There is a fine balance between getting something right and getting something to be perfect. Perfectionism is a misleading or false idea.
One definition of perfect is “excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.” This means that once something has reached completion, it cannot be improved.
The truth is no matter how good something is, whether it’s a product of service, our physical health, our relationships, or our finances, there’s always room for improvement.
One reason why we buy into this idea of perfectionism is because it can be a good avoidance strategy. If we are focused on getting something “perfect,” then we’re not putting ourselves at risk of being judged or criticised because we can always say, “It’s not complete yet.”
While perfectionism can be related to having high standards, if we’re not careful, we can end up creating some bad habits.
I remember when I wrote my first book, Hoops and Freedom, I was so scared to share it with others initially that I took an additional four months to publish the book. I wrote the book in five months and because I was afraid of being told that the book was not written well, it took me weeks before I had the courage to share what I had written.
Even then, I could only get myself to share the first four chapters of my book. Thankfully I received positive and encouraging feedback initially, which made it a little easier to get the book completed and published.
While perfectionism may cause us to believe we are doing a better job or creating a better product or service, it does have some significant costs as well. Here are five ways perfectionism may be affecting our lives in a negative way.
- You are actually less productive. Focusing on every single detail, especially on things that are not important, and constantly refining things, will slow us down and delay the completion of our tasks or projects. This can lead to lower productivity over the long-term.
- Your mental and physical health will be affected. Perfectionism generates high levels of stress because things have to be a “certain way,” which can often cause worry and anxiety. This can also lead to skipping meals, reducing sleep hours and avoiding physical activity. Once again, the long-term implications are severe.
- You will procrastinate more. As perfectionism can be an avoidance strategy, it can lead to over-thinking and over-planning, which are just fancy ways of procrastinating. When trapped by perfectionism, it’s a lot easier to put off doing something important and focus on things that are not essential.
- You will be less creative. As a result of focusing on every single detail and revisiting them over and over, being a perfectionist can cause us to miss other opportunities that may be around us. Having the same thought patterns over and over again will prevent us from being open to new ideas.
- Your relationships will suffer. Perfectionism can result in isolation and loneliness because of the amount of pressure we put on ourselves. The belief that something must “be perfect” can cause us to become inflexible, not listen to other people’s input, and take out our frustration on others.
How to not be perfect
- Focus on what’s important to you in life, not just on work or your career.
- Set deadlines for tasks or projects and have someone hold you accountable so that you don’t take longer than is required.
- Be okay with “good enough” at times, but ask for regular feedback so that you can still make “good enough” even better.
- Learn from your mistakes and be willing to accept that sometimes things won’t work out as planned.
- Do not be attached or defined by one single thing in life. Your life has many aspects so give attention to other areas as well.
The cure for perfectionism is accountability and feedback. If we have people in our lives who will not buy into our excuses for “trying to get something right,” it will assist us in ensuring we are moving forward towards what we want in a timely manner.
Question: What could be another cost of perfectionism?
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