Perfectionism is either an excuse to explain why you can’t get something done, or it’s a way (for bad managers) to justify why employees should work harder. It’s stupid and callous, and—as we’ll soon discover—not a good strategy, especially if you want to get things done.
First, imperfection is our natural state. It’s the way we were born, and it’s the way we live. Perfectionism is an artificial construct that constricts, rigidifies, and conforms our behaviour/effort/result to an unreasonable (and unattainable) standard for no rational reason.
Second, perfection is a commodity sold via ads, motivational speeches/books by a marketer who has zero real-life experience. Any teacher, leader, manager, boss, parent who demand perfection isn’t doing a good job.
Contrary to popular belief, the opposite of perfection isn’t imperfection, it’s forward momentum. At its core, forward momentum is prioritising being better over being best and getting a solution over getting the solution. This means doing at least one pushup if you can’t do five, going for a two-minute run instead of a thirty-minute run, and going the distance even if you won’t win.
In other words, ignoring perfection doesn’t rule out doing things well, but it takes away the crippling fear of not doing well. Its obvious benefits are less stress and more results. Who wouldn’t want that?!
To give you a personal example, I never aim to write the best essay ever—that’ll make my readers lose their minds or break the internet—whenever I sit down to write every week. First, that’s unrealistic. Second, I don’t need that kind of pressure. I want to enjoy the process of writing. So, I give myself a smaller goal: write a decent essay in the given time, be mindful it isn’t a total waste of the reader’s time, and above all, publish it no matter how bad it is.
I’ve written a tonne of bad essays—work that I’m not at all happy with. But then I’ve also written a tonne of good ones—which wouldn’t have happened had I aimed for perfection every time. Even Sachin Tendulkar has had a tonne of ducks in his career, who am I?!
I am imperfect, all my work is imperfect. But, like all creators, I thrive on imperfection. It doesn’t mean I’m not trying to get better. I am (for sure)! But getting better isn’t even close to aiming for perfection. Perfection is a fictitious ideal that cannot be practically achieved—and in my opinion if it can’t be achieved, there’s not much point in caring about it.
As long as there’s forward momentum in our lives, as long as we are getting better every day, as long as we are going to bed smarter than when we woke up, as long as we aren’t repeating mistakes, we are good.
We’ll never have the perfect life, the perfect partner, the perfect parents, the perfect friends, the perfect process, the perfect workplace, or the perfect business—and that’s okay. Wishing things to be perfect is stupid. They cannot be and, more importantly, they don’t have to be.
If you look closely at a human life, this is what it’s all about. There is neither any perfect plan nor any perfect scenario because “life” happens. As helpful it is to be able to plan, it’s equally important to adapt to changing circumstances and problems. It’s important to understand that we will be continuously impacted by imperfection—from ourselves, the world, and others. If we should learn anything from this, it’s how to live with imperfection, not despite it.