"Perfect is the enemy of good." Despite having learned this lesson on multiple occasions, I still find myself caught in the trap of perfectionism daily. No matter how well I did something, I can always find a way to improve it. Perhaps it is my Type 1 Enneagram getting the better of me, or maybe it's just human nature. Either way, walking the tightrope of self-improvement and contentment is one that I am surely not alone on. And with so many of us on the same rope, it can get a little chaotic. Let's see what we can do to make it a little less precarious.
The first step in addressing perfectionism is understanding that this is how the thinking mind has evolved to behave. Our brains are wired to seek out negative aspects in our lives as a way of causing us to act on them. It is a useful survival tactic when we can actually act, but all too often we don't (or don't know what to do). Anxiety and worry arise when we ruminate on the negatives, without being able to move into action. Our brain stays fixated on what went wrong last time, instead of on what we are doing at this moment. Suffering ensues. Additionally, when we adopt all-or-nothing thinking in which everything in our lives has to be done perfectly or it's not worth doing, we also suffer.
However, if we look at life as one experiment at a time, we can continually improve without the expectation that we should ever reach perfection. We can look for opportunities to use what we have observed to make the next iteration better. For instance, I built some garden boxes last weekend. The first one was a complete experiment that gave me some good ideas to make the next one better. By the time I was on the third box, I still was improving, and I got a little frustrated when something I thought was going to work didn't. I had to remind myself that the next one will be even better than the last. And so it goes. Constant improvement without any expectation for perfection. Each challenge is simply an opportunity to use your skills and learn. Sometimes this will be in leaps and bounds and other times you may feel stuck for a long time. When you get stuck, take that as a sign that you might have to start asking a different set of questions or seek help in novel ways.
As Tony Robbins says, "Perfectionism is the lowest state of human consciousness." How do you guys deal with your own tendencies towards perfectionism? How do you engage in learning in your lives? Leave a comment below.