We’ve all run into this one – and I expect this article will be under constant development.
I tend to think of success with my life goals as getting things
I’ve met plenty of people who aim for perfection, only never to finish what they start. They’re also largely distracted – even immobilized by this noxious addiction to correcting things when that’s not what is being asked of them.
Too many of us have a noxious, insidious addiction to perfectionism, which I’ll define here as a fictional state in which all elements are aligned with an arbitrary and unachievable ideal for the individual engaged in the activity. This definition ought to be in a medical manual someplace. Perfectionism has denied more people pleasure and undermined more good ideas than the resultant imperfections ever could have.
The cult of perfectionism arises because of fear: fear that what’s produced will be critiqued; or will fail; or that it won’t be as good as someone else’s; or that people will laugh at it; or that people will be unimpressed with it. None of that, of course, bothered Edison or Bell or Picasso.
Jack is talking with Danielle about a new budget for the IT department. Jack is talking and, mid-conversation, Danielle looks flustered and unable to continue the discussion. She notes to Jack that he’s misspelled a few words on one of the five pages she’s been asked to review before the meeting. Jack asks Danielle, “What did you think about the proposal?” Danielle, appearing flustered, is unable to answer. She’s been so focused on Jack’s spelling errors that’s she completely missed the purpose of the proposal, the meeting, and even Jack’s conversation. Danielle has immobilized herself with this distraction and is unable to contribute.
Others notice this behavior, and she is fired from her job for lack of performance. After all, the company is not paying her to raise these petty disputes, and meanwhile, million-dollar clients are waiting for answers.
Attempting to find errors in all grammar, writing, and engagements, regardless of what’s being asked of her.
Demanding that others write in full paragraphs and use zero shortcuts when it comes to the English language.
Completely ignore context once any sort of imperfection has been spotted
Refuse to use more casual, instant communication tools like Instant Messaging, Email, and other informal communication types.
Danielle should consider the overall impact of small errors and consider what is being asked of her. In this scenario, she is not the editor or the individual who’s leading the discussion. It would be appropriate for Danielle to stay focused on the task and let the error pass.
The person who is a perfectionist will almost certainly find this advice offensive. If this is the case, proceed with telling them the following: “I’m not sure what you have, but I bet it’s hard to pronounce” per HIPAA and local HR regulations.
“We seek perfection because we are insecure. We’re afraid of what others think. We create illusory standards that we believe others meet. If we’re perfect, no one can criticize us. (Of course, if we’re immobile, everyone may well criticize.” -Alan Weiss