The pain of perfection


I write the first action item on a blank piece of paper. I don’t like how the thought looks in black and white so I roll the paper up into a small ball and throw it into the trash can. I start over, I try again. This time I get through two items on my list and misspell a word. I could just cross it out, but not me, I throw the list away and start again.

If I keep at this pace, I could be here all day.

water-1759703_640-2.jpgFortunately for me, I’m also a realist and understand that I have too many things to get done and can’t be wasting my time playing around with a simple To Do List. When I make a mistake on my third attempt, I chalk it up as a “that’s life” kind of moment and keep on going. I have better things to do with my time.

The exercise though sums me up to a “T.” As long as I can remember, I’ve striven for perfection in everything, from something as simple as filling out a To Do List to performing major work projects to planning for weekend getaways.

My brain works differently than others. For me, anything I touch reflects back on me and I want to do a good job. I’ve set high performance standards, striven for flawless execution and been critical when I haven’t met those standards of excellence.

In for a little, in the whole way

water-1761027_640.jpgIn short, I want to put my best foot forward. I don’t do a whole lot of things “for just the hell of it.” If I’m going to try something, I’m going give it my best effort. I want to strive for perfection.

I don’t think a doctor would diagnose me as Obsessive Compulsive, I don’t go that far, but I’m sure over the years, I’ve gotten pretty darn close to the line.

My perfectionism has helped and set me apart the workplace at times, but certainly has been a burden too. At work, I’ve long been tougher on myself than any boss could ever be on me. The funny thing about my strange quest for perfection though is how I treat others. I’m demanding, I expect much, but I’m actually more sympathetic to others, than I’ve ever been on myself.

Step by step

water-90781_640For me anyway, the thing that has helped me with this strange desire to be perfect has been something as simple as having perspective. In other words, pulling myself out of a situation and looking at it from 30,000 feet.

For example, does a first draft really need to be perfect or does it just need to get my thoughts down on paper. I can make it look pretty later. Does that To Do List I mentioned earlier really matter or is it just a simple reminder for me? When I recognize irrational fears for what they are — irrational expectations — I take back control of the situation and my life.

In the end, I tell myself constantly to do my best, to work hard, but keep my family in perspective and not worry about any others. Despite the tricks my brain may be trying to pull on me, I remind myself that no one’s perfect. Life is not perfect. I remind myself too that in five or ten years, it won’t matter anyway. People and the relationships we have with God, family and friends are what really matter.

So run away perfectionism, I have better ways to spend my time.

–When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.” –Geoffrey Fisher

–“Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection.” – Kim Collins

–“The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible wast of time.” – Ed Bliss

–“Striving for excellence motivates others, striving for perfection is demoralizing.”

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