You may say that it’s good to have standards. And I would agree: taking pride in your work is a reflection of you and your business. With competition fierce, you want to make sure that you are showing the level of quality you bring whether as an individual or a business. But perfectionism can really get in the way.
However, if perfectionism becomes your tyrant, it can be your biggest source of stress and so can undo much of the good work you are trying to achieve, because when we get too stressed, performance suffers.
It’s important to remember that perfectionism is not a human condition. It is, though, a direction to aim for. And if perfectionism has become your tormentor, it may actually impede results. I have clients whose perfectionism stops them from finishing anything for fear of a mistake being discovered; or even starting something in case they can’t live up to their own ideals. Or it may be that they are working in a blame culture which can have a toxic impact throughout the organisation.
Perfectionism and Procrastination
Perfectionism can be a key factor in procrastination and most people can’t afford the delays which come with it. Is it better that a deadline is met, an outcome achieved, or that results wait as perfection is honed?
Perfectionism and Fear of Failure
If the issue is fear of failure, understand that avoidance feeds into the fear so you feel more stuck and helpless each time you give in to it. The longer it goes on, the more entrenched the behaviour is. I don’t think I have ever seen a constructive partnership between fear of failure and perfectionism in all the years I’ve been coaching – it’s a bit like having your foot on the brakes and the accelerator at the time – so it’s a important issue to address before the consequences catch up with you.
Mistakes and Attitude
It isn’t the making of mistakes which is important but what you do about it afterwards. From my own experience, my biggest loyalty and respect goes to those people/businesses who made a mistake but did a really good job of remedying it – especially their attitude about it. If they take the ‘It wasn’t my fault’ approach, that does nothing to build loyalty or confidence in them. In addition, blame culture cripples creativity and growth.
Improve and Evolve
Mistakes are our best teacher – it’s the best way to improve your skills and your processes, if you use it as an opportunity.
What is Good Enough?
For most situations the 80/20 rule works well: 80% good enough is good enough. Usually the 20% doesn’t have a significant bearing on the results of an endeavour. So, when perfectionism is causing you to take too long, miss deadlines or even opportunities, consider the cost of that 20% versus the result it would have given you. Better that something is done 80% well than not done at all in the majority of situations.
A Final Word on Perfectionism
Look on perfection as a direction rather than a despot. Learn how to manage expectations and disappointments and use mistakes to help you develop. Then, step by step, you will evolve your skills, increase your confidence, and lower your stress.
To your success.
© Tricia Woolfrey
PS If you still feel perfectionism is driving you and you want to know how to manage yourself and others around this subject, do call for support. You’ll be glad you did.