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Don’t Let Perfection Get in the Way

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Are you a perfectionist? It’s almost impossible to set and maintain such high standards. Perfectionism can hold you back.

Perfection is defined as reaching the highest attainable standard. In my experience, we are sometimes stalled by focusing on perfection. If you have ever delayed taking action because you are afraid that you are not ready or something is not good enough, then you understand how perfection can get in the way of progress. Here are some thoughts on perfection.

  • Don’t confuse perfection and excellence. Excellence requires great results, not perfect results. Release yourself from perfection and create excellence.
  • Action provides the process to change a vision of perfection into something tangible. Any form of perfection, or even excellence, only resides within our mind until we take action. Ideas need to be turned into results which can only happen with action.
  • Mistakes drive improvement. We improve through practice. We learn from mistakes. We can only get better by making the mistakes that provide insight into advancement.

Perfection belongs to narrated events, not to those we live. – Primo Levi

Life is messy. Only in our minds can perfection exist, and I don’t want to let it get in my way. It’s incredibly hard but you can do it! Harvard Business Review writer, Alice Boyes, knows all about how perfectionists can get in their own way. She shared a few tips that we can all use to avoid some of our perfectionist tendencies. One of those that she mentioned was the fact you need to learn from your successes.


© Flickr user LaVladina.

By reflecting on the pathways that led to your successes, you’ll be able to see that you achieved a meaningful end despite not doing everything completely flawlessly or being 100% certain of success in advance. Through this process, you’ll be able to understand how you can benefit from taking a ready, fire, aim approach, where you tweak your processes and decisions based on experience rather than from exhaustive research and deliberation.

Another tendency that perfectionists seem to share is that they tend to lose focus of the big picture. The details tend to overtake everything else. Those little issues truly get in their way because they have to be executed perfectly. Jack Klemeyer recently talked about how to tackle obstacles that can help.

1. Identify your goal and make it a realistic one. You must care about it if you expect to ever complete it.
2. Select a goal that you can work on, rather than something someone else has selected for you.
3. Make sure it’s specific, not vague. For example, choose a skill like “Communicating more effectively with your friends by using positive vocabulary,” or “Managing your time more efficiently by stating a time and date for getting your goal accomplished.” Selecting a goal you can do something about gives you the power and influence to actively and assertively accomplish it.
4. Have at least one goal or objective every day. Feel a sense of joy and fulfillment whenever you take a step toward accomplishing these things.
5. Experience how your feelings and thoughts are pulled by your stated goals.
6. Reward yourself for every goal or objective that gets accomplished. Remember to be consistent when rewarding yourself as well.

Don’t run yourself ragged. You can’t truly know every way to do something until you make a mistake. It’s okay to fail at something. It’s okay to receive feedback that includes some criticism. Take these opportunities to learn more. We never stop learning and changing. That’s a good thing! Embrace those imperfections and let them guide you while you travel along your road to fulfilment and success.

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Mark S. Brown
Mark S. Brown is an executive coach who is passionate about personal development. He works to make a difference in people's lives by empowering them with skills and knowledge that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in. Mark has been coached, mentored, and certified by John Maxwell and his team. This coaching certification allows Mark to successfully coach and train individuals, groups, organizations, and companies.
Mark S. Brown


Executive and Business Coach at New Roads Leadership. A founding partner of the John Maxwell Team. We coach for your personal success!
Mark S. Brown
Mark S. Brown

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