The Ugly Side of Perfection

A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem.

~ Albert Einstein

While the desire to make sure something is done “right” is generally a good thing, at some point, an extreme point, it can also be detrimental not only to yourself, but to people who depend on you.

“Perfection” is when you sufficiently meet the objectives of a task at hand.

Not when you spend extra hours on a 1% improvement at the expense of yourself or others.

So how do you know you’re going too far?

Have you ever called yourself a perfectionist?

Then you must read “How to break the perfection habit”.

It helps us re-think “perfection” in a more useful manner.

Found this through Prashant, who apparently has loosened up a little.

3 comments on “The Ugly Side of Perfection

  1. Khalid October 9, 2007 6:25 pm

    Well, it happened to a lot of people, we started at school thinking that to be perfect is to score the highest score, same goes to uni, and when university is done your max limit is not there anymore so your brain is tricked to try more and more but the problem that there is no limit or an actual score.

    But over time with enough working experience you should be able to know what is the cost of overdoing things meaning you would be good enough to ask your self “is this adding any value to my work?”. And bedsides there is more bad about being a perfectionist than good.

  2. zhiyuan October 10, 2007 6:29 am

    I would say perfection is just an illusion to human. Most people think perfection exists but it in reality, it never does. After all, how perfect is perfect? Is there a boundary to perfection? The problem usually pops up when perfectionist perceive perfection as real… perfectionist who have the expectation that everyone will appreciate all the efforts, ideas, and intentions they have put in. But it is never the case since everyone has very subjective preference on everything. And most people have little time or attention span to even notice the details.

    Having said that, I still believe perfection is a very good set of self-perceived measurement. In golf, Tiger Woods is generally perceived to be perfect by everybody – he is undoubtedly one of the all-time greatest golfers in history. If i’m a professional golfer, i would certainly wanna benchmark against him .. to know where i stand and the level i’m at … to develop my skills which could go on par with him … to evaluate myself on what i have achieved so far. Of course, to go equal with him is not easy, but at least I put in all my efforts to be as good as possible.

    There’s saying: Aim for the moon, even if you miss, you may hit a star.

    Both statements of mine may sound a little contradicting, but I think it makes sense. Minus the obsession (of perfecting), one will realize perfection is actually a rather good habit … Aim the perfection at yourself and never expect praises, compliments or acknowledgement from others. Weigh the pros and cons of perfection vs time+money+energy+etc. That’s a wise art of perfection.

  3. Nick October 26, 2007 5:06 pm

    I do this abit at work too, being a little OCD as I am. Sometimes I’d be spending ages making a trivial little module more efficient and less heavy in lines of code even though it works fine already instead of moving on to the next section. Guess that’s what happens when you keep trying to get it all just the way you want and forget about timelines lol.

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