Perfection – A Two-Edged Sword!

shutterstock_biscuitsPerfection – friend or enemy? On one hand, striving for improvement, to make something better, more skilled, more accurate, is worthwhile. On the other hand, striving for perfection can be crippling and defeating.

For example, if you are in a profession that uses Malcolm Baldridge as the pinnacle of achievement, and you use it as a guideline to mark improvements in your work patterns and results, your striving for perfection can be the right course of action. If, however, you say that, after trying, you cannot achieve perfect results, and give up, you have allowed perfection to block constructive action.

If you find yourself stuck and unable to move forward, try the following:

  • Pick one thing that you find easy to improve. List three things you can do to move it forward, set a time to complete it, and move forward. This should improve your confidence in the ability to take action.
  • Then pick one thing that you cannot forward, no matter how hard you try. Find someone with more experience than you have to talk with and explain your dilemma. Then choose one step you can take and set a deadline.  When you have completed it, reward yourself – even if you are not happy with the results. The item is now off dead-center, so you can then take additional steps to move the item solidly toward completion.
  • Then pick one more thing you find easy to improve. Complete it, then pick one more thing that has you stuck and repeat the process.

I find that using a timer and setting it for 15 minutes is an invaluable tool – “I can do anything for 15 minutes, right?” I also write the information down – this takes it out of my head and places it where I can refer to it as I move forward.

As a recovering perfectionist, I have learned to take baby steps to “let go” and now consistently reward myself for the small victories of action over perfection.


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