I was talking to a client this week about her ‘perfect’ expectations of herself and others. As we explored her pefectionism more, she recognised how this mindset was stressing and draining her.
The realisation that she could stop being perfect and instead aim for good enough or excellence lifted the weight of pressure that her perfectionism was causing.
How to stop being perfect
Perfectionism is all about needing to achieve unrealistic and perfect results. It’s impossible to achieve and comes with other behaviours such as; being very self-critical, worrying what others think. and procrastination. It can keep you stuck where you are rather than stepping out to achieve your goals.
Excellence instead, is about being outstanding or extremely good and then there’s good enough which is just a notch down from excellence.
Imagine a long ruler, at one end, is a total failure and at the other end is perfection, you’re never going to achieve either consistently.
Now go to the perfect end of the scale and move back down the ruler 2 spaces. You’re still very near perfection but you’re at excellence instead.
What does excellence look like to you?
Now move yourself another 2 spaces down the ruler and you’re at good enough, which is what most successful people regularly work towards.
What does good enough look like to you?
Every time you set yourself or others an expectation, think first about where it sits on the ruler. What would it be like if you were to stop being perfect and moved it 2 spaces down the scale.
For example; if you are presenting an update at a senior meeting and perfect looks like you presenting with confidence, being relaxed and engaging. You get questions following the presentation which you answer well on the spot and afterwards you get great feedback from your boss and other seniors.
What would failure look like?
Would it be forgetting your words, your voice shaking and the content being boring. You can’t think clearly to answer the questions and you just rush to get out of there?
If they are either end of the scale, what does excellence and good enough look like?
It could be a smooth presentation which you grow into after initial nerves, with some engagement and questions which you can answer or say you’ll look into it.
Doesn’t being able to stop being perfect come with less pressure? It also means if the presentation is even better than good enough you’ll genuinely be able to celebrate. Rather than give yourself a hard time at not being 100%.
Think about what perfectionism costing you. It could be your time, your energy your mental health, your career progression, your family focus and relationships.
Is it really worth it when good enough is enough?