me unravel my identity from productivity and achievement and that’s given me a lot of peers and a lot more self-worth and self-love because I’m not just Sam from Smart Twenties whose worth as a person is contingent on whether or not she’s successful. It’s just me– I’m just Sam and sometimes I might do nothing and that’s completely okay.

And I’m still 100% worthy as a person to like the same as if I’m being productive. I’m not any less worthy when I’m being unproductive and it’s really just helped me unravel myself from achievement, so they are some of the symptoms, so if you can relate to any of that, I’m not trying to label you, but it is helpful to know like if you do hear me talking about perfectionism or the fixed mindset that a lot of you I know you have been like, “Oh, I can relate but I’m not a perfectionist because I’m not neat and tidy.” Like if you hear me say that this whole episode is basically what I’m referring to, but because I realized I’d never actually really gotten into it. I thought it might be helpful to really just spell out exactly what I mean when I’m talking about that. So we’re already in our end so I won’t go into this second half too much, but a few different ways to really start to move into the fixed mindset, which I should probably just do a whole other episode on. But it’s really praising yourself for effort.

So Steve and I say 3 good things about the day every single night and I will often praise myself in that effort. So I will say, “Today was really good because I went to the gym.” I won’t say it’s really good. Sometimes I will when I’m not paying intentioned, but I will do my best to reward myself emotionally, not with food emotionally with the effort that I put in that I showed up or say like, “I spent this time on that thing” instead of being like “Oh, you know, I, I achieved this or I achieved that.” I will really try and focus it on the effort and you don’t have to be doing this with someone else. But just getting yourself in a place where you can praise yourself for showing up and being like, “Yeah, I did that” even if you didn’t get the results, having effort, putting an effort, being the achievement in and of itself is so powerful when you’re in this fixed mindset.

Another thing is to really just watch yourself with compassion. So often once we start to get their space level of self-awareness and really see ourselves and see how are acting, we will want to change it immediately and stop all of these negative things. But what I really want to encourage you to do is if you can relate to what I’ve shared, especially if you’re just starting out on this journey, but it applies to all of us, are we kidding? To really just watch yourself with compassion, just observe yourself. Just be like, oh, that’s really interesting that I’m doing XYZ. You don’t have to figure out how to change it. You don’t have to beat yourself up for it. Because often with self-awareness often can come to a lot of negativity because was like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’ve been like– I’m what–” once we realize are responsible for our thoughts, feelings, actions, and results. It can be really challenging. It’s the reason we like to typically blame other people because that’s more comfortable and saying, “Oh shit, I’m responsible for the fact that I’m in a career that I hate and I haven’t been achieving anything” like that’s uncomfortable.

So just watch yourself with compassion, observe yourself, have an understanding for like there is some reason that you’ve done what you’ve done and acted the way you’ve acted. It’s usually coming from this really protective place where you had the best intentions and wants the best for yourself and you haven’t just quite known how to do that. So just really have compassion and don’t be in a rush to change all of this. I really think it’s a great thing to just observe yourself and be like, that’s really interesting that every time I sit down to write a blog post, I ended up at the fridge. Like that’s just really interesting. Instead of being like, “Oh my God, I need to figure out how to change this” and like trying to willpower yourself into something new, just start with observing yourself.

And number 3 is to call yourself out on self-sabotage. So as you build that awareness, you will really start to notice patterns. Like for me, having a full paid of commitments is one that just seems to keep popping up. It’s like most people are always like, “Oh my God, you do so much. Like how do you manage it all?” And I really like– because I’ve gotten praise for that in the path. I feel like that’s part of them that I just keep– like if I have a normal level of commitments and like this isn’t enough, I need to add more, but now I’m getting comfortable with having only a small number of serious commitments.

I’m really going all in on them, which feels so vulnerable and uncomfortable in so many ways but to just call yourself out on self-sabotage, to not beat yourself up, beating yourself up or slow you down. So really just be compassionate and if it’s like just I like to think of myself like a friend and what would I like? I often have to call myself out on this too because I will just naturally tend to be like, “Oh, you shouldn’t have done that…” be like, “Okay, what would I say to a friend?” I’d be like, “Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s completely understandable. Let’s just start doing this thing instead.” So I try to sit, see myself and treat myself like that. It takes a lot of practice too. But yeah, that’s really how I would summarize and what I want to say about perfectionism and the fixed mindset. I hope it has been really helpful. I also want to mention a couple of things.

So in June and July, I did 3 blogging workshops, the Start Your Blog, Grow Your Blog, and Promote Your Blog workshops. And from that, I have created a course called Perfect Blogger, which is The Ultimate Blogging Course For Perfectionists and is, in fact, the only blogging course I have ever seen that’s for a perfectionist. So if you can relate to a lot of what I have shared, then you can find more about the course in the show notes for this episode at smart-twenties.com/episode45. Those of you who already signed up for all 3 workshops individually have been automatically added to the new course, but for those of you who didn’t do all 3 workshops or who are just finding me now, Perfect Blogger is where you’ll get the strategies and the confidence you’ll need to start your blog and grow it into something successful. So I just wanted to mention that as well and I’m also a mindset coach and I work one-on-one with ambitious women who are perfectionists and procrastinators and who are just really struggling to get out of their own way. So if you’d love to work with me one-on-one and really dive into all of this and like see yourself because coaching like doing your own self-coaching is very different to having a coach and I think self-coaching and coaching are both equally important.

So self-coaching is when you’re doing the things that I just recommended you do. Coaching– I think everyone needs a coach because coaching the coach is basically like a mirror and you’ll be able to see things that you would never or may have taken you years to figure out on your own. They will just show you what you need to see and it’s so powerful. It’s why to become a coach I have just gained so much in my life from having coaches and being able to progress so much farther, so if you want to work with me one on one, you can find out more at smart-twenties.com/coaching.

I hope you have enjoyed this episode. Everything I mentioned, like all those podcasts episodes and everything, will be out smart-twenties.com/episode45. I hope you are having a lovely day and I’ll talk to you next time, bye!


Author: Sam Brown