I was listening again to an interview with Topher Morrison, recorded last summer, in which he talks about How To Use Your Mind for Success. One of the points which stood out for me was the title of his latest book: “Stop Chasing Perfection and Settle For Excellence“.
I’ve discussed this concept with a couple of clients and friends, and we all agree it’s something which bears thinking about…
I go through this dilemma every month, when it’s time to write my newsletter. I’m trying to find the ‘perfect’ topic to write about, when there are so many possibilities to choose from. Rather than writing something, I spend ages debating with myself, sometimes starting an article only to discard it as ‘not good enough’. The end result is that, invariably, my newsletter goes out later than I intended.
And it’s not only my newsletter. This is a thread which has run through most of my professional life. I’ve realised that I have, at times, sacrificed a deadline rather than settle for delivering something which I consider to be less than perfect. Sometimes it can work to everyone’s advantage to change a deadline. However, perfectionism can become an excuse for not creating anything.
Topher Morrison suggests we lower our expectations – accept excellence rather than perfection. He’s not suggesting we settle for mediocrity, which is the fear of every perfectionist. But how do we define excellence?
It seems to me, if we strive for perfection from the outset, then anything we produce in the timeframe available MUST be excellent – mustn’t it? It’s just that it often feels mediocre, because we know there’s so much more we could add, to make it that little bit better, if only we had given ourselves enough time…
A client who is looking to change jobs said he would find a suitable vacancy first, otherwise he would spend ages writing the ‘perfect’ CV. When I asked what he would do if he found the ‘perfect’ job and didn’t have his CV ready, he said he would write it quickly, and admitted that it might not be ‘perfect’.
I think most of us who suffer from perfectionism would think of this as a workable approach. Is this why we often leave things until the last minute, so that the pressure of an impending deadline focuses our minds on what’s most important?
An artist friend has set a target of painting a picture every day for the whole of this year – no matter what. It’s a brilliant idea. It’s simple, which is the key to an effective strategy, and in theory it removes the pressure of getting each painting ‘perfect’, leaving her free to paint whatever she has time for on the day.
Where might you benefit from focusing on excellence rather than perfection?