Insane How Perfectionism Could Stall Innovation

Perfectionism is defined as the inability to accept anything less than perfection.

What that immediately tells me is that it is limiting, often unattainable, and can lead to a selection of unhealthy emotions and worries. And yet so many people out there think that perfectionism is a positive thing. Why?

Perfectionism: Positive or Negative?

I have spent years juggling the positives and negatives of perfectionism, trying to decide which one is more accurate. My conclusion is that it depends on what form of perfection you have in mind.

And so, I ask: What does perfectionism mean for you?

Is it striving for excellence in all you do? I think that’s great!

Is it maintaining a high standard of work? Good for you!

Is it empowering yourself and others to work smarter, harder, and faster? That’s amazing!

But what about the other end of the spectrum?

If your idea of perfectionism is striving for unrealistic and unattainable standards, then surely that is not so good.

If you see every project as an opportunity to appear perfect to others, that’s not serving you or supporting you.

Now answer this: Do you struggle to start a task unless you feel able to perform it perfectly?

If the answer is yes, then you may need to evaluate what perfectionism is doing to your mental wellbeing.

Is Perfectionism Healthy?

Perfectionism is often considered to be a positive trait. Why? Because for many, it means striving for excellence and working to be one's very best self. After all, when you put 100% into your work or your business, the outcomes are positive and help you to become the best version of yourself.

Look at it this way. We all love to eat in the best restaurants. We go to the shops that give us the best customer service. We buy cars, homes and gadgets that are well-built and sturdy.

Why? Because somebody, somewhere, at some point, put their best foot forward and decided to strive for perfectionism in the creation of these ideals and products. Aren’t you grateful, as a consumer, that they were perfectionists who never stopped trying until they figured out what worked best?

In this sense, perfectionism is linked as much to getting it right as it is to constantly trying until you reach that pinnacle of excellence. This means an awareness that things can go wrong, and an ability to keep trying; consistently, and while allowing yourself to learn and grow.

When Perfectionism Becomes A Negative Trait?

When perfectionism becomes a negative trait, it produces stress, anxiety, depression, and frustration. Some experts have even linked perfectionism to mental health issues like bipolar disorder and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

Perfectionists believe that anything less than perfect is simply not acceptable. Mistakes, even minor ones, are not an option.

And so, they never start a project until they can figure it out to reach a perfect result. They procrastinate and fail to start or accomplish anything, even when they are more than capable and have excellent abilities. They are highly sensitive to criticism and would halt a project in an instant for fear of failing.

Ask yourself this. Are you afraid to make mistakes? Do you set such high standards for yourself and others that you are constantly disappointed? Do you keep pushing the start date for your projects? And, if you have started a project, are you waiting until it is perfect before you share it with anyone else?

In short, you may need help. And it is nothing to be ashamed of. We all act this way in certain areas of our lives it is natural. But when perfectionism starts getting in the way of success and wellbeing, it is time to seek help.

Why You Should Not Wait To Be Perfect

Yes, perfection is great - and something we all desire. But the truth is that, it doesn’t exist. You may use the word ‘perfect’ to describe things you love (I know I do!) but most of the time, it’s not perfect at all.

Think about the people in your life. Doesn’t it mean more to you that they show up and are there for you, rather than being perfect all the time?

Assume for a moment that you’re on a plane, and the Pilot tells you that while he was the best in his class, he has never flown a plane before. Why? Because he didn’t want to try until he believed he was perfect. How confident would you feel on that plane? Wouldn’t you rather the Pilot had experience, than a perfect record in class?

Perfectionism should not be confused with consistency and effort.

So, if you have a task or a project to do, get on with it. Don’t wait for it to be perfect before presenting it to others. Believe in yourself and show up everyday to become a better version of yourself.

Some people remain stuck on certain projects for years, circling back time and time again. Perhaps they are writing a book and can't get it out for feedback because they feel that it needs to be perfect first. But remember this: you will eventually reach a point where the impact of any changes you make will be minimal. The only real progress you can make at this stage comes when you draw the line and complete your work. On completion, you allow others to look at your work and give you feedback. Then, you can revise or update your original work with meaningful changes and improvements.

Let me give an example. Like many others, my first iPhone was the iPhone 3. And now, there is the iPhone 13. The iPhone 13 is certainly light years ahead of the 3 model in terms of advanced technology and more capabilities. Yes, it’s more ‘perfect’.

But imagine if Steve Jobs and his team had not ever launched the iPhone 3, because they were waiting for it to be perfect. Innovation would have happened around them, and technology would have grown, and they still would have no product. As a result, Apple may not have become the technology giant they are today.

Luckily, they didn’t do that. Instead, and over time, they listened to what mattered. The feedback of their customers, and made improvements on the iPhone.

Time to do the same for yourself!

Whatever your project is, put in 100%. Then, when you launch, release or share it, allow others to help you grow your idea through their feedback. If you fail, at least you tried. And if you fail, look at where you failed and why? Then, pick up another piece of the puzzle until you find the one that fits.

When the puzzle fits, you improve, and both you and your product or service become better with time.


Do you think you may have a book in you? Or do you have a story that will impact others? Are you afraid it might not be good enough? 

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