What’s perfect and what’s possible can be very different things.
You have a presentation due in 30 minutes, but you don't feel it's good enough, even though you've revised it five times. Still, you feel you need to read it one more time and might need to add more images and graphs. And what if there are still grammatical errors in spite of your best efforts? You're stressed and want to be on time, yet you want the presentation to be perfect. So, instead of submitting your presentation on time, you miss the deadline to get it to your boss, which means she will have to review it last minute once she gets it before the meeting in two days. Not only are you stressed, now you might be stressing your boss out. Not to mention, this isn't the first deadline you've missed for similar reasons.
On the other hand, there have been presentations that you got in on time, and you even received good remarks, but you worried endlessly after sending it, afraid you missed something or it wouldn't be good enough. This is common for you, and to top it all off, you deal with anxiety, headaches and stomachaches as a result.
Does this sound at all familiar for you or for someone you know?
Perfectionists are often bright and detail-oriented individuals at work. However, they have a hard time letting go of projects, delegating, and knowing when good enough is good enough.
Perfect is the enemy of good.
"Perfect is the enemy of the good," said French philosopher Voltaire. This is a hard lesson for some of us to learn. For many reasons, including fear of failure, not being good enough, and comparing ourselves to others, we want to be "perfect" and recognized as such.
The reality is, no one is perfect, and to strive for perfection is a futile and dangerous endeavor. Though the intention of perfectionists may appear good on the surface—they want to do a good job and please—perfectionism can have a negative impact at work on productivity, employee relations, efficiency, and more. Perfectionism also has a personal impact on overall health and well-being.
Here are some insights and tips to help you break through the perfectionist mindset and way of being, so you too can find your way to being a "recovering perfectionist."
It already takes some level of self-awareness to realize perfectionism is causing issues for you. As you continue to pay closer attention to your responses to day-to-day work tasks, expectations of others, and so on, you'll be able to make different choices in how you respond to getting your work done and getting to a point that good enough is good enough.
Realize no one's perfect.
For perfectionists, it's hard to truly grasp that they are not going to be perfect, or they're too afraid of the outcome if they aren't.
Don't compare yourself to others.
When we compare ourselves to others, we're only setting ourselves up for disappointment. We're each on our own path and have the ability to choose different ways to do things. In reality, even those who appear to be perfect will have their own concerns and issue if you speak with them.
Set realistic goals and reward yourself as you meet them.
If you learn to set realistic goals for yourself, then as you reach them, you can reward yourself to help you appreciate that you are doing a good job and meeting the goals you set for yourself. When you meet goals, you can't argue with that result, meaning it's as close to perfect as you can get.
Consider whether it's worth the stress.
How important is the task at hand? Is it life or death? Typically, what we're stressing about and trying to make perfect isn't worth the fuss in the long run. It's often about being able to do something with which to move forward at work and not about making something perfect.
Build trust and learn to delegate.
It takes time to learn to trust others and delegate your work. This is especially important for managers to do because they often have a lot on their plates and need to be able to delegate to get everything that needs to be accomplished completed within the team.
Understand the downside of perfectionism.
If you're willing, it can help to honestly reflect on the negative impact that perfectionism has on your work and life. If you're constantly missing deadlines, stressing out your coworkers, letting things fall through the cracks, or feel stressed and overwhelmed, then understanding the true implications of such items can bring awareness to help you take steps to approach your work differently.
Understand that "perfect" is in the eye of the beholder.
When you're a perfectionist, then your ‘good enough’ is likely going to be really good—or "perfect"—to someone else. On the flipside, some of us can work on something to the point that we feel it's good, but others might have a different opinion due to personal preference. In other words, you can't please everyone, and we all have varying opinions on what's great or good enough work, and that's okay. If you've done all you can to make your work as good as it can be, then don't take it personally if someone else isn't impressed due to their own opinions or preferences.
It can be tough to look in the mirror and realize you need to make some changes. Perfectionism isn't an easy way of being to change for many. Counseling or therapy can help you talk through some issues due to it and approaches to help move through it. It can also help you deal with the emotional impact of perfectionism.
Life and work are about progress, not perfection.
A small amount of perfectionism is not a bad thing when it creates high standards, optimism, and a way to improve skills and knowledge without hindering progress or knowing when good enough is good enough. It's when perfectionism creates a sense of "never good enough," unhappiness, stress, depression, and negatively impacts work productivity that it becomes an issue.
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