“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business.”
Michael J. Fox
Last week two of my friends talked about how burdensome perfectionism can be. These are both talented people but like so many others I know feel guilty if what they do is not perfect in their mind. I wonder sometimes if some folks use perfectionism as a rationale for procrastination or the reason not to produce something they think others will not appreciate. Whatever the reason perfectionism mostly reinforces a feeling of inadequacy and failure that is seldom justified. I think to some extent it comes from believing that form is more important than substance. In reality almost nothing is perfect when measured only by form. So I have decided to redefine perfect to being something that is functional and published in time to be useful.
By my definition nothing is perfect that is too late to be used or never distributed. Something is also perfect in my eyes if it communicates to others what is important. I want us all to appreciate the fact that it is the message we send that is understood by others and is useful and is delivered in a timely manner that is perfect. I know of no museum where beautiful messages are displayed. So my friend if you got it out on time and it did what it was supposed to do, you’re perfect even if you don’t know you are.
Here are some edited tips to help if you have perfectionist leanings from an article written by Mark Tyrrell
1) Cut some slack for yourself -- When you approach a staircase, you don't leap the whole flight in one bound. Don't then expect to win or succeed straightaway. Cut back on things that need to 'be perfect'. Is it really vital to have every CD in your collection perfectly aligned or all your books spaced exactly evenly from one another?
2) Cut slack for others -- Being a perfectionist and inflicting that on others is really a way of trying to control people. People don't like feeling controlled or coerced all the time, even if you do 'know best'. Remember people are who they are, regardless of how you feel they should be. What makes us human are our foibles and, yes, weaknesses. Don't be an unintentional bully.
3) Learn to see life in all its shades -- Learn to think in gradations: Do you really think anything less than 100% is zero? Over-simplified all-or-nothing thinking isn't a perceptive, sophisticated, or accurate way to evaluate much of life. The brightest people can do the dumbest things sometimes; most things are relative. Save your black-or-white thinking for the really simplistic situations of. Recognize what's good enough and move on.
4) Develop humor -- Often, perfectionists fail to see the funny side. If you are a perfectionist, you may have even been accused of a sense-of-humor failure on occasion. A ready sense of humor depends on being able to shift perspective quickly, which is essential when things don't work out exactly as you'd hoped. Hang out with and learn from funny, relaxed people. Who was it that said: "Life is too important to take seriously"?
5) Remember mistakes are not catastrophes. -- Be brave and accept that mistakes happen and, let's take it further, that they should happen. Not making mistakes means never having the opportunity to truly learn and develop. In some contexts, mistakes can even be encouraged so we can move beyond them more quickly.
6) Don't use perfectionism as a reason to procrastinate -- Because making mistakes isn't a mortal sin (in fact, some ancient cultures felt that perfection was a sin because it displayed hubris and challenged the gods), don't fear mistakes or use the possibility of imperfection as an excuse not to start things. If a journey is worth making, then false starts and temporarily getting lost matter little if the final destination can still be achieved.
7) Stop over-applying negative outcomes -- If you miss a shot in tennis, does that one mistake make you a total idiot? This is as silly as someone doing one nice thing and you proclaiming them to be a 'total saint'. Psychologists call this 'globalizing' and it's a hallmark of intolerance. People with low self-esteem, for example, are intolerant of themselves.
Ultimately, perfectionism produces a chronic fear of failure and this comes about from failure (yes, I get the irony) to see success as relative. Personally, I feel that a 'perfect person' would seem rather imperfect. As Goethe once proclaimed: "Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks."
Once you accept the fact that you're not perfect, then you develop some confidence.
1. I believe that if anything is worth doing, it would have been done already.
2. I shall never move quickly, except to avoid more work or find excuses.
3. I will never rush into a job without a lifetime of consideration.
4. I shall meet all of my dead lines directly in proportion to the amount of bodily injury I could expect to receive from missing them.
5. I firmly believe that tomorrow holds the possibility for new technologies, astounding discoveries, and a reprieve from my obligations.
6. I truly believe that all deadlines are unreasonable regardless of the amount of time givin.
7. I shall never forget that the probability of a miracle, though infinitesimally small, is not exactly zero.
8 If at first I don't succeed, there is always next year.
9. I shall always decide not to decide, unless of course I decide to change my mind.
10. I shall always begin, start, initiate, take the first step, and /or write the first word, when I get around to it.
11. I obey the law of inverse excuses which demands that the greater the task to be done, the more significant the work that must be done prior to beginning the greater task.
12. I know that the work cycle is not plan/start/finish, but is wait/wait/plan.
13. I will never put off until tomorrow, what I can forget about forever.
14. I will become a member of the Ancient Order of Two-Headed Turtles (the Procrastinators Society) if they ever get it organized.
If you want the world to beat a path to your door, just try to take a nap on a Saturday afternoon.
When Jack Benny's daughter Joan was married for the first time, the L.A. Times had a headline, "Jack Benny's Daughter Married in $25,000 Affair."
The L.A. Examiner's headline was "Benny Spends $50,000 on Daughter's Wedding."
Eddie Cantor woke him up with a phone call to say "Did you read either of the morning papers yet?"
Jack said no.
Cantor said, "Well, do yourself a favor and just read The Times. You'll save $25,000."
TROUBLE: Area of nonspecific space a child can always be sure to be in.
"Dad," said Little Johnny, "I'm late for football practice. Would you please do my homework for me?"
Little Johnny's father said irately, "Son, it just wouldn't be right."
"That's okay," replied Little Johnny, "At least you could try, right?"
“The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Stay well, do good work, and have fun.
Management is not responsible for duplicates from previous dailies. The editor is somewhat senile.
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