How many of you think you are perfectionists, or have been diagnosed as such?
That’s what I thought…
Let’s define it… a perfectionist, according to dictionary.com is a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.
I don’t think that I am a perfectionist. I do have perfectionist tendencies in certain areas of my life though. For example… at work: when it comes to a presentation or editing a training video, I will spend way too much time trying to perfect it because I want to get the, “Wow Jeff! That was amazing!” from people…
Reality tells me that few people are interested in the animations and colors used in a presentation and most people could care less about how cool a new eLearning video may be. They just want the content to either make the decision, learn the lesson or check the box and get back to their lives.
This is where the statement “Perfection is the enemy of good” comes in.
When we focus on being perfect, there is risk of the following impeding our progress:
- Who’s definition of perfect are we striving for? My “perfection” may be my bosses “good enough.” Perfection may exist as a concept, but other peoples judgment is entirely subjective towards their definition of perfection and therefore my work is by definition imperfect.
- I may lose perspective on the quality of my creations. The more I pour over something, the further I may drift from the ultimate objective
- My inability to reach my definition of perfection may paralyze me in doing anything.
- Seeking perfection can lead to rework. I can’t tell you how many times I have drafted something, then went through the effort of trying to improve upon it, only to realize the original idea was the best idea… or worse… pushing so close to the deadline that the final product is further away from “good enough” than had I ran with the original idea
All that being said, the desire to be perfect in and of itself is not a bad thing. I think we all want to do our best in all that we do. However, there is a healthy way of pursuing it that will not drive us batty!
We need to leverage that desire for perfection in such a way that it does propel us towards quality, but not at the expense of getting trapped in the mindset that everything we create is flawed and therefore we are permanently dissatisfied with all of it.
At some point, any changes made to our creation doesn’t make it better, it just makes it different…
Dr. Alex Lickerman puts it this way,
“… in the grand scheme of life no one thing is so important to me or anyone else that failing to make it perfect will permanently impair my ability to be happy is what frees me from the need for it to be perfect. Freed then from the need to attain the unattainable, I can instead focus on enjoying the challenge of simply doing my best. Because if we allow ourselves to remain at the mercy of our desire for perfection, not only will the perfect elude us, so will the good.”
Done is better than perfect
The concept derived from the book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg
I ask myself
- Does it really matter?
- What is the absolute worst that could happen?
- If the absolute worst does happen, can I survive it?
- Will this still matter tomorrow? How about next week? Next year?
More often than not, my typical response to these questions is simply “no.”
DONE = meets and surpasses standards, but is not perfect.
If it is the best that I can do and that best meets and surpasses the high standards of quality value to my customer (in every sense of the word) then only good things will happen.
So do not be afraid to put a stake in the ground and progress from there. Progress IS perfection!
NOTE: If you are a doctor… surgeon… or some other career that people’s lives are dependent upon you being perfect… well… be perfect! 🙂