Many ambitious people will struggle with perfectionism at some point in their lives. They set the unattainable goal of perfection as the standard which they will uphold. Then, inevitably, when perfection doesn’t happen, the self-doubt and anxiety kick in.
Perfectionism, as I see it, is an intense focus on a perfect outcome.
As you’re probably already aware, there is a dark side to perfectionism. Aside from the emotional turmoil is can present, it can also inhibit production by inducing a state of paralysis brought on by a fear of failing to achieve perfection.
- You see this in the author who writes and writes but never actually publishes their book.
- It’s the filmmaker who continually goes over-budget, insists on reshoots, or changes direction so many times the end-product is a mess, haphazardly thrown together at the last minute.
- It’s the CEO paralyzed by indecision.
Each of these cases is the result of an obsession with the vision of a perfect outcome stops, and it stops great work from ever being published. This is what stops so many people I talk to from starting that project: the book, the podcast, the Youtube channel, the new business, or the new relationship.
The Problem is Not Perfection
The problem is where perfection is located in the mind. To the perfectionist, perfection is within reach. Each project presents the possibility. But, we already know that perfection is, if not a myth, a fleeting moment in time.
A healthier way to approach perfect is in the pursuit of something that we know is continually out-of-reach.
How To Train For Greatness
Ray Allen probably didn’t expect to shoot 100% from 3-pt range, but he practiced like that’s what he was after.
Tiger Woods probably never expected to shoot 36 under par in a single round, but he practiced like that’s what he was after.
Doctors and Nurses are under no illusions that they can save 100% of people that come into the ER, but they are prepared to try for it every single time.
Navy Seals and Marines probably don’t expect to have 0% casualties, but they train like that’s what they’re after.
A Simple Swap
Instead of seeking perfection on an individual project, task, or initiative, train as if perfection is the penultimate goal, not of a single swing of the bat, but of your entire career. Use the quality of your pursuit of perfection as the yardstick, rather than whether or not the outcome is perfect.
This shifts your focus from any expectation of delivering something flawless and instead narrows your vision to the day-to-day activities and continuous improvement in the process that will ultimately get you one step closer to the mythical perfect destination.
The point isn’t perfection, because even once it’s been accomplished, you still have to do it again, and again, and again.
Forget perfection. I’ll take consistently getting 5-10% better, every time. You should too.