There’s an epidemic sweeping our nation, and its name is perfectionism. The last few decades, says social psychologist and perfectionism expert Thomas Curran, have seen a disturbing increase in our drive to be perfect in body, mind, and career. But the reality is that perfection is an impossible objective by definition – the compulsive pursuit of which can, among other things, compromise your health, your goals, and your company’s bottom line.
Are You a Professional Perfectionist?
In striving to be the very best version of ourselves, most of us will don the perfectionist’s hat from time to time. But it’s when perfection becomes an obsession that priorities get out of whack and problems arise.
According to Psychology Today, self-oriented perfectionists are people who engage in severe self-evaluation in an attempt to attain perfection and avoid failure. Socially-prescribed perfectionists, meanwhile, believe others are evaluating them critically, creating an external pressure to be perfect.
Whether it’s internally or externally driven, however, if perfectionism has become a point of pride for you, you should be aware that its constant pursuit not only stimulates stress, it’s been shown to hamper creativity, impede productivity, and ultimately work against business profitability.
Here’s how to tell if you’re teetering on the brink of a misguided need for precision:
Perfectionists seek perfect outcomes.
No matter how motivated you are, your productivity is bound to suffer when you focus on results at the expense of the work process. In fact, the more focused you are on generating the perfect outcome, the more likely you are to experience performance anxiety and decrease your output. This can cost your business time and money, and threaten your reputation for reliability.
Perfectionists put in way more hours than they should.
When we’re intent on ensuring that everything we produce is free of imperfections, we spend far more time tweaking, revising, and second-guessing ourselves than is necessary – yet we can still end up feeling vaguely dissatisfied with the results. Trying to fix what isn’t broken by revamping entire projects without compensation, for example, can leave you exhausted and with less time to pursue more worthwhile opportunities.
Perfectionists attempt to avoid mistakes by not taking chances.
Fear of failure is one of the biggest whips spurring the perfectionist on. But rather than encouraging better and more creative results, worry about not meeting new goals keeps perfectionists stuck in the rut of falling back on what they already know. This status quo approach is far from compatible with the risk-taking mindset that’s often required for growing a business.
How to Curb Your Need to Run the Perfect Business
So, what can you do if you suspect that your need for perfection may be taking a toll on your business? To start, Curran advises reminding yourself that failure is not catastrophic. It’s also important to jump into carefully planned endeavors with both feet and not allow the idea of perfectionism to keep you from starting or finishing new projects.
Here are some additional words of professional wisdom to help offset an unhealthy dose of diligence:
- Take steps to delegate projects where appropriate rather than trying to manage everything yourself. Remember, fewer tasks on your plate means fewer opportunities to erect perfectionism-driven roadblocks.
- When hurdles do arise, resist the urge to lay down and wave the white flag. Obstacles in the road don’t necessarily mean you made a mistake or took the wrong path. In fact, they can often serve as valuable sources of new information. Try looking at hurdles as a challenge to think more creatively.
- Rather than letting yourself be driven by fear, focus on what motivates you. Most entrepreneurs are in business for a reason: they’re passionate about what they do. Replacing negative motives with positive purpose will increase your resilience and help you avoid business burnout.
- One of the wisest things a perfectionist can do is to cut themselves some slack. After all, taking care of you means taking care of your business. Schedule regular breaks throughout the day. Chat with a coworker. Get some fresh air. You should also make an effort to leave work at work as much as possible, since research suggests that insufficient sleep and fatigue can lead to poor judgment, lack of self-control, and impaired creativity – predicaments that many perfectionists struggle with already.
In today’s competitive business environment, it’s only natural to want to achieve excellence in the form of work that’s as near perfect as possible. But with innovation continuing to lead the way to long-term success, your ability to adapt is more important. Putting fear of failure aside in favor of a more flexible approach to problem solving promotes resourcefulness and original thinking – two qualities proven to promote business growth.
So why not set the grueling pursuit of perfectionism aside for a time, and see what happens when you replace it with a new goal of good enough.
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