Perfection and Why You’re Better Off Without It

Perfection: many of us have strived for it. But what does it mean? And should we be so focused on achieving it? It’s nice to want one’s work to be top-notch, but as a recovered perfectionist, I know “perfectionism” goes further than that. Perfectionists just can’t settle on doing something 100%. This is akin to failure because the job should be done 110% or 120%! While that’s mathematically impossible, the standard remains.

But it gets worse

That quick definition really does sound simply like someone who has high standards. But here’s where things take a turn. The classic perfectionist revises ad-nauseam in a self-defeating way. They tear down and revise what they just created only to rebuild it all over again. The cycle repeats itself. Stuck in the nitty-gritty details, the perfectionist is unable to see how these details fit into the big picture. Meanwhile, the drive for perfection keeps them from being able to move on to other projects/tasks or meet deadlines. They simply can’t get out of their own way.

Effects on Health and Wellness

Naturally, a process that challenges productivity and ability to meet deadlines can be detrimental in the workplace. However, the effects extend into one’s personal life as well. When in a place of perpetual anxiety, our “fight or flight” nervous system tends to take command. While this system serves a purpose, it’s not a state in which we are meant to live constantly. Put very simply, excessive and/or perpetual stress can make you sick. In addition, the workaholic tendency that often accompanies perfectionism worsens things. That tendency keeps the individual from taking time with family/friends and from stress-relieving hobbies.

So what does this mean?

The overachievers out there will be happy to hear this is not at all a call to laziness! Good effort and hard work are still important. Instead, the idea is to let go of unrealistic expectations while always doing your very best. This is much healthier than fixating on a standard that’s impossible to reach—sort of like trying to count to infinity. You’ll find that you are calmer and have more time to do things you like. And surprisingly, you’ll be a more productive employee/manager.

Path back to wellness

What can one do to help curb perfectionism?  Well, the real first step is self-awareness. When you catch yourself on revision #10, stop and reflect on this. Or when you realize that you’re going to miss the deadline because you can’t “get things just right,” take a breath and think. Step back and put this into perspective. Is it more effective for you to spin your wheels on this and drop the ball on others tasks? Or should you give it your best and then move on? The funny thing is that you doing a job that’s “good enough” is probably you getting it done 100%. By stepping back a moment, you maintain a place of balance and wellness. Yet in addition, you’re also doing great work and completing all your tasks. All within the timeframe of deadlines!

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist