Perfectionism is engrained in us at an early age. We take tests at school and we know the ideal is to strive for 100%.

Not me, you might say.  I knew what the bar was for an A  (or an A* or 9 etc.) and I was happy to do enough to just get over the bar.  Well maybe, but we all knew there was a right answer and you either scored a mark or you didn’t.

The point that we learned here was that there is a right and a wrong and that everything is black or white.  In a binary world if you’re not perfect then, well, by definition you must be wrong. And if being wrong feels uncomfortable (which is does to most of us) then the lesson we learn on a subconscious level is that you have to be perfect otherwise you are nothing.


Olympic misguidance

This is sometimes reinforced with the motivational speeches of Olympic Sprinters, Swimmers and Cyclists.  The have the luxury of a really specific goal in their lives and can focus on perfecting the minute details that go towards that moment of glory.  It lends itself to an exciting presentation which is inspirational to hear… but it’s a really bad analogy for the rest of us back in the world of work!

The Olympian’s message doesn’t translate to our world, because we have a really broad range of things we have to think about and manage all of the time.  We don’t have the luxury of perfecting every detail, because we’ve got to do lots of things really well and that already takes more time than we have.

So perfectionism has been engrained in us from an early age and is regularly reinforced by our role models.  But of course it’s perfectionism that keeps us too long on one task at the cost of others. Further, it’s natural to spend more time perfecting the things that we enjoy at the cost of cracking on with less fun tasks that we really need to do, so over time, we end up doing the same things badly.

As an antidote, I’d keep two things in mind.  Firstly the question, “Am I doing what I needto do rather than what I want to do?” and secondly a mantra, “Progress not Perfection”.


Not sure what you need to do?  Click on this link to think through your Purpose/Prime Motivator

Click on this link to explore how to link what you need to do to your overarching purpose?