Many of us today are trapped in what positive psychologist Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., author of "The
Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life", calls "The
Myth of Perfection". We want to have a perfect body, a perfect spouse, a perfect house, perfect
children, a perfect career, perfect vacations, the perfect car, and so on. This eternal striving for
perfection leaves us feeling frustrated, disappointed, and dissatisfied. The solution, then, is to overcome
your perfectionist tendencies. This article will show you how.
People who are labeled as "perfectionists" are often quick to respond to this accusation with the
following: "I just have high standards". And, of course, having high standards is a good thing. People
with high standards are committed, hard working, and perseverant; in addition, they pay attention to
detail. At the same time, these are the qualities that are necessary in order to achieve great things.
However, there's a difference between striving for excellence, and striving for perfection. Excellence is
attainable, while perfection is not.
The problem is that the line between striving for excellence and striving for perfection is often blurry. It
can be difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins. Below you'll find guidelines to help
you see the difference between the two.
Those who strive for perfection do the following:
• They set unrealistic, impossible to achieve goals.
• They're maladaptive and don't tolerate criticism of any sort.
• They're paralyzed by their fear of failure and prefer not to take action rather than risk failing.
• They think that it's all about reaching the finish line.
• They live in a fantasy world in which nothing ever goes wrong.
• They want total happiness, all of the time.
• They can't cope with making a mistake.
• They want to do everything "just right" the first time.
• They tend to get stuck at the fact-gathering stage of a project because they want to know everything
that there is to know about their subject matter.
Those who strive for excellence do the following:
• They set important, meaningful, realistic goals.
• They're adaptive and are open to receiving constructive criticism.
• They try to minimize their chances of failing by taking precautions and working hard, and then taking
any necessary risks.