Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Focus on Success, not Perfection

Let's start off the New Year with the intention to be more successful, NOT to be perfect.  Often it's the bid to be 'perfect' that creates the vision of the unachievable, an unobtainable goal that limits our success.  Focusing instead on being more successful allows for even small achievements to count, each of which, when combined with other small gains, may serve to move us forward exponentially.

Making a conscious effort to be 'perfect' in everything we do can serve to delay, if not deter, us from achieving.  The ideal of perfection is a near impossible standard to meet, considering we will almost always believe that we could have given or done more, if allotted more time, money, support, resources, education, etc.  Who wouldn't agree that they couldn't have done 1% more? 

That 1% is enough to keep you from earning the 'Perfect' title!  It's enough to label your accomplishments 'less than perfect', if only to yourself.  Many will find that they hesitate to take action, or even to try a new activity, when they know that their first efforts will likely fall short of that perfect mark. Thus, they have lost before they start.  Not trying prevents them from learning and developing new skills, from moving forward through achieving even small wins and successes.

Airplanes are constantly flying ín error, having to readjust their heading constantly, to enable them to get where they want to go.  In essence, they take action (set their direction), readjust their heading and take a new action (by setting a new heading), readjust.  These continuous course corrections are needed to keep the plane moving in its desired direction.  Effective and successful?  Yes.  Perfect?  Hardly.

How many times have you seen someone receive accolades for a project that you felt fell short of your mark, your standards?  Was it perfect?  No.  Was it 'good enough'?  Judging by the feedback of others, absolutely.  Take a moment to think about what 'good enough' bought them.
  • Likely the same recognition, rewards and reputation boost that you received from your last 'perfect' project
  • Less time spent on the completion of this current assignment that they were able to spend on completing other projects, or to focus on themselves, their family, their friends
  • Less stress,given they were not agonizing over the need to be perfect or to having to hand something over that they felt was less than perfect
  • They felt good about what they accomplished and were able to celebrate its 'successful' completion, rather than stressing over the elements they couldn't get to due to budget or time constraints.
In essence, letting go of the need for perfection frees you mentally, physically and emotionally... freeing you to accomplish more, to be and feel more successful.

The Work:

1.  At the beginning of a new project, take a look at the goals and milestones you have established and define 'levels' of performance.  If you have perfectionistic tendencies, you likely have already identified the 'ideal' for each milestone.  Add to it defined performance levels that aren't perfect but that are sufficient to meet the needs and expectations of others.  In essence, create a vision of the 'good enoughs'.

Establishing this 'good enough' level up front gives you a clear and okay fallback position for when time, money, people and life intervenes and makes the ideal a seemingly unobtainable goal.  Setting that fallback position upfront gives you the permission to use it when required.  Creating it later will always leave you feeling like you've failed.

2.  Some clients find it helpful to view performance standards through someone else's eyes, using someone else's yardstick instead of their own perfectionistic one.  You might use someone else's views to help you establish the 'good enough' mark, while your standards might establish the 'íf time permits' level of performance.  If you find that you are uncomfortable with a 'good enough' goal that someone else establishes, then use it as a minimum level of achievement and set levels of performance in staged levels of achievement beyond this point.  Good enough plus 10%, good enough plus 20%...  You might then discover that you can feel pretty good at letting go of a project at 'good enough plus 15%', giving you a lot more flexibility than always having to achieve 50% more than everyone else in your bid to be perfect.  What could you do with the gift of time that 35% represents? 

This isn't settling folks, it's called being strategic.  If putting an additional 35% of effort into something will not net you at least 35% more in gains, you are wasting your effort... which likely could net you additional gains by being applied elsewhere. Your time and effort are not limitless commodities.  Learning to assign your efforts and time appropriately is what effective time management and ultimately, your success, is dependent upon. Our mantra for the New Year then?  Success through Imperfection!

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