Perfectionism Is Out. Excellence Is In.

Calling all perfectionists! This one’s for you.

You’re in good company; I’m right there with you.  Some days it’s smooth sailing as a recovering perfectionist, and other days I have to go head to head with my inner perfectionist to keep that innate desire for flawlessness at bay.

Left unaddressed, perfectionism can wreak havoc on your professional life and spill over into other areas of your life as well, as the obsession with being perfect takes on a life of its own.

Here are some practical, actionable tips that will tame the perfectionism monster, starting today.   

1. Zoom Out

You’re going to hear me say this phrase a lot, and with good reason. Sometimes we get so immersed in our projects that we lose sight of the bigger picture. We become disconnected from what we’re really trying to accomplish, and we need to intentionally zoom out from time to time to reacquaint ourselves with the bigger picture. 

The goal is to get your high-quality work, regardless of what it is, into the hands of those who need it.

Whether it’s a spreadsheet, a proposal, a book, the goal is to move it along. We aren’t doing anyone any favors by holding onto something beyond its expiration date.  Release, and trust.

2. Give Yourself a Hard Deadline

Projects will expand to fill the time we allot.  

If you’re anything like me, you can find yourself going down the rabbit hole of fine-tuning something too much, and not actually get it done in an effective manner.  

Creative works can be a double-edged sword – exhilarating as they are, they can become overtaking and it can be hard to know when to call it done

Give yourself a finite amount of time, and build in the appropriate accountability measures.

3. Anchor on Who You Are

You have solid core values. Your audience already knows, likes and trusts you.  You are dependable. You produce high-quality work on a consistent basis. Your work has a positive effect on others. Integrity is your middle name. Your colleagues already think highly of you. You take your work seriously. You are honest. You make others feel seen and heard.  

If you’re able to say “yes” to some of the above, do you really think one tiny mistake is going to dramatically alter your image or radically erode your relationship with others?  

Definitely not. Focus on who you are and the value you are adding.

4. Lean Into Authenticity

Let’s face it – mistakes are going to happen. That’s part of being human. What matters more than whether or not we made a mistake, is how we show up.

People want to see the real, raw, imperfect you. They don’t want to see some infallible image that they can’t relate to. They want to see that you don’t always have the answers but are working toward a solution.

As leaders, we often feel it’s our duty to always show up with a totally shatterproof image. We aren’t serving others in our lives to the fullest extent if we keep them shielded from certain parts of us.  

Mistakes provide fertile ground for leaning into vulnerability. Owning up to a mistake takes courage, but it also takes everyone involved to new levels of evolution.  

Being vulnerable is what authenticity is all about.  If we don’t show up and let others see the real us, all parts, the good, the bad, and the ugly, we’re pinching ourselves, and others, off from growth and transformation opportunities.

5. Replace “Perfect” with “Excellent.”

One little word swap can dramatically shift our expectations, embrace a new mindset and ultimately transform our experience.

When we constantly make “perfect” the target, this can lead to procrastination and we can become a bottleneck in our business.  

Aiming for excellence, on the other hand, allows for more grace. It gives more flexibility and latitude and freedom, and helps us maintain high levels of momentum.

You can even apply this idea to other areas of your life.  I used to get super stressed about managing logistics for my crew of four – the comings and goings can be a bit dizzying, and our family calendar looks like a strategic game of world Risk.  to figure out how to relax a bit in the parenting department, because I.  Now I aim to 

Now, if we’re running late, or have a minor scheduling snafu here and there, I’ve come to realize that the world isn’t going to stop spinning.  Now, my goal is to get most of my kids to most of their activities, mostly on time 🙂    I’m half-joking, half not.

6. Transmute Your Fear

Oftentimes the issue is deeper than what it appears to be on the surface. There’s way more to it than trying to avoid grammatical errors. There’s usually an underlying fear of some sort, disguising itself as perfectionism.

Here are a few fears that may be the undercurrent: 

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of being judged
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of criticism
  • Fear of not being good enough
  • Fear of the unknown

Begin the process of working through your fears by asking yourself “If this isn’t perfect, what’s the worst that could happen?” 

When we acknowledge the fear and call it out on the carpet, we can begin to befriend fear and realize that we can transmute it into fuel for our broader mission.  

So there you have it. Out with the old and in with the new. Excellence from here on out, my friends.

Have a great week!