In today’s society, perfectionism is often seen as a trait that enhances your chances to succeed, actually, perfectionism results in regrets; and that’s why you should aim for excellence and not perfection.
Perfectionism is one thing, and doing our best to change things for the better is something else and there is a huge difference between them.
Brené Brown (Writer & Research Prof. at the University of Houston) states: “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfection is not about healthy achievement and growth.”
She explains how striving to do your best implies the understanding that failure is inevitable and is part of the journey towards accomplishing goals.
As a matter of fact, failure is one of the eight traits that distinguish people who accomplish their goals from those that do not.
On the contrary, perfectionism is the refusal of failure, which stops people from taking action.
Getting something done is way better than continuing to work on something you consider not perfect yet.
In a nutshell, DONE is better than PERFECT!
Even if you keep striving for perfection you will never reach it, as it is just an imaginary point, and doesn’t exist, so aiming for it is just a waste of time and energy.
We should aim for excellence, not perfection!
But how can we do it? By taking one step after another, and never stopping to improve ourselves day in and day out.
Once you acknowledge the big difference between striving for perfection and striving for your best, and once you acknowledge the downsides of being a perfectionist, you become aware that you cannot be your best self all the time.
“Knowing your limits is a strength, not a weakness”. - Kim Harrison, A Perfect Blood
You have to be more strategic in the use of your limited energy.
Think about it from, let's say, a footballer’s perspective. Even the greatest, from Cristiano Ronaldo to Lionel Messi, know that they cannot always play at maximum speed.
As a result, from time to time they choose to be out of the game and rest, so they can keep enough energy for a big game that's coming up and perform at their highest standards.
Just like the great athletes, you have to give yourself permission to rest and accept that sometimes you perform worse than on other days, you do less well than you expect yourself to do.
And that’s completely fine because what truly matters is your progression through your journey.
Praise yourself for what you have already done, for all the way you have already gone, and get into the habit of saying to yourself: “I am good enough”.
Remember: the fear of not being good enough is the number one fear and excuse we all use to tell ourselves the story that we are not ready yet, thus we don’t take action.
The truth is we will never feel fully ready for anything, so let’s stop over-thinking about how imperfect we are, and let’s start taking action and getting things done today.
"Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time". - President Harry S Truman
Enough imperfect actions will eventually uncover what you need to change to take productive action.
But if you just sit around hoping that you are going to figure it out and make yourself “perfect” by not taking the correct action you are fooling yourself, because you will never be able to figure out what that is.
The only way to figure out how to excel is through making mistakes, and the more you make the more you’ll realize that making mistakes is the necessary step to get where you want to be.
Remember: you don’t have to worry about the journey of a thousand miles, you just have to take the first step, and then the next one, and carry on till eventually, you will get to your destination.
FOCUS ON PROGRESS
Don’t focus on being perfect, instead focus on getting better in everything you do.
If you just take one step forward daily in whatever you want to do, e.g. starting your blog, starting your own online business, meditating, sticking to a diet, etc, and you carry on, in one year you will be such a long way ahead compared to where you are now, in ten years you will be a completely different person with a completely different life!
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years”. - Bill Gates
Focus on the achievements of every single step and celebrate even the smallest ones.
Celebrating your constant and small daily steps forward boosts your confidence and motivation to keep going.
Every morning before starting your day ask yourself: “What do I need to do today to take one step forward”?
And at the end of the day ask yourself: “Did I take one step forward today”?
If most of the days you answer YES to the second question you are on track to excel.
So, figure out how to improve a tiny bit every single day and it’s going to be a great success.
Make sure you do not spend too much time trying to make everything “perfect” or wait for the “perfect” conditions to start or resume pursuing your goals because in doing so the most likely outcome is you giving up on your dreams.
Just approach the accomplishment of your goals like a long-term journey where if you know the right itinerary and move forward every day eventually you get to your destination.
However, bear in mind that personal growth and achievement are not linear.
What I mean by that is that inevitably there are going to be days when you will mess up, when you will not stick to your diet, to your workout, to whatever you are working on.
And as I said earlier that’s fine, making mistakes is completely normal and must be accepted.
As a matter of fact, mistakes can only show you what choices and paths you have to take to go where you are heading for.
I will stress once more, as humans we are not meant to be perfect.
And so, there are times when we don’t keep up to our expectations and that’s fine, provided our response is appropriate.
Here is an example:
Let’s say you start a diet and you follow it for two weeks, then on the 16th day, the craving for a bar of chocolate kicks in and you have it.
You can look at it from two completely different perspectives.
Either you start judging yourself, triggering a downward spiral, and losing motivation, till eventually you give up on your diet, or you acknowledge that you have made a “mistake”, you accept it, and you keep moving forward, pursuing your goals.
What I am saying is not that you must ignore that you have done something you should not have, but that you must accept it because perfection doesn’t exist.
It’s not about achieving perfection, but about progressing towards excellence!
“If you want to have ongoing joy and fulfillment in your life, the secret is just one word – progress. Progress equals happiness”. - Tony Robbins
Let’s assume you do really well for six days and you mess up once, you are still six days ahead.
And if you keep on track every single week, you are going to see an awful lot of results.
You always have two options: you can either focus on the progress you have made or on the setbacks you have suffered.
While the former option leads you to resume pursuing your goals, the latter eventually leads you to the ultimate failure, i.e. giving up.
It’s imperative for your success that you learn to forgive yourself when you mess up or are not up to your expectations and focus on the progress you make.
As you begin to practice self-acceptance and praise yourself for your achievements, your perfectionism will ease little by little.
Letting go of the habit of dwelling on your limitations and shortcomings will allow you to feel better.
Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them; then the fear of failure will no longer be a driving force behind the decisions you make.
Besides, don’t forget that some of the greatest achievements were born out of mistakes, e.g. penicillin, pacemakers, light bulbs, and many others were all failures that in the end turned into greatness.
Keep in mind the difference between striving for perfection and striving for excellence.
Start by setting attainable goals, within your reach, then gradually increase your ambitions.
When you don’t reach your goals, don't allow the arising self-doubt and self-criticism to stop your journey towards your goal.
Remember, every day is different, you cannot always perform at your best, there are ups and downs, accept them and keep moving.
Failure is part of the journey, accept it, and carry on.
Everyone encounters setbacks along the journey towards achieving goals, so will you.
What makes you stand apart from the crowd and allows you to succeed is the fact that you get back on your feet no matter how hard you get hit.
Acknowledge that perfection is out of reach.
Focus on the progress you make, do your best, and take one step forward every day so that you get closer to your goals and in doing so you level up your expectations and standards.
Celebrate every achievement, no matter how small it is.
Change your inner dialogue, from: “I'm not good enough” to “I am good enough”.
Be flexible with your deadlines. For instance, instead of setting one date, give yourself a little space by adding another alternative date, so you have some leeway and you can ease the anxiety and self-criticism that can arise when you don’t meet a deadline.
By following the above tips you can definitely decrease your anxiety, get more things done, achieve your goals and above all improve your overall quality of life.