Five years ago, I bumped into an old friend and we began to catch up on life. I had always known her to be a very smart lady. She shared with me a great business idea that she was working on and I encouraged her. I even made some suggestions on how she could improve on it and connected her with few of my contacts who could assist her on it. We lost contact shortly after that.
Last year I bumped into her again at a party so I decided to check up on her business and how far she had gone with it. To my surprise, she was exactly where our conversation left off 4 years ago. She told me the timing was not perfect yet….then she went into how the market was saturated and how she wanted to overcome a lot of challenges before delving into the business. Then she began listing her would be competitors and the effect they would have on her business.
She gave me multiple reasons why it wasn’t perfect timing. She even stated that she had written qualifying exams that would make her more knowledgeable once she goes live. Right now she is preparing for another qualifying exam. Too many exams I would say and too many talks. Even though I wasn’t in the field she was going into, I had answer to almost every obstacle that she envisaged encountering. I suggested that she could learn on the job. I tried to let her see that Rome wasn’t built in a day,….she responded.. “Nooo….I have to make sure I am well prepared in case of any unexpected happenings”. In the process of trying to ensure that everything is perfect, 4 years have rolled by and she is still not ready. Can you believe that? Her strive for perfection has kept her caged; immobile, hindering her from taking the bold step into actualizing her dream.
Perfectionism is a personality trait that strives for flawlessness in everything done (Wikipedia). It shoots for A+ in exams. Gets upset if an exam report shows a B grade in lieu of an A. Overly meticulous at tasks. Strives to raise children that are “perfect” in nature and character. An ideal human being I must say….right? This is quite common amongst high achieving individuals.
Perfectionism has its upside and its downside. A good example is a medical professional. A physician who seeks to be perfect at his job has every reason to strive for perfection because a wrong step or action on his part may result into someone losing life. Mistake is unpardonable hence perfection should be the ultimate goal in this situation. This positive perfectionism is not the type being alluded to in this write-up.
Perfectionism, High standard, Excellence……..the difference
Setting high standard for yourself and building quality (excellence) into your lifestyle should be everyone’s goal. To be successful at what you do, whether in your career or personal life, high standard should be your gold standard. You should not be content with an “ok” lifestyle or work ethics. I once read that “setting high standard can beat mediocrity and achieve high-flying goals”. That is why you see high achievers, people who are go getters, people who don’t settle, have it together (at least in a better fashion) in life. The reason is because they raise the bar for themselves. They work towards and tend to achieve higher levels because they go far and beyond in anything and everything they set their mind on.
In my friend’s case, I was able to detect complacency, slothfulness, procrastination and more importantly fear of failure and fear of taking risk…..all hiding under the umbrella of perfectionism. Perfectionism has become a pebble in her shoes. It’s not allowing her to walk hence stopping her from reaching her destination. It is hindering her growth.
Perfectionism becomes a problem when you allow it to put you in a state of paralysis. The difference between an achiever who sets a high standard and someone who waits for “the” perfect timing is the “execution” part. The high achiever sets a goal and goes ahead to do it but the “perfectionist” sets an unrealistic goal and then looks for an excuse every time not to take the bold step.
Perfectionism can be a positive trait if used in the right manner. Many successful people have attributed their success to this but when you allow it to take control of your life so much that you become stuck in status quo, then you need to nip it in the bud and deal with it before it becomes ingrained.
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