Friday, September 24, 2010

Perfection Is For Losers

In the past few weeks I have been trying to piece together the actions and ideas that have lead me to where I am right now. As with anybody it's a growing list, but I did realize a very big roadblock that had been keeping me from experiencing my life the way I wanted to. It had made me fearful of criticism for trying something new or different, even though I thought I would enjoy it. The thing that had been stopping me all this time was perfectionism.
                      By definition "perfect" is an adjective used to describe something that is without any flaws, defects or short comings. I mean come on that can't be used to describe anything accurately, including the universe. I had been under the impression anything I did that fell short of perfection was a failure. Even more devastating, was I had thought it had to be perfect the first time I did something, regardless if I had ever even tried it in the past.

                         For reasons due to some misunderstandings between teachers, parents and myself, criticism had become the ultimate fear. To avoid criticism I decided perfection was the only way to go and so the story unfolds. This lead me to avoid failure at all cost (which I failed at miserably), which caused a chain reaction of missed opportunities and experiences.

             I had set a goal for myself that was unattainable and Ironically set myself up for constant failure. I had set this goal in all aspects of life from education to personal relationships and couldn't be happy with anything less. Now I always pictured famous, successful, happy people as perfectionist but then I realized they have mastered (not perfected) the art of "good enough". What if every inventor or writer or artist kept changing and adding and subtracting until his/her master piece was absolutely flawless in all way before releasing it to the public to avoid criticism? Wow what would a world of perfectionist be like? I can think of two words boring and non-productive.

                           This revelation made me realize most of my unfinished projects were that way because I saw them as less than perfect so I abandoned them to start fresh on my next piece of perfection and the cycle went on.The fallacy of perfection can kill motivation and enthusiasm and severely limit creativity. In my opinion motivation, enthusiasm, and creativity are the three greatest treasures we can have or bring out in someone else so I put together some of the negative side effects of being a perfectionist and a few imperfect tips on ways to help yourself or someone you know break free of the great oppressor known as perfectionism.

  • Completion is more important than perfection, accept that there will always be mistakes and move on.
  • Nothing has ever been perfect nor will it ever be, so be happy instead of perfect.
  • Failure can be a great educator. 
  • Aim for "good enough" to be successful.
  • Most time it's ourselves imposing perfection on our work not our co-workers.
  • Failures are what made modern medicine(not to be confused with health care) what it is today and what it will be tomorrow.
  • Try failing on purpose on small scales.
  • Look at some of the the most popular ideas and philosophies in the world today, they cause war, hate, fear and slow the progress of humanity (obviously not perfect) but those ideas are blindly followed without question.
So many of our systems, dogmas and scientific theories are taught and accepted as perfect and without flaw. Why do we not challenge and question these ideas as a society? In my opinion it's a fear of being wrong and public criticism, for going against the grain. Right now top scientists are pursuing better medicine and technology through old fashioned trial and error without the crippling fear of criticism and loss of employment. They have this luxury because the organizations that employ them know failure is an educator. This blog is a catalyst in the pursuit of better ideas and actions by ordinary men and women  through failure. By publicly revealing our own failures and what we have learned we can slowly chip away at the stigma and negativity associated with failure. We as a community no longer  give up on trying to better ourselves and the systems that bind us because of criticism or failure, we can learn by example what works and what doesn't.

This blog is dedicated to the pursuit of better ideas and actions by ordinary men and women through failure. Historical and modern attempts of change that have failed even on the smallest scale will be posted and discussed to aid anyone interested in getting past the idea that failure is the ultimate enemy. We will embrace failure and celebrate it as it exposes truths that would otherwise remain hidden.