The following was published in today’s Wright Words of Wisdom column:
The Problem with Perfection – Part 1
The quest for excellence is commendable. It is born out of a desire to maximize the imperfections in ourselves, our perceptions, our abilities and our efforts. Often, excellence is mistaken for perfection and vice versa. Some endeavors demand perfection on some level and we may seek and achieve it. People may even admire our determination and persistence to get things done perfectly. They may even envy how we manage to achieve goals with the combination of the perfect time, the perfect setting, the perfect tools and the perfect team to achieve the perfect outcome. However, it is the obsession with perfection, in areas with in-born imperfections, that grows into a bother, a burden and a barrier and creates problems in our lives.
The following are quite common among those of us who have an obsession with perfection.
Perfection slows us down
Often, instead of making steady progress with an immediate task or a long-term project, we get caught in a perfection jam. We move forward a few steps, make some commendable progress and our pace slows because things are not perfect. Even after a long run of productivity, with obvious success and the ultimate goal just ahead, we hold back and linger. We tweak some things, make major changes to others and consider if a different course might be more perfect than the one we have travelled so far. So while our main goal sits, waiting to be achieved, we continue to edit our actions and fiddle with alternate scenarios, slowing ourselves down and delaying the full achievement we desire.
Perfection exhausts us
Everything is larger, more complex and takes longer to achieve, when mixed with our obsession with perfection. The constant re-thinking and re-working is exhausting. Plus, when we are exhausted, we believe we are not doing our best and we need to engage in even more re-thinking and re-working. This vicious cycle of trying to make things perfect is a recipe for mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. Our minds become too tense to process and manage challenges, our bodies are unable to undertake necessary activities and our hearts are dark with despair. Sensing we may never accomplish our intended goal, fear surfaces, stress builds, we work harder and exhaustion intensifies.
Perfection paralyzes us
It keeps us from the very proficiency, productivity and pleasure we want in the pursuit and achievement of our goals. Additionally, when we are not obsessed with finding the perfect time, the perfect mate, the perfect place, the perfect process, the perfect product… we are obsessed with being and looking perfect. That’s a lot of pressure, especially since our lives are already busy with many other commitments and concerns. Moreover, when we recognise the time and effort involved, coupled with the near impossibility of achieving ultimate perfection, paralysis sets in.
As much as we would like to, it is difficult to revitalize our ideas, re-focus our attention, revamp our enthusiasm, refresh our plans and re-launch our efforts.
Do you feel like you’re always striving to perfect your ideas, your plans and your performance and yet making little or no progress? Have you noticed that after a good start, you’re moving slower, feeling constantly exhausted or stuck? Maybe your pursuit of excellence has morphed into an obsession with perfection. And that is where the problem exists.