This post really convicted and inspired me. I have a feeling it’ll bless you too.
“I just want to do it perfectly.” She’d probably been saying variations of this for months before it finally clicked that one of my co-workers wants to do everything perfectly.
This theme did not show up in just her work, relationships must be perfect too. But it didn’t end there. Reactions, didn’t escape the need to be perfect and she’d beat herself up when she didn’t respond perfectly or perfectly anticipate how someone else might respond. Having tuned into it, I began to notice it in every nook and cranny of her life and would jokingly point it out.
Fast forward to coffee with a woman I mentor. I asked about a work project and she had made zero progress since our last conversation because she wanted it to be, you guessed it, perfect.
Because the pumped had already been primed, out popped the question: what’s the difference between perfect and excellent?
These are two people who are not opposed to working hard and investing in life, but in their desire to be perfectionists, the irony is that they were not as productive and fulfilled as they could have been.
Though it might appear that there is a fine line between doing something perfectly instead of excellently, it turns out that the difference is fairly easy to spot.
1. When you approach a task do you feel overwhelmed or engaged?
Perfectionism is a cruel task master that will suck the life and joy out of any task. She will bring up all of the things that could go wrong and remind you of all that is riding on this meal, conversation, proposal, or performance. If, however, you find yourself energized as you think through and plan for something, you are more likely to be an excellentist. (My perfectionistic friends don’t like the word excellentist because “it isn’t a word and, therefore, not perfect.” But I’m sticking with it.)
2. Which message do you hear as you talk to yourself, “I can’t” or “I can?”
Perfect probably is not doable, leading you to tell yourself why try because you can’t have the perfect project, your children won’t behave perfectly, or there is no way to time something perfectly. But doing something excellently is doable. You can have an excellent project, well behaved children, or a well-timed project.
3. At the end of something do you have the sense that your work is never good enough or do you have a sense of accomplishment?
When an excellentist finishes something they hear “well done, good and faithful servant!” But a perfectionist sees all of the things he should have done better and areas that he blew it. If you ask him what went well, it probably will take some time to come up with something.
Aiming for excellence in work, relationships, parenting, health and other interests is attainable because excellence energizes and leaves room for growth and change. Aiming for perfectionism leads to a dead end and is a heavy burden to bear. If you are a perfectionist, change is possible … and more than possible, it is freeing. Perfectionism may not let you go without a street-fight, but as Paul said, now I will show you a most excellent way.
Are you aiming for perfection or excellence?