Perfectionism is like a perpetual report card – one that says: “could do better”. The problem I have with this kind of report is that it’s all judgment and no information. It leaves me wanting to know “how could I do better?”. And, also, “why should I?”.
Any effort can be negatively affected by perfectionism. Even in the case of a truly remarkable performance, there is usually be something that can be judged as less than perfect.
So ultimately, perfectionism is a way to feel miserable, no matter how well we have done. In this way, perfectionism is the enemy of the good – even the very good.
Perfectionism is also the enemy of beginning anything new. If we don’t know how to do something, which we won’t if it’s new, then we are highly unlikely to do it perfectly. This fact is so uncomfortable for some of us, that it often results in our decision to start nothing new.
Thus, if we allow it, perfectionism can keep us eternally confined to that, which we already know and know how to do. We must do our best to remember: “if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly”.
Acting and Learning
When starting any new venture, such as a business, a relationship or an artistic work, we must be willing to take action and to learn. ‘Mistakes’ are to be expected, and when we embrace this fact, we are more free to learn from those mistakes, and then to move on from them to the next steps in the process.
We must act on what we think might work, and then learn from the outcome of those actions. We alternate between doing and perceiving; acting and learning. As we do, we educate our perception; as we perceive more clearly, we can do better.
For instance, as someone learns to play an instrument s/he learns to hear music more acutely and mistakes more precisely, all the while gaining more pleasure in performing the music. As s/he hears more accurately, mistakes can then be corrected more readily, and playing can come with even greater pleasure and freedom of expression.
Acting and learning (and acting and learning, etc.) create a a virtuous cycle of educating our perceptions and increasing our skills. Oh, and notice that the viciousness of perfectionism has no place in this virtuous cycle.
I make more mistakes than anyone I know, and sooner or later, I patent most of them. Thomas Edison
Flickr Photo – You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet by puuikibeach
Evan Hadkins, a partner in Authentic Abundance, blogs about self development.