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Are You Striving for Perfectionism or Excellence?

In speaking with leaders every day, it is inevitable for me to hear the pressure of what perfectionism or being a perfectionist brings to the work they do and the people they manage. The pendulum swings between, “Am I good enough?” to “I am never going to be good enough - so why even try?”

Doing our job in excellence, setting goals, and working efficiently around the processes to help achieve goals, maintain high standards, find time for family and friends are all part of the process as we develop our leadership standards.

However, perfectionism isn’t about any of this.

Perfectionism is a long, maddening drive down a never-ending road for flawlessness. It provides no pause for mistakes, personal limitations or the changing of minds. Instead it can cause feelings of anxiety, fear, and self-doubt; it can cripple self-esteem, stifle creativity, and put a stumbling block in the way of intimate friendships and love relationships. Ultimately, it can create or aggravate illnesses such as eating disorders, manic-depressive mood disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and substance abuse.

In our achievement-oriented, competitive culture, the space of perfectionism can be ever widening, and it takes intentionality from each of us to pause and contemplate on how we are doing the things that we are called to do here in life.

Consider the statements below to see how you are doing:

  • I never do anything halfway; it’s all or nothing for me. Every time.

  • People who do things halfway make me angry or disgust me.

  • I believe there’s a certain way to do things and they should always be done that way.

  • I get angry or defensive when I make mistakes. I hate to make them.

  • I often procrastinate on starting projects. I seldom meet deadlines. Or if I do, I kill myself meeting them.

  • I feel humiliated when things aren’t perfect.

  • I don’t like to admit not knowing how to do something or to being a beginner. If I can’t do something well, I won’t do it.

  • People say I expect too much of myself. Or of them.

  • In my family, you could never completely measure up to expectations.

  • I’m hard on myself when I lose, even if it’s only a friendly game or contest.

  • I often withdraw from others and from group activities.

  • I don’t think work should be fun or pleasurable.

  • Even when I accomplish something, I feel let down or empty.

  • I criticize myself and others excessively.

  • I like to be in control; if I can’t be in control, then I won’t participate.

  • No matter how much I have done, there’s always more I could do.

  • I don’t delegate often and when I do, I always double-check to make sure the job is done right. It never is.

  • I believe it is possible to do something perfectly and if I keep at it, I can do it perfectly.

  • Forgetting and forgiving is not something I do easily or well.

If you find that many of these statements are true for you, then you are not alone. You can take steps to change the mindset and behaviors needed to step into a culture of excellence rather than perfectionism.

Excellence gives room for support, accountability, learning, development, and growth. It allows you to demonstrate authenticity in your leadership by giving room for others to be authentic in their areas of development, as well. It allows you to eject the tapes that no longer serve you, your work, and the people you serve.

It helps you to recognize that there is a difference between excellence and perfection.

Based on your observation using the statements above, which one are you pursuing in your work and personal life?

If you need help taking the steps to change your mindset and behaviors needed to make excellence your goal, contact me for a complimentary consultation.


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