By Andrew Leigh
Being a perfectionist is a real pain. You strive for perfection and are rewarded with procrastination and broken deadlines, missed opportunities and feelings of failure.
The trouble is that most perfectionists believe they are stuck with it. It is, they say, the way they have to be. That is not true – but the alternative – embracing and learning from your mistakes, can take a lot of courage.
Do so, however, and the rewards are immense – liberation from the perfectionist tyranny, improved output and higher achievement levels, along with hugely improved feelings of self belief and self esteem. And contrary to what might be believed, the alternative is not about settling for second best. It is about a healthy striving for excellence that actually has better outcomes than perfectionism.
Here are five benefits of being a healthy striver:
- You enjoy not only the final outcome – but the process of getting there too
- You set high but achievable standards
- You show resilience in the face of mistakes and disappointment
- You take sensible risks and see mistakes as a chance for growth and learning
- You use positive criticism without being overly defensive
Let’s be very clear about this – the healthy striver is an empowered person who achieves much more than the perfectionist, and feels better about it. If you’ve got a choice – and you do have a choice – why would you go for anything less?
How to become a Healthy Striver
- Acknowledge the need to change, and make a commitment to yourself to do so.
- Set goals that are achievable. Check by asking if you would expect anyone else in your position to achieve the goal.
- Learn to build up to excellence rather than arrive at it immediately. ‘Right first time’ thinking is disabling. For example, even the best writers will get stuck if they expect their first draft to be ‘right first time’. The process of achievement doesn’t work like that – not in writing and not in anything else. Instead, set yourself achievable interim goals.
- Admit your mistakes – to yourself and to others. It’s worth reflecting here on how you react to others when they cover up instead of owning up. Think of the saying ‘to err is human’. Like it or not, making mistakes is part of the human condition.
- Avoid ‘all or nothing’ thinking. One mistake does not mean failure, and it should not mean giving up; it simply means you have made a mistake. Learn from it and move on.
- Remember the ‘perfectionist paradox’ – Perfectionism leads to second rate-ism. Healthy striving is better than perfectionism in every way.
Now, don’t you owe it to yourself to escape the perfectionist trap? Make a commitment now to be less than perfect but more than the perfectionist.
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See also the sister article Less Than Perfect, for more information about the damaging costs of aiming for perfection.
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Andrew Leigh helps people achieve better work and business performance, whole-life wellbeing, achievement and change, and fulfilling new life directions.
To find out more about how life coaching can transform your life visit
Copyright 2007 – Andrew Leigh. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you leave all of the links active, do not edit the article in any way and give author name credit.