Perfectionism sucks you dry, plain and simple. I’ve been reading Apolo Anton Ohno’s book Zero Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday. I wasn’t surprised to learn that perfectionism is something that he struggled with in his sports career. To be successful you have to have the desire to work to your greatest ability, the problem lies in pushing yourself so far beyond your limits, that being perfect becomes a impediment to achieving what you want.
In Apolo’s words: “My personal best is good enough, as long as I’ve given it everything I’ve got. It’s too intense and too unforgiving a life if you live trying to be a perfectionist. Perfect is, in a real sense, unattainable. It’s a little like being on a perpetual Stairmaster- the thing never shuts off, the stairs piling down and down, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, but never, ever off. Sometimes you’ve got to get off the machine, hold the rails, look around, and appreciate all the stairs you’ve already climbed.”
If you are struggling with perfectionism, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s just an imbalance. And I’m not talking chemically. A part of you has gone into overdrive and it’s just a matter of taking back the wheel. When we get really fixated on being perfect with our career, our business, or even our body; it’s a way in which we can focus our energy away from what we don’t like and into something we believe we can control. We overwork, over worry, and push ourselves physically. We believe that will get us what we want. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In our quest to be perfect we are denying what we don’t like about ourselves. We don’t think our ideas are good enough so we’ll keep working on them until they get better. We think we don’t measure up (the measurement is usually in our mind), so we work really hard to make ourselves better because that will get us what we want thereby making us feel better. Only it never seems to work, with each achievement we still cast doubt on ourselves.
The truth is that you are enough, right now in this moment. Everything you think, do, and say is exactly what it is supposed to be. In it’s own imperfect way, you are living a perfect version of your life. Once you stop trying to fix it by working harder, more, or better; your true genius will emerge.
If you notice yourself on the perfectionist path ask yourself why you are approaching a task in a particular way. If the answer is “because that’s the way it is done” or that’s the only way to get ahead”: you are not recognizing your own unique abilities. How do I know? It lacks passion. Your why is about who you are and what’s important to you. It doesn’t include have to’s and doesn’t make you exhausted at the end of each day. It may be difficult to quit your perfectionist ways cold turkey, so take it slow. Notice the messages it’s giving you and how it feels on a very simple level. In order to truly do your personal best with no regrets, it’s a combination of focusing and letting go at the same time. When you find that balance you’ll feel it in both your body and mind.