Have you ever lived with a perfectionist? I have. Have you worked for a perfectionist? I have. Have you struggled with your own perfectionistic ways? I have. I can tell you from experience. Perfectionism is exhausting. While it may seem to serve a positive purpose in life, there is a dark side to perfectionism:
- Perfectionism assumes you are never good enough. There is a constant pursuit of perfection, and individuals are constantly plagued with self-doubt and self-criticism.
- Perfectionism and grace can’t live together. Not only can you not give grace to yourself, others rarely receive this gift from you either.
- Perfectionism can be extremely time-consuming. There is so much time, money, and energy wasted perfecting work, people, situations, etc.
- Perfectionism will set you on the road to burnout. A person can only keep up with these expectations for so long before suffering from stressful repercussions.
- Unhealthy perfectionism will take a toll on your health and your relationships.
The Dark Side in Business
In my own work, and in the work of my OBM colleagues, I hear so many stressful stories about working with perfectionistic clients. Stories of…
- Sharp words and anger when mistakes are made
- Undoing everything you’ve done because it wasn’t exactly the way they wanted
- Micromanaging to the point of interference and stalling productivity
- Failure to delegate because they can’t trust
- Burning through one support professional after another because no one is ever good enough
- Building a reputation for being difficult to work for
This is no way for anyone to live or work. It’s unhealthy emotionally, mentally, and physically. Thankfully, there are alternatives to perfectionism…
This is my personal favorite and one of Amazing OBM’s company values. As a recovering perfectionist, I stand firmly against expecting perfectionism from myself or my team members. However, I do expect all of us to strive to be our best, and do our best work.
Excellence is defined as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. I love the way one of my OBM colleagues defines it. She says “We are 100% accurate, 98% of the time.” How does that feel? This leaves room for error. Excellence understands that we are all human, and although we try extremely hard, sometimes we will fall short.
Excellence requires a commitment to ownership and growth. When we do excellent work but make a mistake, we own it. We are able to learn from our mistakes and strive not to make the same mistake again. Excellence means we double check our work, but we don’t obsess endlessly.
Most important, excellence allows us to give grace and understanding to those we work with and live with. We hold people to high standards, and we treat people with loving kindness when they fall down. This includes ourselves. It’s painful to watch someone we care about beat themselves up for a mistake. If you think about it, no one ever intentionally plans to make mistakes. They just happen. Excellence makes room for forgiveness and growth.
The second “healthy” alternative to perfectionism is “good enough.” While this alternative can produce fear for some, there are times when “good enough” is okay.
I remember a time when I had my coaching practice and I was creating a visual for a speaking engagement. It was the evening before the event and my perfectionistic ways were wreaking havoc on my time. I had ditched several attempts at making this poster board, and it was late at night. I had wasted entirely too much time on something that was frankly, not that important. So I put together my version of “good enough.” The speaking engagement took place and not one single person made a comment about my visual. I would venture to say that the message I delivered was far more important than a single visual I used to demonstrate my point.
Another example happened when I transitioned into my OBM business. My website needed a makeover but I didn’t have time to do it exactly the way I wanted. So I did a version of “good enough,” which I used for eight months until I launched the website I wanted.
Sometimes it is better to practice “good enough” rather than not at all. Maybe we don’t have the money or the time to do things exactly the way we desire. That does not mean that good enough is permanent – it can be a temporary solution to something that needs to get done.
“Good enough” also works when we are learning. It’s called trial and error. For instance, let’s say you need to put together a lead magnet to grow your subscriber base. Rather than wait because you’re not exactly sure what will work, just try something. Test it and see if it sticks. If it doesn’t produce the results you want, try again. Keep trying your “good enough” versions until you reach excellence.
“Good enough” carves out space for creativity. While perfectionism will shut you down, good enough allows you to brainstorm, expand your mind, and explore possibilities. Write the blog. Create the course. Record the video. Just do it and have fun. You don’t have to use it, but using the mindset of “good enough” will get your creative juices flowing.
My favorite use for “good enough” is when you need to practice ditching your perfectionism. It is a conscious choice to do less than perfect work and sit with the feelings that come up. Is it fear of judgment or rejection? Do you start drowning yourself in self-critical thoughts? Does anxiety creep up when you think about putting “good enough” out into the world? What a wonderful opportunity to grow and stretch yourself outside your comfort zone.
Striking the balance between perfectionism, excellence, and good enough is the key to living a healthy life. Whether it’s in your work or your personal life, there is a time and place for all three of these. Knowing when and how to use these mindsets will largely impact your health and success.
If you’re a heart surgeon, please don’t make a mistake.
But if you’re a business owner and a mistake is made, ask yourself, “Were any small children harmed?” No? Then it’s probably fixable, or at least a valuable lesson learned.
Lori Young is the founder and chief OBM at Amazing OBM. We manage the day-to-day operations and marketing for heart-centered, purpose-driven, and growth-oriented entrepreneurs. If you’re ready to take back your time and scale your business to new heights, learn more about our services here.
The Two “Healthier” Alternatives to Perfectionism
June 13, 2019