Perfection or Excellence?
Image by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
Do you believe your success depends on you being perfect? Do you strive for perfection? What if you were to strive for excellence instead? Excellence through continuous improvement.
In studying what makes people and organizations successful, Dr. Robert Maurer of The Science of Excellence has found that it is not perfection that leads to success. It is more often a matter of accumulating very small steps toward excellence. It is excellence by continuous improvement.
Is it real or is it…
After all, perfection is not real. It is an illusion. From my observation, a desire for control can masquerade as perfectionism. Or a need for safety, a fear of looking foolish, being wrong, being rejected or ridiculed. Ultimately, it’s unattainable.
Perfectionism is that thing that can creep up on you in all aspects of life and become a way to avoid doing what you’re here to do. If I can’t do it perfectly, if I can’t be an expert, then I may as well not do it at all.
Applied to yourselves it can hamper goal attainment. It can lead to unhappiness, dissatisfaction and a breakdown of relationships. It’s like trying to get a perfect point on a pencil and sharpening it down to a nub. When does something go from a masterpiece to ruin? From beauty to wreck?
When it is expected of others, perhaps in work scenarios, it manifests as criticism, micromanaging and the inability to be a productive, contributing team member or partner.
And sometimes, perfectionism is just a habit of thought. You don’t even realize you’re striving for it. It has become your normal.
In the end it would be so much more productive to shift your attention to excellence through continuous improvement.
When you are striving for excellence, you are doing your best all the while knowing that you can continue to improve. You are stretching yourself, refining your skills, learning from others, collaborating for a shared goal.
Excellence is knowing when a thing is “good enough”. And speaking of “good enough”, is that an acceptable goal? You’ve heard of the s*&%ty first draft. I say yes! Yes, it is a “perfect” place to pause and decide whether you’re done (for now) or to continue.
And, by the way, switching from perfection to excellence through continuous improvement is not a lowering of standards. It is a way to continue moving forward. And the irony is that “good enough” for a perfectionist is most likely head and shoulders above the standards for a non-perfectionist. The issue is knowing when to be done. And in the end, as Scott Allen said, “Done is better than perfect.”
- Excellence through continuous improvement allows for creative detours. It allows for observation, curiosity, experimentation. Perfection puts on blinders.
- Excellence through continuous improvement is conducive to collaboration. Perfection is a one-person show.
- Excellence through continuous improvement is fluid, a series of points along a continuum. Perfection is rigid.
- Excellence through continuous improvement is a process. It is creative. On the other hand, perfection can set you up for disappointment and rob you of the joy of discovery. Think about how so many inventions have been built on the work of someone who went before. They don’t come to us out of thin air. They are often improvements on someone else’s work or come from an observation that sparks an idea. Steam engines existed but James Watt took it to another level. Someone didn’t set out to invent the microwave oven. The waves were there. It was “invented” when Percy Spencer’s chocolate bar melted.
Whether in life or business, whether in ourselves or in what we create, the struggle for perfection can be debilitating. Too often the perfectionist is paralyzed, the dream of perfection becomes a hindrance. It prevents you from shining because your work is kept under wraps until it is “perfect.”
Make a different choice. Be excellent, not perfect.
Kaizen-Muse™ Creativity Coaching can help. Contact me to find out how I can help you can break through perfectionism and move forward.
#perfection #creativity #secondhalf