Why you shouldn’t strive for perfection and how to stop

‘If you look for perfection you’ll never be content’

~ Leo Tolstoy


It’s a common misconception amongst the people that know me that I am striving for perfection. They worry I put too much pressure on myself to be perfect and I will be never satisfied, but they’ve got it all wrong.

Bestselfology is not about striving for perfection, it’s about a journey of self development. My interest lies in discovering new ways of doing things, how to be more productive, healthy and happier. I don’t put pressure on myself to be perfect. I don’t beat myself up when I don’t achieve what I would have liked to. I just enjoy the experience of learning and trying out new approaches to enjoy a more fulfilled life. My driving force is always how to be the happiest I can be.

Actually I’m very far away from perfection, whatever that actually looks like. I could exercise more, I could eat more healthily, drink less alcohol, be more environmentally friendly. I could be a better manager, I could be more productive and more patient. But none of this worries me. In fact, quite the opposite. I see it as a great opportunity for more learning and development and trying out new ideas and techniques.

I rarely see mistakes, only opportunities to learn and grow. It’s not about an unattainable end goal I am striving for, its about the journey.

If you constantly strive for perfection, there is a likelihood that you’ll be constantly disappointed as you fail to live up to these incredibly high expectations. Perfectionism can also take extra time. Lot’s of additional effort can go into dwelling on insignificant details that add little extra value in comparison to the time and effort they have taken.


Try these 3 techniques to help stop aiming for perfection:

1) View everything as a learning opportunity

If you view life as one big learning opportunity and focus on developing yourself and growing as an individual, it will change your focus from trying to reach an unattainable end goal, to focusing on every step of the journey.

Change the way you look at failure. If you set out to do something in a certain way and you didn’t quite manage to live up to your expectations, review what happened. Don’t see it as failure, see it as an opportunity to analyse what you can do differently next time. Take the pressure off yourself. Keep going tomorrow and see how you can make any changes you want to make. Keep learning and growing and trying out new techniques.

2) Follow the Pareto 80/20 rule

Pareto’s law states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. If you bear this in mind, when you have got something to 80% of where it needs to be, it can be useful to analyse how much additional effort you need to put in to get it to 100%. I am a big believer in being satisfied with 80% where this is enough to meet your requirements.

Where perfectionists can really get stuck is when they insist that the additional 20% must get done, even in the situations where the balance is 90/10 or 99/1. The extra effort that goes in often far exceeds any benefit that you get.

Analyse where 80% is good enough and try to get used to being satisfied with that.

3) Prioritise perfection

Depending on what you are working on, there are some things where perfection is more important than others. If you are an Olympic athlete going for a world record, perfection becomes pretty important. If you are surgeon performing an operation again, perfection is pretty critical. There are many other situations where perfection is way less important.

As you journey through life, choose which areas are more important for you to strive for perfection, if any. Maybe there is one area that you really want to put more effort into as it is more important to you, but with other areas you can be more relaxed. It’s when you want to be perfect at absolutely everything that you might start to feel quite stressed as this is setting the bar very high and difficult to achieve. If you prioritise what is really important to you and which areas are less important, it can help to focus your efforts more effectively.


Are you a perfectionist? Do you feel stressed when you don’t live up to the expectations you have created for yourself? I’d love to hear how you deal with this in the comments below.

1 Comment

  1. Yan July 3, 2017 at 10:53 am #

    People hate to work with me as a group. Is it wrong for me to put 200% effort for things to be done? If only they know how it feels to be a perfectionist regarding of the result of any particular task that been received.


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