Good enough and the battle of perfectionism

My dad is a perfectionist. It’s really annoying because even the small simple jobs take ages.

When I was about 15 and still living with my parents I got a new bed. It was a flat pack and fairly straightforward to put together. The minute it arrived I started to assemble it (I’d been sleeping on a sofa bed for a few weeks already so was keen to get the bed made asap). I put the frame together and then distributed the wooden slats at even intervals along the length of the bed. Th
en I plopped the mattress on top. Job done. An hour and a half max.

My dad came to inspect the bed. He lifted up the mattress and apparently my bed construction skills were not good enough. He fixed it by precision measuring the slats so they were exactly the same distance apart. Then with great care and attention, he screwed them into the bed base so they would not move. He had to use his own screws because they were not supplied as part of the flat pack (presumably because they were not needed).

It took about 5 hours.

The approximate slat distribution of slats was good enough. It held the mattress. With the weight of the mattress on top the slats would not move. I could sleep on it.

Did I get a better night’s sleep or was I safer on the precision screwed slats? Probably not.

Do you do the same thing at work? Take too long on your quest for perfectionism when good enough would be good enough? End up staying at work late or coming in early just to get through your workload? If you are nodding, you need to battle your perfectionism and go home on time more often.

Tips to battle perfectionism

  • Ask yourself ‘Is it good enough?’ If you spend more time on it would it be significantly better or are you just tinkering around the edges? If you are tinkering stop.
  • Choose the work that’s really important, the work where the consequences of an error are big, or the impact significant that it’s worthy of perfectionism. For example, precision engineering on an aeroplane (my dads day job) is important, precision engineering on a bed not so much. Focus your remaining perfectionist energy on the work that is really important.
  • Set yourself deadlines. Think realistically how long something should take. Set a deadline and stick to it. For example, if a blog takes 2 hours. Stick to it. Press publish after 2 hours.

What is perfect anyway? What is good enough? Who is the judge? In my experience, we are our own worst critics.

If you’d like some help with the battle of perfectionism you might benefit from joining the Lucidity Network. It’s a pick and mix of online and offline learning and connection to a dynamic network of people who can help you. We’re open for new members a few times a year. Join the Lucidity Facebook community to get in the Lucidity groove for clearer thinking and better results and be the first to hear when the Lucidity Network is open for members.




Make failure your friend

I recently interviewed Richard Turner, a self-proclaimed expert in failure on why failure is inevitable and why it’s also very important.

Failure is one of those topics where there’s a big gap between knowing and doing. Rationally we know that it’s OK if we are doing our best, to fail, because by failing we learn valuable lessons that lead us to success in the future.

Yet, failure is not rational. Failure is highly emotional. Remember the last time that you failed at something that was important to you. How did it feel? Most likely it felt horrible. I know that if I’ve failed badly I almost can’t bear to talk about it and dissect it until a bit of time has passed and the pain has resided.

However, as Richard pointed out, it’s the ability to talk about the failure when you are still feeling it that has the potential to lead to the biggest learning. Like with many things its easier said than done, you need to have people to talk to in confidence about failure and work in an environment where you don’t fear the repercussions of failure.

Here are my eight take-aways from the interview

Make failure your friend and work on reframing your mindset on how you view failure. It’s not the enemy to be avoided. If treated with respect, failure can be your friend.

Tell stories of the failures in your organisation to help others learn. Tell stories to all your audiences,  supporters, volunteers and internal teams. The learning from failure is more readily remembered and more importantly implemented as a story than facts and figures.

Set a BHAG. A Big Hairy Audacious Goal. This goal works best when it is organisation wide, however, if setting the organisation’s BHAG is not in your remit set your team one – or set an individual one. Setting a BHAG forces you to think differently. If your goal is to double sales you approach the task very differently than if your goal is to increase sales by 5%. A BHAG also shifts expectations. You are all working to smash your BHAG, however, if you fall short, it’s highly likely that you will have done better than the 5% incremental change.

Like Oscar Wilde said; ‘Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars’

Give yourself and your team permission to fail. This is also easier when you have a BHAG. You can’t just tell people they have permission, you have to lead by example. For example, you might share learning from failure as a regular agenda item at team meetings. Everyone should have something to share, after all, if no one is learning from failure they are not pushing themselves hard enough to reach that BHAG. BHAG’s don’t just achieve themselves.

Go for a walk. The single best way I’ve found to clear my head, think straight and be more creative is to go for a walk. It can help you think through problems or if you take a colleague it can help you talk through problems.

With hindsight, Hindsight is a great thing. If I could choose a superhero power I’d be ‘Hindsight Hero’. EVERYTHING is easier with hindsight but we don’t have a crystal ball so the best we have is learning from failure. Your learning from failure is someone else’s hindsight – but only if you’re brave enough to share it.

Back to mindset. Start to frame problems in a more positive way. Rather than ‘This doesn’t work’ or ‘We tried that and it didn’t work’ ask ‘How might we make this work?’

And finally, construct your failure resume. List your career steps from the failures that have led you to where you are now.

The interview with Richard Turner can be watched at the Lucidity Network which is a pick and mix of online and offline learning and connection to a dynamic network of people who can help you. We’re open for new members a few times a year. Join the Lucidity Community Facebook group to get in the Lucidity groove for clearer thinking and better results and be the first to hear when the Lucidity Network is open for members.

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