Wednesday, June 1, 2011 Post By: Grayne Wetzky

The danger of perfection

Making something really good requires hard work and a lot of trail and error. No one ever does their best work the first time they try something. Practice and patience are twin virtues that help anyone looking to create something.

It is also natural and healthy to want to do your best and deliver your best possible work. Without pushing ourselves to get better and improve we stagnate, Pretty soon we will be uninspired and so is our work.

In fact, to be able to break free from ordinary results and achieve something amazing, a drive to improve and succeed is essential. So the desire to be as good as possible is great, yet aiming for perfection is more often than not keeping us from achieving goals.

The danger of aiming to high is that instead of pushing you to break through barriers, chasing perfection will often serve as a deterrent to take action. It doesn't matter what you are trying to achieve, you will never be absolutely perfect. There will always be something that can be tweaked, a detail that can be improved.

When we constantly question if what we have done is good enough, it becomes a serious drag on our performance. A prime example of this is a writer working on their big novel. They will be very invested in the story and have spent many hour perfecting the pacing and structure. The great anger is that the work never gets to the next stage. There is always one more read through that could be done, a word that is overused here or an awkward transition there. Instead of moving forward with a good book draft, they get stuck on perfecting what they have and are to scared to let the work out into the world.

Keeping our work to ourselves and polishing it forever is safe and comfortable. If no one ever sees what you have done, then you won't have to deal with potential uncomfortable criticism, there is no chance that anyone will ridicule your work, but also no chance that our labor will bare any fruit.

In this scenario, and it is a common scenario, the pursuit of perfection isn't really about achieving perfection. It really is just another mental hurdle we put up to not have to commit to a goal.

This kind of thinking is very common. It does not only apply to the creative process. It is a frequent saboteur of many a plan. Another very typical example is the dieter who trips up and eats something they know they shouldn't have. Many will react to this mistake by thinking 'Ok, I slipped up, might as well eat what I like today and get back on the plan tomorrow'. This might not seem like a big deal, but the underlying pattern for this kind of reasoning is that the person is not really committed to the diet plan.

For someone who really want to stick with a specific way of eating, a more productive mindset would be to think 'I messed up, the sooner I get back on track the less damaging my slip up will be'. Giving up on a goal because we're not executing to perfection yet is really a sign that you are not really committed to the process.

If you find yourself getting down on yourself when you make a minor mistake, if you keep adjusting your deadlines until what you are doing is 'good enough' it is time to stop and be honest with yourself. Do you have fears holding you back from doing what you truly want? Are you fully invested in the goals you have set, or are you just going through the motions because you are supposed to?

Shooting for perfection can be procrastination in disguise. While you work hard, you are still keeping yourself from producing meaningful results. Break out of these patterns by forcing yourself to set deadlines and follow through on them. Show people your work even if you know it could still use some work.

And most important of all, be honest with yourself. Make sure you are fully conscious of your motivation for pursuing a goal. Be critical of yourself and don't let you trick yourself into thinking you are being productive when you are not.

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