The Perfection Myth Busted Why Aim for Progress Instead


When someone says you’re a perfectionist, how do you feel? If you’re like most people, I bet you’d feel proud and happy. After all, being a perfectionist means you always aim for the best in everything. But there is a caveat to always seeking perfection. You can miss out on learning opportunities because you’re too cautious in making mistakes. The pace at which you move forward can also be slower than if you don’t over-calculate and over-analyze each action you take. Mistakes help you learn faster and push you closer to your desired results.

Let’s look at why you should overcome the perfection myth and why you should focus on progress instead. 

Why Perfection is a Myth

If you’re still on the fence as to where you stand against the perfection myth, here are four compelling reasons why you should pursue progress instead.

Perfection is Subjective

What’s perfect for you may not be what’s perfect for others. In one project I handled, I worked with a product manager who was very particular with the design of our app. One of our pages was redesigned thrice before we released it. In the end, the customers looked for features that we had in one of the earlier designs. So, we had to change the design again. Remember, you are not the user of your product. Let your customers’ feedback shape your decisions when it comes to building your products. Don’t let your judgment and idea of what’s perfect be the driving force.

Perfection is not Excellence

Excellence is an attempt to accomplish something in the best way possible. Perfection, on the other hand, is the ultimate right way of doing something. But the conditions for perfection are often unreachable. There are external factors that can affect your project that are out of your control. In most cases, you might think that the conditions are perfect, then you stumble upon a challenging situation. If you have a perfectionist mindset, you will find it hard to pivot or adjust when a difficult situation comes. But if you have an excellence mindset, you work your way through what you’re facing and push forward in the best way possible.

Perfection Impedes Learning

Perfection is a myth because it slows down the learning process. When you strive for perfection, you’ll find it hard to commit to getting something done. And if you have this mindset, you won’t get things out the door. Things aren’t just good enough for launch. The more you push back on releasing your product, the longer it takes for you to know whether your customers like your product or not. 

Perfection Prevents Growth

Another reason why perfection is a myth is that it prevents growth. Failures are learning opportunities. It’s a way to know that there is a better way to do things. The sooner you know that something doesn’t work, the sooner you’ll get to correct your course and sail off smoothly. Mistakes help you grow. It will help you make better decisions moving forward.

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How to Overcome Perfectionism When Managing Projects

If you’re struggling to break free from the perfection myth, here are five tips to help you.

Reset Your Frame of Mind

All positive change starts with a change in mindset. To overcome the perfection myth, you must believe that perfection only hinders growth. You must accept that failure is part of the growth process and is inevitable. What you have to do is learn from these failures and let what you’ve learned guide you in continuously improving your craft.

Focus on Progress towards Objectives and Key Results

Those who believe in the perfection myth tend to obsess over the smallest details. And this vicious cycle is what hinders real growth and success. Instead of focusing on every little detail, focus on what your objectives are and how you’ll meet them. Your objectives and key results are what will ultimately determine your success.

Manage Projects Realistically

Instead of thinking of the perfect pieces to come together, assess the conditions that you currently operate in. Surely you will find some ways to make the conditions “near perfect,” as it will never be 100% perfect all the time. But pull yourself back to reality and think of what you have now. Your resources, your timeline, your knowledge, and your budget are just some of the factors that will shape your reality. You can’t infinitely stretch these to your liking. Also, there can be external factors that will come into play. So you need to keep an eye out for them and accept that there are risks that come with any project.

Focus on the What and not the How

Another mistake that those who believe in the perfection myth tend to make is to dictate how things should be done. If you’re working with a team, this can be exhausting for them. You need to trust your team to deliver on what you’ve envisioned. Being too into the weeds can be detrimental to your team and overall project. Micromanaging can pull away from the vision. You should focus on letting your team understand the reasons behind your decisions and how they will support your vision (the what). There are many ways to accomplish a single thing. And your idea may not be the best idea in the room.

Aim for Continuous Improvement

This is probably the most important tip when trying to overcome the perfection myth. As you reframe your mindset and shy away from perfectionism, focus your mind on continuous improvement. Make every step you take be a step towards progress. Having a continuous improvement perspective embraces the fact that perfection is not excellence. Rather, progress is. Excellence is displayed when you attempt to do something in the best way you can. And in that process, you get to learn your limits and push the ceiling further up. 

Overcome the Perfection Myth by Focusing on Progress

Overcoming the perfection myth is no easy feat. Even when we were kids, we have been trained to be perfect in all aspects. But what does perfect even mean? The perfection myth doesn’t only apply to personal life. But all the more in our careers and work lives. We often look for the perfect conditions when we handle our tasks and projects. But waiting for the perfect conditions will leave us in vain. Learn to be realistic when managing your projects. Prepare your mind to handle failures. Be ready to soak up the lessons that failure brings. Only then will you overcome the perfection myth and experience the benefits of striving for progress instead.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

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Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.