Progress not Perfectionism

These last few weeks I have been writing about competition. How does business make itself competitive, is it really a dog-eat-dog world and why are people a vital ingredient? Sometimes we are our own worst enemy – and business owners are no different.

When you find yourself competing against others, whether in business or personal life you can become very fixated on “being the best”. While I totally admire the way people challenge themselves to do better and achieve their personal best it has a downside too.

Perfection2When is the best never good enough? When you are caught in the perfectionist trap and competition can trigger that need for perfectionism.

I challenge myself daily; to get up, to get out, to get on a train, to speak in front of a room full of people…. My own fears will always be something I battle and each day I try to be better than the previous day but sometimes I am not. Some days, it just has to be “alright”, it will do, it will be enough.

If you feel that to “win” you must be better than the best, beware the allure of perfectionism.

Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again.

Julia Cameron

In a competitive world there is a lot of truth in the idea that speed wins. Apple release a new iPhone and it is not perfect, but it is out there, stopping customers from buying the new Samsung. Your amazing idea may not be perfect, but for now it is still your idea and worthy of sharing before someone else steals a march on you.

When perfectionism gives you the excuse for failure

When we are trying to do better there is always the spectre of failure, sitting like an ugly gnome on our shoulder.  Trying to be perfect; the best parent, the best employee, the best entrepreneur etc. sets us up for failure. The gnome gleefully whispers in our ear, “See, told you that you couldn’t do it” and we give up, certain that if only we had been perfect we would have been fine.

In reality, the act of trying to do your best but accepting it won’t be perfect often propels you towards success. Very few events in our life are written in stone. There is almost always the chance to improve if improvement is required. BUT, you cannot improve if you don’t risk putting it out there and trying, however imperfectly.

I am not Les Brown or Tony Robbins, but I am a damned good public speaker. Do I give up because I am not perfect? Heck, they aren’t even perfect, they get things wrong too. Do I see them as my competition or someone to learn from? If you can replace envy of others’ success with admiration and lessons to be learned, then perfectionism will not have you in its grip. If you can see getting better at what you or your company does as a learning journey, then you will succeed.

Competition can be healthy or destructive – your choice

Perfection3Most business has an element of profit motivation. Most companies see competitors as part of the cost of doing business. This can be healthy or destructive. You can gain a competitive edge or give up. You can utilise the idea of collaboration and level the playing field. You can harness the power of your workforce or drive them into the ground with unreasonable expectations. You can wait until everything is perfect, or take a leap and get out there. Personally, I leap a lot, fall a lot, get back up again and like Robert the Bruce’s spider- I keep trying.

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