Perfectionism—a refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. Do you strive to be perfect because you think your desire to do things well, right, or perfectly is a positive trait?
It kind of makes sense… After all, if you do your job, parent your kids, or dress correctly, people will approve of and like you more, right? Your desire to be perfect will help you succeed, right?After all, if you, your work, or your actions are perfect, how can you fail?
It’s possible…even likely…you will fail because of your focus on perfection.
Perfectionism Causes Failure
In fact, perfectionism holds you back. It prevents you from releasing your work into the world. It doesn’t allow you to live fully or be yourself.
As far as your work, a perfectionist never feels ready to say, “I’m finished,” and moving on to something else. They get stuck revising, redoing, improving… Can you relate?
Perfectionism also stops you from doing things you might want to try but think you can’t do perfectly. You focus on the fear of being judged for not doing it right or well enough the first time. And so you don’t try.
And perfectionism gets in the way of successful relationships. If you continually strive to be perfect, you’ll never be authentic. You’ll never allow yourself just to be yourself. And a relationship can’t thrive or grow when one person constantly feels the need to work at being the “perfect” partner, friend, daughter, parent, or co-worker.
Make Progress Not Perfection
Instead of worrying about being perfect or creating perfect things, worry about making progress. That will get you results much more quickly.
One of my best friends taught me this lesson. After being stuck for a long time on a writing project—among other things, she said, “I decided it was better to make progress than perfection.”
Indeed, it is.
Focus your attention on progress. Let perfection happen in the process.
When you focus on progress, perfectionism won’t hold you back. Just knowing you are taking steps forward is perfect enough.
How to Perfectionists Make Progress
Here are three ways to start making progress, not perfection.
1. Create small goals with deadlines.
It’s hard to perfect something big, like a year-long work project, or to feel you are making progress when your desired result seems overwhelming or far off into the future. So, chunk down every large goal into smaller pieces with deadlines. When you hit the deadline, you’re done. Period. You’ve made progress, and it’s time to take another step forward.
2. Create an evaluation system.
If you don’t know what done…or perfect…looks like, you won’t know when you reach that point. Therefore, you need criteria for “done.” Create a list of criteria, so you know when you’ve finished a small goal (and the larger ones), but don’t go overboard. If you base your criteria on perfectionism, you’ll end right back where you started. Make your standards reasonable. When you meet them, move on.
3. Have a good enough attitude.
I’m not saying you should release shlock out into the world when it comes to work, become a slip-shod parent, or publish an unedited book. I am saying that you need to realize perfection is an unattainable goal. When you do, you’ll be okay with good enough or the best I can do at this moment. Then keep taking steps forward.
4. Explore your fears.
Perfectionism is based on fear…of rejection, not being good enough, getting judged, failing. To break your perfectionism habit, explore your concerns. Uncover them. Then ask yourself, “Are my fears real? Or is this just a possibility of something that could happen in the future?” Of course, your fears are the latter—a future potentiality that may never materialize in your life. Live in the present. Step into the future with courage and confidence knowing whatever you do it is good enough.
How can you make progress rather than perfection?
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