Did you know that having high standards and working towards excellence differs from perfection? You can have high standards with a single-minded focus on excellence and not be a perfectionist.
Shifting Perfectionism to Excellence: Embracing Progress Over Perfection
“Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame.” - Brené Brown
For many, driving toward perfection, being flawless and continually measuring their performance to live error-free is their ultimate goal.
Often people strive for perfection out of fear of failure and spend time mourning their disappointments instead of revelling in their achievements and looking to the future. Whatever the reason, there is a high price to pay when perfection is the goal.
The Downside of Striving for Perfection
It isn't easy to comprehend how striving to be perfect can affect one negatively, but it can. If you emphasize small mistakes and getting things perfect all the time, you miss out on so many other things happening around you. We must realize that trying to be perfect is not the same as striving to be our best. When we consider Brené Brown’s above quote, we understand the need to be perfect can become a defence mechanism to guard us against the pain and threat of failure and the necessity to be accepted. Perfection directs our focus to what others think of us rather than on improving ourselves.
Changing Your Focus and Behaviour
Change can be difficult, particularly when we enjoy being in our comfort zone as much as we do, but you can modify your mindset towards excellence, one step at a time. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, and it's impossible to eliminate all perfectionist tendencies immediately. You can begin self-improvement by selecting one or two strategies below to work on daily. Keep a journal of your progress to measure your success. How many symptoms listed below refer to your behaviour?
Helpful Ways To Reduce The Emphasis On Being A Perfectionist
- Stop being your biggest critic
- Stop setting unrealistic standards
- Stop worrying about what others think
- Stop procrastinating
- Stop worrying about failing
- Allow yourself to fail and learn from it
- Love and accept your non-perfect self
- Start your journey to excellence
Excellence does not Mean Perfection
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation," Aristotle wrote. In other words, when we do the right things, we can achieve the virtue of excellence, which becomes a habit. Paying close attention to the most important things may force us to make challenging but critical decisions. Excellence is a way of life that involves strong emotional intelligence, focus, passion, and energy. Our journey towards excellence can be challenging, but we will progress much quicker when we try to develop habits that allow us to thrive.
Excellence is not perfection. We are fallible humans who make mistakes and take the odd wrong turn along the way. But if we pause long enough each day to prioritize what's important to us, we've cleared the path ahead for progress and the next step toward excellence. If you are motivated to change your focus from perfection to excellence, you may want to consider strengthening your emotional intelligence. I write about the downfalls of being a perfectionist in my book, The Power of Emotion. Marshall Connects offers Emotional Intelligence Assessments and Coaching and numerous blogs to enhance skill development.
This article was originally published on October 5, 2019, and has been updated (June 2023).
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