Harriet Braiker is often quoted as having said, “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”
So which one do you aspire to attain? Some people are foolish in thinking that excellence and perfection are the same, while the truth is that they're polar opposites. In reality, the best way to achieve excellence is not to demand perfection.
Perfectionism has more to do with how things appear to others and whether they think they're done right. Excellence is about having a reason and a purpose for what you're doing and being driven by that purpose to achieve results that will ultimately make you succeed. There's a big difference in meaning and intent.
Let’s face it — perfectionism sets you up for failure. It drains you and causes you to think that you'll achieve your goal, all the while being an illusion that's only nurtured by how obsessed you are with the outcome. There's no gain and very little reward, and most certainly, no joy or pleasure is accomplished here. There's only pain and the disillusionment of not being up to par, as well as the ever-present, “What will people think and say?”
Excellence, on the other hand, is singularly focused. It involves having a razor-sharp focus to execute and accomplish what matters and what needs to get done in order to achieve the greatness you seek and in many cases deserve. It's directly correlated to how you apply yourself, how productive you are, staying the course and never losing sight of the end goal. Now sign me up for that.
Maladaptive perfectionism prevents you from starting or completing things you set out to do. Your head and heart get in the way, and you're left inactive, in perpetual inertia and with a constant drip of self-blame, and in some cases, pointing the finger at anyone and anything because you can’t accept the demons inside you that are leaving you paralyzed in the face of getting things done. There isn't much fun there.
Here are some tips to help you navigate and conquer perfectionism and make room for pursuing excellence, which is a much better option all around.
1. Forget the perpetual lie you tell yourself that being perfect will make you successful.
It's not true. Hard work, great vision, knowing the right people, asking the right people for help and getting others to believe in your journey make you successful.
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2. People don’t relate well to perfectionists.
Perfectionism makes the rest of us feel like there's no relatability, no common ground and no equitable human exchange. To put it mildly, it’s intimidating, and people don’t seek out people that intimidate them.
3. There's no power in being perfect.
All perfectionism does is show how weak you truly are. Powerful people are comfortable with showing their limitations -- it gives them the pulse to want to do better and better. That’s what people respect.
4. Being perfect doesn't increase nor decrease your self-worth.
They just aren't connected. You have to value all of you — the good, the bad and the very ugly — in order to function in a healthy, productive and results-oriented way. If you're focused on how it looks, rather than how it is, you'll never get to your destination.
5. Being perfect isn’t normal or regular.
If you get caught up in being perfect, you set yourself up to think that you're beyond and more than everyone else. A word to the wise: Being perfect is an illusion -- it’s not real. Being perfect doesn't give you superpowers that others don't have. All perfectionism does is isolate you from participating in life and from the people around you who, if asked, would gladly help you on your journey to excellence.
People gravitate toward others' strengths, not their weaknesses, and striving for perfection is just that — a sign of weakness. Strong people with conviction are admired and respected. People who think and work alone because they think they're perfect and above all others end up only doing one thing: being alone.