Striving for excellence rather than perfection
From Anthony, M. & Swinson, P. When Perfect isn’t Good Enough. 1998. New Harbinger Publications, Oakland
As professionals or students, we are continually challenged to improve our performance by striving for excellence within our roles. However, the desire for excellence is not the same as being a perfectionist.
Individuals who strive for perfection are blind from the truth of excellence. Striving for excellence motivates us, whereas striving for perfection demoralises us. Essentially, perfectionists have standards that are unreasonable or beyond reach, and can lead to the following negative outcomes.
Procrastination, an avoidance tactic, occurs when individual’s fear not being able to live up to their own, or others, unrealistically high expectations.
Fear of Failure can result in apathy. This occurs when the person knows he or she will never measure up 100% of the time.
Paralysed Perfectionists are so afraid of messing up that they refrain from taking chances or making decisions until the perfect option is made available to them.
The workaholic Syndrome leads to trouble with delegation because no one can achieve their high expectations.
They also have trouble saying no, thus over-committing themselves and losing their life balance, and health and wellbeing.
Perfectionism can lead to depression, anger, social and performance anxiety, worry, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, and eating disorders. This is because perfectionists have unrealistic standards with work, relationships, and other activities. The following strategies may help reduce perfectionism.
- Be less detail orientated. Sometimes near enough is good enough.
- Be less concerned about being judged by others. Have faith in your own knowledge and expertise.
- Become more tolerant of self and other’s imperfections. Sometimes your way is simply different not better.
- Accept yourself as an imperfect creature with faults and limitations.
- Whilst it is desirable to be approved by others, we don’t need it to survive. It is better to concentrate on self-acceptance and unconditional positive regard of self and others.
Nine Ways Excellence Outperforms Perfection
1. Excellence is willing to be wrong - Perfection is being right
2. Excellence is risk - Perfection is fear
3. Excellence is empowerment - Perfection is anger and frustration
4. Excellence is spontaneous - Perfection is control
5. Excellence is accepting - Perfection is judgement
6. Excellence is giving - Perfection is taking
7. Excellence is confidence - Perfection is doubt
8. Excellence is flowing - Perfection is pressure
9. Excellence is journey - Perfection is destination