“I’m human and I’m not perfect”…said Tiger Woods recently. The truth is, nobody’s perfect, yet many of us still seek perfection as one of our goals. Do we do this because we choose to set ourselves up for failure or because we know we can’t attain it, so why try?
I guess it’s a little bit of both. And there’s a third element…the outside perception of perfection. All three create stress and at least the first two, are within our control to change.
My clients who are “perfection seekers” all have one thing in common: They can’t seem to get anything done. Why? Because if it can’t be perfect, as in, “I can’t organize my closet because I don’t have the right closet system, so it’ll never be perfect…” or “I need to find the perfect filing system, and until I do, I can’t file any of my papers”…they’d rather not do it all. Of course, all this only adds to the stress and guilt surrounding the project, but now they have an “excuse”. Well, I’m not buying it. Holding out for perfection, is just a form of procrastination, and until the stress of “not doing” outweighs the stress of “doing”, procrastinators are likely to keep putting things off as long as possible.
I had one client, a female professional, who admitted she was a perfectionist. In fact, in her work, her perfectionism was a source of pride. However, her perfectionism was also the source of her poor time management skills. She was always late: late to work, late for each patient and late to come home. It became a vicious cycle. She felt she needed a “system”, the system, to help her overcome her problems. Yet she was actually very organized and had systems in place that did work for her. Bottom line: While she claimed to want to be home with her husband and baby, I think she was unhappy with her home life and therefore her tardiness became a coping technique. The goal of perfection, however, is more acceptable at times, than dealing with the reality of a situation. Remember, the goal of being organized is to have your life run more smoothly, not perfectly, and if your life runs more smoothly, then you may have to deal with the areas that aren’t working quite as well.
The perception of perfection is another matter altogether. It’s the image not only that a person portrays, but one that is put upon them. Whether it be Tiger Woods, or Martha Stewart, they’re not perfect. But we could all learn something from their work ethic…they work extremely hard to be the best in their field. Being the best requires setting goals, attainable goals…not perfection.
SO, to all the perfectionists out there…try being a little more human and set some attainable goals. Once you feel a little success you’ll want more.