1. Desperation (Fear) vs Inspiration (Love)
I believe all decisions and actions we take are created from either of these two sources – Desperation (Fear) vs Inspiration (Love). We dance between the two when making decisions and taking action throughout the day.
If your need for perfection is driven from desperation/fear, i.e. fear of failure, fear of looking bad, fear of not being good enough, fear of not be loved and accepted, then perfectionism can lead to self-destruction and is unhealthy.
When driven from desperation:
- It creates self-doubt, lowers self-confidence, stirs envy, makes you an impossible person to work with
- You are in the paradigm of ‘in-order-to’, because your basic survival is constantly threatened.
- Behind every fear, there is usually an unfulfilled need related to the fear or similar negative experience from the past. ie. the need to look good.
- Imagine there is no fear and no failure, what would you create as a possibility for yourself?
On the other hand, if you strive for perfection from the source of inspiration, from the love for excellence, and doing what is possible in your vision:
- It will give you a great source of power, because you are inspired to create, not because you need to. The energy generated from inspiration is powerful and unstoppable.
- It won’t hurt as much if you fail to reach your perceived perfect outcome because your life does not depend on it. It doesn’t threaten your survival.
- You are more likely to forgive others’ mistakes and be more patient and effective in recruiting others to your vision.
- The source of inspiration is love. Anything that is created out of love will produce positive and powerful results.
The bad news is that it is not easy to tell if you are truly coming from desperation or inspiration, especially if the fear is residing in the subconscious level. It is possible to feel like we are inspired to our perfection, but in reality, it comes from the need to be approved by others or from the fear of failure.
But the good news is that you can develop a strong self-awareness. Learn to catch yourself when you are feeling stressed, angry and fearful, and ask yourself where did those feelings originate from and let them go. Although we will never be able to fully get rid of the stress and anxiety when striving for perfection or excellence, they can be short-lived.
2. Perfection vs Excellence
It is critical to understand the distinction between perfection and excellence. This paradigm shift could pivot us from chasing to creating excellence.
Having built a multi-award-winning recruitment company over 16 years, especially when recruiting for the top industry players in the Biotech and Pharmaceutical industries, one of our key successes was being able to identify the leadership talent who strove for excellence and also was able to lead and inspire their teams to the same vision. Many of them who were once “perfectionists”.
When I let go of perfection and replace it with excellence, I find liberation in my pursuit of success.
- Gives me the freedom to create outside the box
- Gives me pleasure, regardless of how stressed I was when striving for excellence
- Forces me to let go of my attachment to a particular result and thus removes self-limiting belief to achieve an even greater outcome
Use your strengths instead of being used by them
“Use it” means to apply your desire to strive for excellence to achieve the outcome. It’s a strength when you are able to use it and have control over it.
“Being used by it” means you are striving to get to perfection for the sake of making it perfect, possibly because it is a habit, regardless if there is any impact on the outcome by pushing that extra mile.
Release the attachment to the outcome
What robs us of happiness is not the quest for excellence or perfection, but the attachment to an outcome.
To a perfectionist, nothing is ever good enough, but we can choose to be happy with a Work in Progress and make it more perfect the next round.
Not being attached to a particular outcome, doesn’t mean you don’t have an end goal. You still need to be very practical and realistic. You need to constantly ask yourself how much more perfect this project needs to be at a given point to impact the objectives. It is an art to be able to have a goal and not be attached to it.
Being too attached to a fixed outcome is one possible reason why many successful people are not happy. They may not realise that they have achieved success, so they are unable to own it. Excellence and success can appear in many forms.
5. Practical applications to achieve excellence without the burnout
First of all, Own it – recognise that you are a perfectionist.
Catch yourself (make it a game). Ask – “Am I using my strength, or am I being used by it?”
Release the Attachment – when you catch yourself being attached to the outcome. You can use this Lindwall Releasing process (1) that I have found to be very effective. Just say out loud :
“I release my attachment to the outcome I expect”.
Then, breathe in and out deeply with intention”.
“I open myself to know that if I release my attachment to the outcome, I might go beyond the outcome. Even if the project fails, I will, at a minimum, gain a learning experience. So it is.”
Take a deep breath and breathe out.
Enjoy the process. Whenever you catch yourself not enjoying the process, just bring yourself back to love and inspiration, remember why you are doing this. Move away from desperation and fear.