I can remember telling my sons, and later on, individuals who reported directly to me that I found perfection to be boring and frustrating. I urged them to pursue excellence, or, in other words, to do the very best they could with whatever they had at the time. You know, “play the hand you’re dealt” in the best way possible.
Individuals who pursue perfection – and many of us have met them (and some of you may be one of them) – are never satisfied. They are always looking for one more piece of information or data to help them make a decision or take action. Oddly, they never make that decision and end up frustrated and, in many cases, demoralized. They are, in fact, very unhappy people. I sometimes describe those seeking perfection as individuals who are “studying all of the sides of a circle.”
Unlike individuals who set stretch goals and who are resilient in order to effectively deal with setbacks, perfectionists aim high goals (and in some cases unrealistically) in order to demonstrate their value to others. Then, when they fall short they become brutally critical of themselves. This, in turn, leads them feeling that whatever they do is never enough. Perfectionism, left unchecked, can lead to serious mental health issues. I read recently that research suggests that being too hard on yourself can actually limit one’s ability to achieve success. Being perfect makes it harder to think clearly because of the stress that it causes.
Here are 5 simple actions you can take to offset any desires you might have to be perfect:
- Focus on the best outcome you can deliver versus harshly judging yourself.
- Focus on taking action to keep moving forward and learning as you go.
- See mistakes as normal and as learning opportunities, and not as a “failing grade” on the imaginary report card in your mind.
- Set realistic and achievable goals and celebrate small victories. Learn to give yourself a “high-5” at every opportunity that you can.
- When being threatened by overwhelm and frustration, stop where you are and identify one positive action you can take – big or small (small is preferred) – that will change the momentum in your favor.
Give it your best effort. It’s really OK not to be perfect.