In today’s society, many people suffer from perfectionism. The problem with perfection is that we never achieve it and that can leave us feeling “less than.”
Perfectionism is a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less. Perfectionism sees only black or white and no gray areas. A perfectionist will view any result other than perfect as failure. Excellence, on the other hand, is the fact or state of excelling, superiority, or eminence. We pursue excellence in our desire to achieve at a high level, to be the best we can be, without a value demand attached to the goal.
The challenge with being perfect is that there is always room for improvement, no matter the circumstance. Many athletes—even world champions and Olympic gold medalists—will tell you that their greatest performances weren’t perfect. They broke world records, yet their performances still weren’t perfect, which they often prove later by breaking their own world records.
Reaching true perfection is impossible,
but performing at an excellent level is obtainable.
Excellence means doing your own personal best. It is about striving to achieve or accomplish the highest quality you can. Unlike perfectionism, which focuses on a goal, excellence focuses on the path one traverses toward that goal. Perfectionists strive for impossible goals. When we choose excellence, we enjoy meeting high standards that are within reach. Perfectionism is about a destination, and excellence is about the journey.
Perfectionists compete against others and measure their improvement against others’ performance. Pursuing excellence prompts us to compete only against ourselves and measure our improvement against our own previous performance.
At which end of the spectrum do you place yourself? If you are a perfectionist, how has it been working out for you until now? Are you happy and content, or are you frustrated? If the latter is the case, I invite you to give up perfectionism and choose excellence instead. After focusing on excellence for a while, notice if excellence feels better than perfectionism and if it is moving you closer to where and how you want to be.
Letting go of perfectionism doesn’t mean letting go of your goals and desires; it means being realistic about them and learning from the obstacles along the way rather than seeing them as failures. Instead of being an unhappy, dissatisfied perfectionist, choose excellence and find enjoyment and satisfaction in the pursuit of your goals.
“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”