Perspective: Perfectionism Paralysis
What to do when chasing the ideal makes you grind to a halt
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
How many times have you heard that when someone urges you to concede that something is good enough and that it’s time to move forward? Getting caught up in the need for perfection can mean losing sight of what’s achievable.
Perfection requires complete information, total control, and infinite time. We often assume conditions will be perfect, too.
Does that sound like the real world to you?
Imagine you are Duke Energy, providing electricity in a region where weather ranges from snowstorms to hurricanes. Would you define excellence as providing uninterrupted power at all times in all circumstances—a perfect record? Or does excellence include preparing for likely problems and responding quickly and effectively to restore power when they occur?
Several coaching clients who are accomplished professionals have said it’s scary to step outside their areas of expertise. To them, asking for help means there’s something they don’t know. Not starting and not asking lets them avoid being judged imperfect.
Here are three approaches that can help you move forward:
Name the fear. What are you afraid will happen if you or your work are not perfect? How likely is it?
Keep things in perspective. What would happen if you gave your best effort to things that reflect your values and less effort to lower priorities?
Refocus on excellence. What are you proud of? Consistency? Attention to detail? Develop your own standard of excellence that takes the real world into account.