Perfection and excellence is a hard comparison that most of us make. It’s an inner dialog we have with ourselves on a daily basis. Both overlap but they are not the same. We see that excellence is the way forward and perfectionism isn’t helping but rather holding us back.
No. Blog post over.
But we all know that this comparison is more complicated than it looks. The answer mentioned above is also easier said than done. As entrepreneurs and professionals in our respective fields perfection is in the fore-front of almost all our minds. As an entrepreneur this is our creation we are bringing to life. Even as professionals working in a company most of us want to make sure that we are doing the best job that we can. While the comparison between excellence and perfection is close, there are a few key things where they differentiate.
Let’s first start with perfection. There is a popular saying that a lot of people say and while it’s good intentioned I think that it holds a lot of us back from delivering the absolute best work that we can. The saying is “better done than perfect.” For a lot of us who struggle with perfection and learning how to let go when things need to be done, the saying is often times the catalyst to actually let it go. However, could it be used as an excuse to limit what we are actually capable of producing?
The problem with perfectionism is that it often times holds us back from completing what we need to complete within a reasonable time. While the intentions behind the perfectionism can be good, most of the time they are personal issues that we have with ourselves. This can involve not being confident in our own work, wanting to impress the audience instead of developing the best products for their solution, or we are trying to ultimately prove ourselves to others. Now I might be speaking solely on personal experience here but I’m sure a lot of us can relate.
Perfectionism – noun
“Perfectionism, in psychology, is a broad personality style characterized by a person’s concern with striving for flawlessness and perfection and is accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.”
In simple terms there is both good perfectionism and bad perfectionism. In good perfectionism this internal desire helps us to challenge ourselves. However, in bad perfectionism we set extremely high and unrealistic goals for ourselves. Again for good perfectionism we can learn from failure but also stay engaged in the activity to see it through to completion. But in bad perfectionism we can become obsessed with a goal and sweat over the increased work that we are putting on ourselves and then we alternately avoid activity both inside and outside of work altogether.
The first thing to understand is that nothing can ever be truly perfect. Humans are absolutely unpredictable and while one person might think your solution or product is the best thing they’ve ever seen, there’s going to be at least one hater out there. So what you really have to think about is do you value perfection over productivity? And do you also think that you are not able to go back and fix whatever isn’t perfect later?
Perfectionism often times holds us back from being productive. We are being stuck on the same task over and over and over again because we can’t let it go. As a result other work begins to suffer. Let’s not forget that every single product out there goes through iterations. Take Apple and the iPhone for example. Each year as Apple releases new iPhone it keeps getting better and better right? The first iPhone compared to the current iPhone isn’t even a fair comparison at this point.
All that being said is your perfectionism unhealthy? Do you truly value perfectionism over productivity? Finally, if revisits and revisions are an option why do we often omit that from our list of options?
Excellence is essentially doing everything to the best of our abilities. This doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect but it does mean we are going to put our all into it. In everything that I do and every project that Maven X does we do it with excellence. Excellence Is Our Endeavor. That is one of the Maven X values. Notice we didn’t say Perfection Is Our Endeavor.
No one knows everything. That means each and everyone of us is a work in progress as well. We are constantly working to learn more, get better, and ultimately do more. So if we aren’t perfect how can we create perfect work? The primary thing that matters is are you getting better? That’s really what excellence is. It’s holding yourself to a higher standard and putting it into your work.
Excellence – noun
“the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.”
Whether you feel it or not everyone has excellence in something. The excellence that is easier to display is what means the most to you. However the things that we are often self-conscious about are our weaknesses and fears. If we allow us to hold our weaknesses and fears over us it only adds to the stress of perfection because we know that we will never live up to that standard we have set in our own minds.
What’s funny is that the perfection we set in our own minds is often times not even in the minds of others. Excellence isn’t setting these harmful requirements over ourselves but instead allowing us to commit to improving upon them and doing the best we can with our current self.
With a focus on excellence in my own life it’s not even a fair comparison to the person I was 10 years ago. The things I’ve learned and grown in are completely different. My level of excellence is far exceeding what I thought I was capable of 10 years ago. Excellence is that commitment you need to make with yourself.
Does Excellence = Perfection?
The obvious answer is “no.” If the obvious answer is no, then why do we continue to hold ourselves to a level of perfection that we can never possibly achieve? As I said earlier this is something that I have to think about constantly.
When you value excellence over perfection you leave the door open. Perfection is closing the door on anything in the future. What we are ultimately saying is that there is nothing else to be done. With excellence, however, you are letting the door open. Websites that Maven X builds, processes we created and have in place, designs we produce are the best we have… right now. But things will change. The car that Henry Ford designed wouldn’t hold up to today’s standards as a “perfect” car, so why should we do the same to ourselves?
As you go forward know that transitioning from perfectionism to excellence is challenging, but not impossible. When you feel that something is exactly the way it needs to be without being unreasonable, let it go. Create a reminder for a few months in advance and check back in on it. As you continue learning and growing as a person and a professional see if your perspective has shifted. Think more in iterations instead of bulk. Often times that helps me shift my thoughts away from perfectionism to continual excellence. As you continue to revisit the same thing with time in between you continually bring the work back up to excellence.
I hope that as you read this post at least some portion of it resonated with you. I truly want you to do your best work in the most productive way possible to become your best self. My advice to you is to make that switch from perfection to excellence in your head and make the commitment to yourself. Take small steps at first and slowly keep making those steps farther and farther ahead. It definitely won’t stop overnight and it will never truly be a single destination, but if you do these two things you’re on your way.