Perfection is a Myth that Sets Us Up for Failure

Do you procrastinate/put off certain projects because you don't know how they'll turn out?  Are you unwilling to call something "done" until it's just right?  Then you might be suffering from perfectionism, and it's probably adding unnecessary stress to your life.   

In this week's vlog, I talk about the dangers of perfectionism and how perfection is a myth that sets us up for failure.

Perfect is the Enemy of Done

There's an old quote by Voltaire, and this is a bit of a twist on that quote. For many years I had a little sticky note that was pasted right on the bottom of my monitor there because I would constantly get stuck in what the tech industry would call "analysis paralysis". And the little sticky note was an acronym: PITEOD.  What it stood for is, "Perfect is the enemy of done", which is the twist on the old Voltaire quote about the perfect being the enemy of the good.

What that means is that often times when we strive for this ideal of perfection, what we often end up doing is getting stuck and that leaves us paralyzed. We don't actually finish anything. We don't get to the point of done because we're so worried about making something perfect that we never start it.

Perfectionism Leads to Procrastination

We procrastinate in all these ways by spending endless amounts of time reading or preparing or researching or studying for something and not actually doing it. Or maybe we start it, but it takes us forever to finish because we spend all our time perfecting little details, rather than focusing on the bigger picture of making progress.  Case and point, I sat here staring at the outline for this week's blog for quite some time and I eventually realized that I just needed to start.

"If I waited for perfection I would never write a word."
- Margaret Atwood


The Cost of Perfectionism

When we get stuck in that analysis paralysis it adds all kinds of additional, unnecessary stress and strain on our systems. Versus if we just take the first step towards doing something then that momentum we build will help us go through and actually get to completion.

When we worry about trying to make something perfect, or failing at something, then we miss out on all kinds of opportunities that we could have had. We don't take chances that we might have otherwise taken that could have gotten us closer to something that we really wanted. We become very small.

When we are afraid of failure then the acceptable range of our experience, the things that we're willing to try, gets smaller and smaller and smaller because we keep eliminating the things that we might fail at, that we might not do perfectly. Which then just makes our world very small.

Set Yourself Up for Success!

If you notice this is something that happens for you: that you procrastinate and put things off, and maybe the root of it is because you won't do them perfectly, or you're worried about failing...then check out my upcoming stress management group. The next round is starting in August. 

In group we will talk about some ways to catch and work with these stories that are so prevalent in our culture about this ideal of perfection and how to achieve this ideal when ultimately it is an unrealistic goal that sets us up for failure.

Because if the goal is perfection, we are never going to reach it. And anything less than perfection, we will then chastise ourselves for or beat ourselves over the head. Ultimately this will leave us feeling unhappy and more stressed out than we were when we started.

Space in group is limited and enrollment is by application only.  Fill out an interest form to apply.


For more information about treatment for stress and burnout, visit the Stress Management page.