“There’s no space for peace when perfectionism is a priority.” – Christian Bosse
Welcome to Episode 39: Is Perfection Your Enemy
Perfection is the enemy of happiness. Instead, we should be trying to embrace being perfectly imperfect.
Yes, I it’s good to analyze what we’re doing with our business from time to time, so we don’t get stuck in what I like to call a “rinse n’ repeat” mode -- which is truly the enemy of productivity. We shouldn’t (and can’t) be perfect at anything even though the land of social makes it seem like life is always floating around that way. And it’s truly not about getting more done. It’s all about what you get done.
Here's what we will be untangling in this episode ...
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Perfection … It is the enemy of happiness.
Instead, we should be trying to embrace being perfectly imperfect.
Yes, it’s good to analyze what we’re doing with our business from time to time, so we don’t get stuck in what I like to call a “rinse n’ repeat” mode -- which is truly the enemy of productivity. We shouldn’t (and can’t) be perfect at anything. Even though the land of social makes it seem like life is always floating around that way. And it’s truly not about getting more done. It’s about what you’re get done.
Perfectionism is dangerous and often driven by striving for excellence. But it can be quite self-sabotaging if it leads to suboptimal behaviour like continuing habits beyond their usefulness, overdelivering when you really don’t have to, or even overthinking every single decision you make. (We’re bad for that one sometimes!)
Besides always trying to “better” and surpass the scale of 120% on every single thing we do, both professionally and personally, about 30 out of 24 hours a day (you know this is you -- well all do it!) … the real definition of perfectionism is stated as this …
“Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high-performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding other’s evaluations.”
But in the same breath … we all do it even though we shouldn’t.
It’s almost as if this notion of being “perfect” was somewhere along the way embedded into our brains as a “must”. Especially if you live a life of creativity like my team and I do. Everything … EVERYTHING we produce is being viewed by virtual eyes. So, one teeny tiny error, typo, broken link, you name it sets us off as we want our businesses as well of those of our clients to have a certain level of professionalism with a twist of personality to every viewer who comes across these creations.
This tends to make our work habits different than most. And maybe, just maybe, we even perhaps set higher standards crossed with critical self-evaluations and the things we’re working on even though it isn’t always “our stuff”.
For me, I’ll down right admit it. I am a perfectionist. I like things to be nice, smooth, eye-catching, and well, as perfect as “perfect” can be. I have hilariously high expectations of myself and am always thinking that I am perhaps not doing enough, or that I could surely be doing more. But the problem with this is it makes one crazy. Always working extra long hours, tweaking until the sun comes up, re-thinking and re-jigging things that most human eyes may not even notice.
The other problem with perfectionism is that it is not human. We’re all perfectly imperfect.
So am I, and probably so are you.
During a session, a few years back, with my career coach we got onto the topic of my habits. (Yikes!) One of them which is being highly organized and what we’ll call a “clean freak”. Now I’m not just talking a clean and tidy home, but my office space, my desk, the way I run my business, and the way I help my clients get “untangled”. Every little, teeny bit of my life – both personally and professionally – has an air of virtual Lysol. LOL!
Personally, I tend to thrive and gain great levels of achievement and happiness on being “crazy” organized. Sometimes I go a bit overboard and I’m not too proud to admit that. But feel I am doing things in such a fashion to keep my mind occupied from other not so fun events. Now it has become habit for me. And honestly, one that is so deep it’s hard to break.
Of course, perfectionism has its benefits, especially when it comes to our businesses. It motivates multi-passionate over-achievers (like myself and my team) to pursue high standards along with new visions. We are driven to improve and innovate. We are disciplined and detail-oriented; both of which can be critical in professions where there is no margin for error. Such as I stated earlier being the virtual “untangling” guru’s we are in the land of #AllThings digital and creativity.
Now from a cultural standpoint, we prize perfectionism. Famous figures such as Martha Stewart, Steve Jobs or even Monica from the classic TV show Friends, are frequently credited with insisting that their teams strive for perfection. But what we don’t usually do is talk about the impact of working with someone who is a “control freak” or the collateral damage it may have to one’s creativity. Problems may arise when perfectionists take things to an unreachable level. They can sometimes set standards that are so impossible to meet and then devalue the work that does not meet these impossible standards. This can become a toxic loop. I’ve been in this loop with others before and trust me it’s not fun!
In all reality, perfectionism is just a distraction and a justification for procrastination. Some may even say it’s an excuse for never getting anything done. For many people though, perfectionism originated from their childhood (as did mine … really long story).
Research shows that this comes from parental pressure to achieve. In my case it was not having parents who cared enough about what I was doing. So, somewhere along the lines I placed this pressure onto myself as I wanted to be (and do) the opposite of them and how their lives were unfolding. I know that may sound cold, but until you know one’s past or what they’re dealing with now, it’s best to not judge and be mindful of their life path. Just as you would want someone to do for you.
Whatever the cause, perfectionists are much less likely to take risks because they are afraid of failing. And taking risks, along with the adaptability to learn from one’s mistakes and being resilient, are essential characteristics in perfectionism.
So, after talking with my team, my peers, my personal friends, and a handful of other truly wonderful people, I came up with a short list on ways to tackle perfectionism in the most mindful of ways.
Now remember, there’s a difference between being a high-achiever and being a perfectionist. Both want to succeed, but high achievers are motivated to do their best, while perfectionists are motivated by fear.
Here’s our TOP 10 list to overcoming perfectionism …
All habits, no matter what their form, are truly hard to break. Especially if like this one, it has become part of your daily routine and for a long period of time. But the overall mechanics are easy to put into practice.
So, be willing to make mistakes. Even if it’s a lot of them. Even if it’s every single day. Take time to understand that we are all doing it, every single one of us, all the time. We are continuously messing up so we can learn from it then do better next time.
I guess overall what I’m trying to say is to stop putting so much pressure on trying to be “perfect” or trying to create perfection when it comes to yourself, your life, and your business. It makes everything so much harder than it truly should be and you’ll actually free up a heck of a lot of hours in which you could be doing more productive things.
Think of things this way …
If we believe to be “perfect” then how will we ever learn from the mistakes if we’re not making a strong effort to grow as an individual?
Personally, I would do well to heed this advice. I often spend massive amounts of time trying to get things done “just right”, as I am a terrible over-achiever. Everything must always be double, triple and sometimes even quadruple checked before I can safely approve it, check it off my to-do list or pass it along to a client. I feel it borders on obsessive-compulsion from time to time. But that’s just how I am. I always want to put out the best quality of work no matter what I do. But that’s not perfectionism, that’s being a virtual high achiever 😉
So, don’t let “perfect” be the enemy of good in your life! For your sake, and of those around you. Because nothing is ever perfect. And in all reality, it’s probably already amazing, you’re just putting too much pressure on yourself!