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Category: Brand · 4 min read

The Toxicity of Perfection, and How to Get Over It

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on June 20, 2019

author profile photo

on June 20, 2019

Professional man and woman sitting down and talking

We can all procrastinate to a degree, especially when it comes to completing tasks that we dread. But do you ever find yourself falling behind because you want something to be absolutely perfect? Do you tend to be constantly tweaking something to make it even better than before?   

If so, then it’s possible that perfection may be getting in the way of your productivity and effectiveness. Often, this can prevent you from achieving your goals and being efficient.  

The bottom line is choosing perfection over action may be holding you back from conquering great things and creating new experiences for your clients. It’s time to get over perfection and move on to the life you want to live. To get you there, here are three truths to help you conquer the lie of perfection. 

The bottom line is choosing perfection over action may be holding you back from conquering great things and creating new experiences for your clients.

1. Recognize the Toxicity of Trying to be Perfect 

Do you get to the end of the week and realize you’re still trying to finish the first task on your list, only because it’s not perfect? Your weekend may now be consumed with work, instead of fun and relaxation. That can lead to burnout, fatigue, and dissatisfaction.  

I like how popular author and speaker Jon Acuff describes it: “Perfectionism is never finished. That’s the lie. There’s no such thing as perfect, you can always improve. So perfectionism draws an ever-moving, ever-expanding finish line that you never reach. You get to be finished and imperfect or almost done and perfect.”1  

The truth is that perfection is toxic. It’s an unrealistic goal that you can’t attain. Over time, it can eat at you and wear you down, until instead of finishing your goals, projects, or tasks, you give up.  

I think of it this way: We aren’t perfect, so we shouldn’t expect our work to be perfect either. Defeat perfection by not believing in it.  

 

2. Recognize There Might be Something Bigger Holding You Back 

Imagine this: You’ve reached a deadline on a project or a goal and have no choice but to call it complete. In your mind, it’s not perfect—therefore, you failed. You’re frustrated with yourself. 

Stop! This type of thinking will do a number on your confidence and set you up for unachievable and unrealistic expectations in the future. Instead, it’s important to realize that you’ve done all you could in the time given, and it will have to do. Sometimes the best thing to do is to call it finished and walk away.  

Do you struggle with this? I have. The truth is that this way of working can hold you back from experiencing satisfaction in your accomplishments. Change your mindset here. Remind yourself of all the hard work that you put in to it, and see how far you’ve come since you started the task or goal. My guess is that you’re a lot better off now than when you started.  

Don’t let the perfectionist mindset hold you back. Push past it by focusing on the positive, and keep your productivity level high. 

 

3. Strive for Excellence Instead of Perfection 

Say these words out loud: “Strive for excellence instead of perfection.” Etch it into your brain. There’s a big difference here. Excellence and perfection aren’t synonyms, they’re completely different. Excellent work can still have flaws, but what separates it from perfection is that it actually gets finished. Excellence is achievable, perfection isn’t.  

So, make excellence your new goal. Dr. Harriet Braiker, clinical and social psychologist, is right on target: “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”2 

We aren’t perfect, so we shouldn’t expect our work to be perfect either.

The lie perfection tells is that it’s a good thing, when it’s not. It can paralyze you and cause nothing to truly get done. Don’t let it hold you back from achieving your goals and growing your business. Your work doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be good. 

 

Sources: 

1. Schawbel, Dan. “Jon Acuff: The Best Way To Finish the Goals You Start.” Forbes. Sep. 12, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2017/09/12/jon-acuff-the-best-way-to-finish-the-goals-you-start/#27984f9865cd 

2. Goodreads. “Harriet B. Braiker Quotes.” https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/68631-striving-for-excellence-motivates-you-striving-for-perfection-is-demoralizing 

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Written By

Mark Williams

President and CEO

Mark Williams is the President/CEO of Brokers International. Over his more than 25 years of financial services experience, Mark has been both a producing independent agent in the field and a home office leader consulting to agencies and field marketing organizations. Currently, Mark is focused on the future of the insurance industry, from the disruptions of InsurTech and robo-advisors to the changing demographics and needs of customers. He also is an avid mentor, helping financial professionals navigate the industry.

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