“Perfectionism is a dangerous state of mind in an imperfect world”
~ Robert Hillyer
One of the most common challenges we observe when working with high-achievers is the drive to pursue perfection. On the surface, this seems like a worthy aim – after all, to achieve greatness, one must surely do great work, right?
Let’s start by challenging the very idea of perfection: What’s perfect to you probably isn’t perfect to me. We each have our own perspective on the world, and it’s through that lens that we perceive either flaws or flourishes. It’s subjective.
If perfection is a matter of opinion then what are we actually pursuing when we claim to be going after it? This, too, is no doubt subjective. For some, it’s about the perfect expression of their creative talents: Hitting the perfect note, painting the perfect picture, or writing the perfect post. For others, it’s about meeting the expectations of others: trying to get the perfect score on the test, delivering the perfect solution for the customer, or writing the perfect presentation for your boss.
I’m sure some folks will read the previous paragraph and see the merit in those pursuits. After all, we should share our talents with the world, and we should try to deliver great work. But there is a line between great and perfect, and if you cross it, you risk embarking on a fool’s errand, like chasing rainbows.
As an individual contributor, the pursuit of perfection may actually get us ahead early in our careers. We’ll sacrifice our health, work-life balance, and important relationships along the way, and as long as we keep delivering great work, people will love us for it. But as we gain experience and begin to lead, we’re now writing the checks that our team needs to cash. Perfectionism in a manager will often show up as micro-management or a failure to delegate effectively, missed deadlines, ineffective decision-making caused by ‘analysis paralysis’, and any number of other ways to erode team trust and fail to deliver results. This, in turn, leads to employee engagement and retention issues as people become disillusioned trying to reach the unattainable bar you’ve set for them.
So, the next time you find yourself chasing rainbows, consider what the cost might be to yourself or others. After all, even if you do achieve perfection for yourself, there are plenty of people who would see it differently.
This week’s inquiry…
When do you find yourself chasing rainbows?
As a reformed perfectionist and former professional athlete, Charly Haversat began noticing that we spend a lot of our personal and professional lives on being flawless. But her big question is: As we obsess about perfection, are we actually getting anything done?
As we obsess about perfection, are we actually getting anything done?
What if you could silence your inner critic and eliminate your fear of failure? How might these two simple changes improve your life? Damon Zahariades offers a practical and thought-provoking guide that’ll help you to overcome your perfectionistic tendencies and enjoy a more rewarding life.