Are you a perfectionist?

Do you seem to continuously revise and refine the things you work on and are never quite satisfied enough with the product?

Do you hold off on acting or moving forward until you have all the information you think you may need and until you get things “just right”?

Do you miss opportunities because of your inaction and constant refinement?

Do you then beat yourself up as you see others moving forward with similar projects and achieving results ahead of you?

While high standards and expectations are important to drive us to achieve excellence, they can also paralyze us to inaction and get in the way of our ultimate success.  Having things be “perfect” can actually serve as an excuse for us to avoid action and disguise a hidden fear of failure.

I have been spending time with and studying successful entrepreneurs lately, some of which have built seven figure businesses from nothing.  The common theme I hear over and over again from them is this—they all have a bias for action and have let go of the notion of being perfect.  One woman I spoke to assured me that taking action, even when something is not 100% but is more like 80%, is  one of her keys to success.

“I focus on excellence and taking action—but never perfection.  Everything is a work in progress so expecting perfection from anything kills forward momentum.   I would rather move forward at 80% excellence and make changes along the way than wait until everything is just perfect to move out.  Nothing is ever perfect and my competitors will benefit from my inaction.”

How often does this happen to you?  Does your expectation of perfection kill your forward movement and progress?  If this sounds at all familiar, here are two simple things to remember.  They may sound obvious but I know from my coaching clients that many of us lose sight of them often.

 1.    Nothing and no-one is perfect

As much as we hate to admit it—we are not perfect.  Everything and everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  Light and dark.  Good days and bad days.  And “perfect” is a notion that is created by us humans to denote a self-imposed standard.  What is considered “perfect” or “ideal” by one person or group may not be so for another.  So while setting high standards is indeed a good thing—beating yourself up for never quite measuring up to them is another.  Continuously aiming to improve, to do better, and to be better is a noble and meaningful pursuit.  But when that pursuit results in waiting to move forward or experience things until perfection is reached, that pursuit becomes an excuse for inaction.   It often disguises a fear of failure.  We’d rather sit back and watch others fail while we perfect things, than risk actually doing something and falling short.

A poignant example of what I mean here is the case of a woman who would not go to the gym to work out until she was able to look like her notion of “perfect” in her workout clothes.  (No, I am not kidding.)  Although some can see her as someone with a goal—what I know is that it is seven years later and she still doesn’t go to the gym.  She is still waiting to be “perfect”…

2.    Meaningful movement forward trumps being forever stuck on the sidelines

The famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt says it all here.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

The curse of perfectionism is a self-imposed choice.

Isn’t it time to stop trying to be perfect and to just get into the arena?


I’d love to hear from you with your experiences.  Send me a note or leave me a comment with your thoughts…