Perfection to Excellence
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
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
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 www.nurturingyoursuccess.com
or write to her at Julie@nurturingyoursuccess.com.