Perfectionism – is it good or bad?

Leadership-Expertin Stefanie Voss. ©Annette Reidick2

As an internationally successful professional speaker and coach Stefanie Voss likes to have things organized perfectly. It simply reduces the hassle of unexpected surprises. So when planning her video shooting days for her (German only) YouTube channel and videoblog www.leader-on-my-ship.com, she has everything prepared and all materials at hand. After all, shooting high quality video material requires a lot of people, time and resources and hence is a pretty big (and cost-intensive) project.

So another video-day was approaching. The date had been booked well in advance and all was going as planned. And then this! The day before the shooting, Stefanie Voss realized she had a cold coming on. A slight panic took hold of her: “My voice would be affected. With a raspy voice I would not be able to come across the way I wanted! What a bummer! Should I cancel the appointment? Change all the plans and preparations involved? Pay cancellation fees to all people involved? I really wanted the shooting just to be perfect!”

Perfectionism is a kind of a „vigor“ of hers – yet sometimes, more in the sense of “affliction” rather than “passion”, however. She truly enjoys doing an exceptionally good job and in case something unexpected happens, it annoys her to no end.

Do you experience that, too? Have you ever had this grumpy feeling that things just don’t feel perfect, although you had it planned out that way? We tend to let our strive for perfection thwart us. In some cases, this perfectionist approach even keeps us from doing things in the first place. We wait and wait and plan and plan and then … just never get going.

The desire to do something particularly well can paralyze us and the worry that we might not succeed starts to controls us. Whenever this happens, the experienced business and leadership coach Stefanie Voss uses the following motto to get going anyway: „Go for progress, not perfection.“

This means: progress always comes first, perfection is less important. Or in a rather free interpretation: Better go for less-than-perfect action than for perfect hesitation.

And what about you? Do you strictly focus on progress? Or rather on perfection?

If you feel that your quest for perfection holds you back, then remember this: Sometimes an 80 % solution is a really good thing – simply because it can be implemented head-on. Working towards the 100 % solution often results in waiting, going back and forth and hesitating instead of going ahead. So eventually, you actively prevent progress.

Focus on moving forward and on your personal progress when dealing with pending plans and projects. Perfectionism is great – but only if it’s feasible. Most of the time, however, it isn’t – and then it’s best to dismiss the 100 % solution.

Below, there’s a checklist on dealing with typical pitfalls of perfectionism:

  • If a project or plan drags on and on, a perfectionist trap might be lurking somewhere.
  •  Do not let your perfectionism hold you back but think about how you could get going right away.
  • An 80 % solution is not wrong or bad but the perfect solution, if it gets you moving ahead.
  •  Think and act according to the motto „progress first, perfectionism is less important“.

Focusing on progress, she pulled off the video shooting. And thanks to heaps of cough drops and a lot of ginger tea, it worked out pretty well in the end. So Stefanie Voss sums up her experience: “I am running my solopreneur company for more than 10 years now. Of course I want to deliver exceptional work in pretty much everything I do. But moving forward is even more important – there must be progress continuously. It cannot be hampered by overzealous perfectionism. This is a trap I clearly will not get into.”

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