From Perfection to Excellence

By Julie Fuimano, Personal & Career Coach

It was summer 1993 and I was preparing for nursing school by taking Microbiology. It was an intensive six-week course that included a lab. The final exam consisted of 100-multiple choice questions. I got 93 correct.

Now you'd think I would be happy. It was a fabulous grade and it ensured that I received an 'A' for the class. But I was mortified. All I could think about was how I got seven questions wrong! I was so angry and frustrated. I couldn't believe it.

I couldn't believe my behavior either. It was ridiculous to think and feel badly about this test. An 'A' was the highest grade, and yet I chose to feel bad and give myself a hard time. I realized that I needed to flip my perspective. Instead of focusing on what I did wrong, I could choose to focus on my accomplishment. At that moment I made the shift from perfectionist to excellence. And you can do it too.

The Pursuit of Perfection

Perfectionism is a time-stealing, energy-draining monster. It forces you to strive for unachievable outcomes because no matter what you do, it's not good enough. In your pursuit of perfect, you refuse to see things as they are, but rather insist on living up to some illusion that doesn't exist - it's always just out of reach.

Perfectionism is a black hole trapping you from giving yourself to the world. Perfectionists will often not complete things, not start things, or not take on projects for fear of not being able to perform 'perfectly'. Perfectionists fear making mistakes and therefore, find themselves stressed, in constant state of worry over what could happen, and focused desperately on not failing. They maintain unrealistic expectations of themselves and of others and will often micromanage causing undo stress on themselves and others.

Sound like anyone you know?

Perfectionism is also one of the roots of procrastination. The fear of not being able to deliver at some unachievable standard often causes you to avoid doing what needs to be done, believing the consequence of not doing something is better than the consequence of not being perfect.

The Costs versus the Benefits

What is the cost of striving for perfection? Perhaps it keeps you from trying new things or participating in activities or projects. It causes things to pile up when you resist finishing them. Having piles of unfinished work is stressful. As in my example above, striving to be perfect focuses your attention on what's wrong or what's not working rather than seeing all of the good and all that is right. It also feels bad when you make a mistake and as a perfectionist, you use that mistake as an opportunity to berate yourself mercilessly.

Are there any benefits to striving for perfection? Well, one might be that it forces you to do top notch work on what you do deliver. It's important that you discover what costs and benefits you derive from striving for perfection. There are good reasons for choosing to behave this way whether it fills a personal need, it protects you from something you fear, you don't know any other way, or this way of being has enabled you to achieve what you've accomplished thus far. Knowing your attachment to perfection will be helpful as you choose to let go and follow a different paradigm.

Change Your Perspective

You are a wonderful, intelligent, creative human being, and whatever you create will be wonderful. If you do make a mistake, that's fine too. It's an opportunity for learning and growth. If you don't like what you've done, then that's your judgment and you can work to change it so you get a different outcome. But in the doing, you are learning - about yourself, about whatever it is you are trying to accomplish, and about life in general. Life is a blessing - it's when we focus on the negative that we run into trouble.

Humans are perfect in our imperfection. What is perfect anyway? Not making mistakes? Mistakes are gifts where we learn the most about how to do things and how not to do things. It's how we learn. We don't learn by getting everything right the first time. We're always better off after making a mistake because of what we learn, how we grow, and what we then choose to do with that learning.

Strive for Excellence

In order to achieve the success you want in your life and career, shift to a focus of excellence. Results will always be great and you'll always be striving for better. There's no fear with excellence; anyone can do it and it's realistic.

A focus of excellence keeps your attention on what's right and what's working well, rather than what's not working. This keeps your attention on the positives and how things could be even better. Excellence has no limits. You can always reach for greater and greater levels of excellence. What you accept as excellence today will be different tomorrow, in a month, or in five years. Life is ever-changing. You are ever-changing. And as you progress on your life journey and you learn more, things take on different meanings and your additional knowledge contributes to new standards for excellence.

We know what it feels like when we receive excellent service at a restaurant. What if they were striving for perfection? Who would know whether they had achieved it? All you know is that the meal was fabulous and the service was enjoyable. They could have made any number of mistakes along the way and you would never have known.

And you know what? It wouldn't have mattered. Mistakes would be great learning opportunities for the employees and the compliment you give provides them with the feedback they need to know what they are doing well. That's life - that's striving for excellence.

In striving for excellence, identify the results you seek and create ways to bring about those results. Take small strides towards what you want to achieve. And celebrate your success along the way. Perfect the journey and the results will be more than you ever expected were possible.

Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN is a personal and career coach working with people and organizations that are tired of putting up with negativity, inefficiency, and living/working beneath their potential. What keeps you up at night? How would your life/business be better if you moved beyond this situation and achieved the success you desire? Call now to explore how coaching would work for you (484) 530-5024. Sign up for our e-newsletter at or write to her at

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