'perfection is a roadblock to progress' on road works sign

progress-over-perfectionWhen we are at school, university, starting work or progressing our career particularly in technical or specialised roles, we tend to have reinforced the importance and value of perfection in what we do. That is, we need to ensure everything is accurate, precise and right all the time. It serves us well as we progress our career initially as our boss, organisation and others value it. We reinforce this validation by worrying about what other people think which tends to escalate the circular process of getting it right for the sake of others and then seeking validation that we have it perfect. In a lot of ways, you can never achieve satisfaction in what you do with the focus on perfection because you are measuring success through the eyes of perfection or an ideal rather than measuring improvement and progress over time.

As we move through our careers or move in to running our own businesses, this apparent strength that has served us well holds us back from future growth, success and happiness. The focus moves from getting everything right to enjoying the journey, making progress and improving in what we do. Further, this shift is needed when you have children, start your own business or other endeavours that move you out of your comfort zone or where change is constant. Without the shift, it is very hard to ever be happy as all these circumstances lead themselves to imperfection, failure and challenges. Given this, why do some people struggle with this?

I think a lot of the challenge comes down to how you measure satisfaction or happiness. There is a real choice around what you place importance on around progress v perfection. Progress focuses on improving and doing with a bias for action.  Perfection is seeking the unattainable or an ideal that creates unhappiness when you do not make it. The first problem is that you cannot make it. The second challenge is that it prevents you from enjoying the journey which is the secret to leading an enjoyable life.

It is an important point to reflect on. Be easier on yourself and focus on progress.  Focus on 1% improvements and whether you are progressing every day, week, month and quarter rather than measuring yourself against an ideal that is unattainable.  Your happiness will improve along with the ease others find you to work with and for which means everyone benefits.