Perfect -- and improving
I recently was coaching a client who has a “perfectionist” streak. I asked her, “Describe to me what perfection is?” She did.
My reply was, “I’m disappointed because that description doesn’t sound perfect to me.” Of course, I was kidding, and she knew that. But my point was serious. Trying to be perfect is a battle you will never win. The perfectionist can try as hard as they can to be perfect, but it's never perfect “enough.” The perfectionist mindset can be self-defeating if you’re not careful and an exercise in continual frustration.
Why? First, how do you define "perfect"? If you’re a perfectionist, is that definition “perfect " enough for you? Odds are, no. So the never-ending battle of frustration over not being perfect continues.
This doesn’t mean I’m advocating not trying to be your very best. I do advocate just that and coach my clients to that standard and beyond. But it’s not about perfection – it’s about progress. Are you progressing in whatever it is you’re trying to be better at? Are you progressing each day? Gold medal winners are not perfect. They are just that a bit better at using “progress” to become superior to their competition.
Perfectionism is a mental obsession with achieving the ideal as a minimum requirement. Note the word obsession. Most of the time, an obsession with anything yields less than ideal results.
When you seek perfection, you seek the ideal situation or set of circumstances. But, “ideal” is always relative, usually something superior to where you are or what you have at the moment. So seeking perfection is like seeking the horizon. You can keep your eye on it, but no matter how far you travel, it's always out of reach. No matter how much you try to attain perfection, you will never be happy due to the impossible, unrealistic self-imposed measurement and standards you set. Nothing is ever good enough (including what others try to do for you or to help you).
Perfectionism is a paralyzing trap that undermines an individual’s (and even an organization’s) confidence and creates chronic dissatisfaction. As a result, many good ideas remain locked in people’s heads or left on the drawing board because they don’t feel those ideas are “good enough.”
Can you overcome perfectionism? Yes.
Perfectionism is a learned habit, and therefore, can be unlearned. The “unlearning” process starts by being willing to have a serious conversation with yourself: "Am I setting myself up for disappointment all the time because I expect perfection?” If the answer is yes, then ask yourself, “How well is that serving me?” Then remind yourself it’s not about perfection – it’s about progress!