Excellence vs. Perfection

May 17th, 2015 § 0 comments

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”—Harriet Braiker

What are you striving for?

I like to say that I’m a “reforming” perfectionist. I have learned over the years to let go of some of my perfectionist tendencies but I still have plenty of room for improvement.

The idea of striving for perfection is very alluring. When you set perfection as your standard of success it drives you to work hard and may enable you to achieve significant accomplishments. However, it will often leads to a standard of unrealistic expectations, which lead to impatience, increased anxiety, or a general reluctance to take risks.

Excellence is a healthier target. Each of us will define excellence differently. What matters is that you are continually taking steps to fulfill your personal potential and make a positive contribution to the world. Rather than expecting to complete any task perfectly and free of mistakes, challenge yourself to make progress each day. As long as you are continuing to improve and developing new skills, approaches, and mindsets you will be taking a step closer to achieving your personal definition of excellence.

Replace the idea of being a perfectionist with the concept of being an optimalist. In the book: In the Pursuit of Perfect, Tal Ben-Sharar talks about how our desire for perfection is the number one obstacle to our ability to find happiness. Ben-Sharar states that perfectionists reject failure and expect life to be an endless stream of positive emotions, which means they also reject reality. On the other hand, an optimalist recognizes that failure and negative emotions are an inevitable fact of life and uses those experiences as learning opportunities to improve.

Choose to give yourself a break. When you recognize that the route to success isn’t a straight and flat path you’re able to accept and weather the inevitable peaks, valleys, twists and turns that life throws your way. While it’s important to continually challenge yourself to improve, choose to focus on excellence rather than perfection and accept that even when things don’t go as you planned there is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one area of your life where you need to replace perfection with excellence.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

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