Are you perfect? If you answered yes, with all sincerity, would you tell me how you became so? For a good part of my life I strove mightily for perfection. I got disappointment and attenuated success instead. As counterintuitive as it sounds, aiming for perfection held me back.
Have you experienced the same thing? There is a better way.
About a year after starting my business I was extremely frustrated with its lack of growth. I was closing almost 100% of the prospects I got. The problem was that I would only go after a piece of business if I was virtually certain I would get it. Realizing something was wrong I did what I always had done to solve a problem. I read.
After stories about the numerous times Walt and Roy Disney went broke or almost so, the thousands of ways Edison found not to make a lightbulb, and the life story of Zig Ziglar, I realized that it was better to close 10% of lots of prospects than 100% of very few. Interestingly, within about four years my closing rate became better than 50% and I had more business than I could handle. (But that is another blog post.)
Here is what I learned about the pursuit of perfection:
- Start by acknowledging that human beings are inherently flawed. If you believe in G-d then he represents the unobtainable perfection. This relieves you of useless striving. If you do not believe in a deity do this: Name one human being who is perfect. (Though we all will not dispute it, your mom does not count.)
- Perfection is the enemy of improvement. Developing various aspects of yourself: character, skills, attitude, requires taking risk and suffering setbacks. Fear of being less than perfect will inhibit your attempts to reshape your self-image, develop potentially latent talent, and improve your outlook because it is unlikely you can consistently maintain such changes. It is too easy to decide there is no purpose to your aim since you never measure up.
- Recognize the ideal but do not make it your goal. Do you want to be the ideal spouse, parent, or entrepreneur? Do you really know what your ideal looks like? First, clearly draw your portrait of this perfect self-image. But recognize since you will inevitably deviate such a goal is self-defeating.
- You will get much farther aiming for incremental advancement. Remember the old adage “slow and steady wins the race?” Pick one aspect of your ideal to work on. Set a realistic goal that will move you in the direction of your ideal. Once you get habituated to this new level, start working on another.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because life is finite you will never achieve your aim through gradual improvement. This is another way striving for perfection retards your growth. Trying to do and be it all will most likely result in your being nothing. And is not positive step-by-step advancement better than stasis or harsh self-criticism to which perfectionism typically leads?
Question – Can you describe a situation in which striving for perfection would most likely lead to positive results?
You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below ↓
© , Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved
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