“A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future.” Gen. George Patton
Mark Zuckerberg deservedly gets a lot of credit for establishing a “Done is better than perfect” mentality at Facebook. The thought didn’t originate with him, it’s at least as old as General Patton, but like Patton, Zukerberg’s smart in calling out a superior value.
Done is better than perfect.
And yet, we are still lured by the mirage of perfection. It’s as though we believe the opposite of perfection is sloppy imperfection. Instead, what if the opposite of “getting everything right” is innovation?
My hunch is innovation is what Zuckerberg is getting at. Perfectionism doesn’t create new things, it only improves the old. Perfectionism doesn’t push an idea forward, instead it micro analyzes details that may not add any significant benefit. While it’s noble to pursue excellence in our lives, there’s an invisible line that we cross mentally when we can’t cross things off our “to do” list because every last detail isn’t perfect.
I see this play out in work and home life as we strive to live up to the images of pinterest, the wit of twitter, or the analytics of our business plans. We set ideals in front of us that ignore the reality of life; growth happens in an imperfect environment all the time! Growth occurs when there is movement. When those moves fail, we learn to try something different.
If you live under the strain of trying to make things perfect, you’re facing at least a handful of risks:
- Inaction – Although it’s not a real medical condition, “analysis paralysis” can happen to us all!
- Comparison – A losing game if ever there was one.
- Focus – When you’re busy perfecting it’s hard to keep an eye on the future.
- Pride – If you hit the “perfect” mark, the risk of pride is extremely high.
- Discouragement – This is the flip side of #4! If you fail to hit the “perfect” mark, fighting discouragement is tough.
Where do you spend your time? Do you worry about getting everything “just so” or do you think bigger than that? Do you sweat the little things at the expense of finishing a task? If so, here are a few ideas about how to move past the perfectionist trap:
- Stop projecting – no one is getting 100% in life, don’t create a standard that doesn’t exist.
- Lean into your mistakes – They are your tutors and give you life long lessons.
- Do a “Reality Check” – ask yourself if what you’re striving for really matters!
- Ask for feedback – if someone tells you to “let it go,” believe them.
Finally, one thing I emphasize with friends in the middle of a “perfection at all costs” episode, be kind to yourself. When you’re holding yourself up to an impossibly high standard you’re killing the joy of life. Have a light touch on your personal expectations. Finish – close – ship – get it done and move on. Don’t make yourself miserable in the process.
How do you keep this curse away?