Ahh Perfick - Is perfection something we should be striving for?
Hello fellow Protagonists,
Being in the world of work for some time now has given plenty of opportunity to be interviewed for a multitude of positions and interviewing others a whole lot more. I love interviewing people, not because I am evil, but it really does make me think how I have presented myself in the past and how I would like to present in the future. Trying to suppress the nerves, we sit and anticipate what questions will be asked. Think about this classic,
"What do you think your biggest weakness is?"
What is your prepared answer?
Is it by any chance, "I am a bit of a perfectionist to be honest with you".
It doesn't sound so bad does it? It means that we just care so much about our work that we hold ourselves to the highest of standards possible. A bit of a go-to answer. I have heard it enough times to realise people think they are dodging the bullet with this one.
So lets talk about perfection and being a perfectionist.
First off we might as well say "It takes me ages to complete something, if I go on to complete it at all." Way way back (about a month ago) in The Daily Buff's first post we discussed the limitations of never starting something. Is it really that different to never completing something either? Who would I rather ask to fit a new bathroom for me, the person who could get a solid job done in about two weeks or the person who will make the greatest bathroom I have ever seen but would need 3 months to complete the job? Unless you like peeing in the kitchen sink, in which case 3 months it is!
The second point is that being perfect all the time is tiring. Think about how much energy is required to put your absolute heart and soul into every minutia. We are not just talking about tasks with hefty benefits, but in every routine email response, conversation, obligatory tick box exercise with no real purpose (We've all been there). We only have so much in the tank and this can be saved for what matters most.
Thirdly, in reality trying and failing is what creates opportunity to learn. Aiming for perfection could therefore delay the shift towards excellence as we are giving ourselves fewer lessons.
And finally... Just how happy are the most critical people you know? Perfection is an ever raising bar. Also, If this person is hyper critical of their own work, what does that mean for their views on work of others in the team? Constructive feedback is a wonderful tool, but consistent criticism does not oil the machine.
Nothing is ever going to be perfect and that is OK. If something we did was done perfectly why would we want to try it again, or anyone else want to for that matter. If all we ever did was perfection we would probably end up messing something up on purpose just to feel human again.
Sometimes those most prestigious game achievements sound amazing when the little trophy pops up, but there is a time when chasing it is no longer fun, and our best bet is to just start something new, or pick up something we used to love before.
Aiming for "good enough" instead of perfect is one cure for the perfectionist condition. Being able to submit or send off something that you feel is good enough for its purpose can be equally as rewarding and gets to happen a whole lot more often. You would also be surprised how we manage to fit a task to a good enough standard into the time we provide ourselves to complete it. Have you ever noticed how students (like myself once upon a time) are able to hand in long essay which had not even been started a few weeks prior. This is called Parkinson's Law, and say what you want, I know I am not alone in this one; I saw you at the student union bar.
Some practices go one step further to celebrate the imperfections in things. I remember watching a documentary recently on zen gardens (Yes I know... Jealousy is a terrible thing) and how they select asymmetrical, imperfect stones to highlight their uniqueness. Or something like that.
Just to put it out there, some tasks are fine to complete as close to perfection as possible, like a surgeon putting my organs back in place. The real question is if my organs were in the perfect place to begin with, or if by putting them back in their "perfect" place they are now imperfect?
Accept that nothing you do will ever truly be perfect, so be kind to yourself and others and show a little compassion.
"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it" - Salvador Dali
So what is your biggest weakness? What is your go-to answer?