by Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company
If the word “perfectionism” brings to mind images of Boy Scout virtues such as tidiness, preparation and thrift, think again. Perfectionism is one of the greatest barriers to productivity, contributing to procrastination, rigidity, self-absorption, anxiety, and a host of other counterproductive behaviors.
While the pursuit of excellence invites us to experiment, fail, learn and improve, the pursuit of perfection raises the cost of failure to unbearable heights. The resulting distress overwhelms the joy, spontaneity, and adaptability that are essential to sustained success in school and at work.
Last year I worked with a client whose career was threatened by a tendency to put off important reports and projects. His keen mind could envision creating the equivalent of grand castles while the limits of schedule and budget allowed him to build only, well, a modest (but exquisite!) chateau. He was fearful of beginning any project he knew would not turn out as magnificently as he dreamed it could, so too often the project was never begun at all.
Together we designed some time and project management tools that would let him take on career-advancing projects including making presentations at industry conferences for his work and inventing games for his friends without being tripped up by a need to do it all “perfectly.”
How have you observed the results of perfectionism in your own life? What are your feelings about mistakes, your own and others’? Do you judge yourself when you make a mistake? What do you do to free yourself from perfectionism? I invite you to share your experiences here.