Embracing our imperfections can lead the way to excellence, explains Marsha Egan

Let’s start with this: Perfection is overrated. In a world where the pursuit of perfection often takes precedence, let’s flip this and remind ourselves why striving for excellence and valuing forward progress should be our guiding principles instead.

Perfectionism Paralyzes Progress

Perfectionism can be a roadblock that hinders our career advancement. It causes unnecessary delays, increases stress levels, and robs us of valuable time that could be better spent making progress. Instead of aiming for perfection, let’s focus on delivering excellence. As the late Abdul Kalam wisely said, “Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident.” Excellence allows us to maintain high standards while keeping the momentum going.

Perfectionism Breeds Fear of Failure

Perfectionism and the fear of failure often go hand in hand. When we set impossibly high standards for ourselves, we can create a situation where failure becomes a looming threat. As a result, we may become risk-averse, avoiding challenges or opportunities that might lead to less-than-perfect outcomes.

Seth Godin hits the nail on the head with his quote, “Imperfect and proud of it.” Embracing imperfections means accepting that mistakes are a natural part of learning. Failure is not the end but a stepping stone to growth and improvement. So, instead of fearing failure, let’s welcome it as a valuable teacher on our journeys toward excellence.

Perfectionism Hinders Innovation

Innovation thrives in an environment that encourages experimentation and creative thinking. However, perfectionism stifles innovation by promoting a rigid adherence to established norms, rules, and standards. When we’re too focused on achieving perfection, we’re less likely to explore new ideas, take calculated risks, or “think outside the box.”

Words Matter

When I think of “pursuing perfection,” it feels like a downer; an impossible task. “Pursuing excellence,” on the other hand, sounds energizing and… possible. It acknowledges that there is always room for growth and encourages us to push boundaries and challenge the status quo. It also acknowledges that no one is perfect, so there will be mistakes. It is what we do with them that creates forward progress.

The Value of Mistakes in an Imperfect World

Mistakes are learning opportunities

One of the most significant benefits of making mistakes is the opportunity to learn from them. When we make a mistake, we have an opportunity to analyze what went wrong and why it happened, and to avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.

Mistakes foster resilience and self-awareness

When we encounter setbacks, failures, and even small mistakes, it takes strength to learn to bounce back and cope with the situation. Although uncomfortable, this can be a valuable career and life skill. Self-awareness is the first step toward personal development and self-improvement.

Mistakes lead to innovation

Some of the greatest discoveries and innovations in history have arisen from mistakes. When something doesn’t go as planned, it often prompts us to think creatively and find alternative solutions.

Let’s remember that perfection is an unattainable ideal. Excellence IS attainable. It is attainable through continuous improvement. Some of that improvement comes from learning from mistakes, missteps, and failures. Let’s embrace our imperfections, learn from our mistakes, and use them as stepping stones toward excellence. That’s what keeps life interesting. And fulfilling.

Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, a Florida-based workplace productivity coaching firm. She is the author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. She can be reached at MarshaEgan.com, where you can also read her blog. To listen ... (Read More)

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