The Problem with Perfection
Content was originally published on Inc.com on January 15, 2019.
Over the past 25 years, I have met with thousands of business owners struggling to take their businesses to the next level. They are often overworked, anxious and stuck. They have great ideas and products, and the means to bring them to their client base, yet they suffer from a debilitating condition that really hinders their growth.
On the surface, perfectionism looks harmless. You want to put your best foot forward, give your clients the best possible product and go home at the end of the day knowing that you did your best possible work. But in reality, perfectionism tends to have a few unwanted side effects.
No David, I suffer from perfectionism….not procrastination. Procrastination isn’t a behavior, it’s an emotional issue. It stems from the deep-seated belief that if you can’t do something good enough, you are better off just avoiding the task entirely. This could come from an old boss, a romantic partner, a teacher or even from your parents growing up. You might not even realize that you are doing it, but perfectionists tend to seek out tasks and projects that they know they can do well. So you have to think, what is your business missing out on because you don’t know how to do something perfectly?
The secret to overcoming procrastination lies in the ability to give yourself permission to make mistakes. “I would love to write a book, but I have never written before. I’ll focus on getting version 1.0 written up and sent to the editor. It won’t be perfect, but we can always tweak it and add to it as we go.”
This simple tweak gives them permission to get it done.
Plan on doing the first version of whatever you’re working on imperfectly. In fact, I tell my business coaching clients to call it a “draft” or a “beta version.” This gives them subtle permission to do it imperfectly.
Another side effect of perfectionism is the fear of the worst-case scenario. What happens if you don’t do something perfectly? If you make a mistake or don’t know all the answers?
The secret to overcoming fear lies in your ability to face it head on. Before you take on a new project or task, think about what would happen if it wasn’t perfect? Would you lose a client? Would you make a fool of yourself on social media? Or would that typo go largely unnoticed by anyone but yourself? Once you know what’s at stake, you can realistically decide how much time and effort should go into getting something done.
As a perfectionist you truly believe “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” Which ends up making you a control freak. You hate the anxiety of wondering if someone else will do the job right. You regularly feel pulled back into assuming control and more closely directing your team. But this urge for perfection can come at a high price for your company. You can lose valuable team members and clients.
The secret is learning how to build on a stable base of sound business systems, a talented and well-trained team, and a culture that helps ensure that your team properly handles any ambiguous situation that arises. Thus allowing you to let go of the idea of “perfect”
The problem with perfection is that it looks really appealing on the outside. But dig a little deeper and you aren’t really giving your best work. So focus on these three areas to find a happy medium.