Why Perfectionism Is Destroying Your Career

Striving toward perfection is important. Demanding perfection is destructive. The idea that we can all be mistake-free is almost laughable. Part of the human condition is to make mistakes, follow bad ideas, or take too many risks.

If we did not have these mistakes happen, then we would not have a learning process which makes us better in untold ways. Should we celebrate a perfect result? Always. If we expect perfection every time, however, we create pressures on ourselves and others that are unrealistic. The expectation for perfection is a guarantee that someone will eventually fail. 

How to Recognize an Expectation of Perfection

It can be difficult to see that the expectations set for oneself or for others are grounded in perfection. We don’t want to accept mediocrity, after all. We want people to do their best.

That means we must set realistic performance expectations. There are common signs and signals that indicate an entrepreneur is demanding perfection. Here is what to watch for.

#1. There are high levels of stress faced every day. 

We all face stressful days. Tight deadlines, accounts receivable, constant regulation changes, unrealistic investors, angry customers, DEBT and taking a loss are all stress creators. Perfectionism takes stress creation to a new level. When expectations are so high that they are virtually impossible to reach, then stress appears in three different ways.

  • You’re stressed because you haven’t reached the goal.
  • Because you haven’t reached your goal you’re stressed because you feel like a failure.
  • You’re stressed because you are exerting huge efforts to be successful.

Over time, these high stress levels lead to burnout. Should that happen, your entrepreneurial career could be over sooner, rather than later.

#2. Expectations become progressively more unrealistic.

When perfectionism is present, any small flaw typically results in the entire concept, product, or service being thrown away. Then the entire process starts over once again. Imagine throwing out an entire meal because one macaroni shell was burned. Or throwing an iPhone away because an app froze on it. Yet that’s the kind of expectations many entrepreneurs set for themselves. Without challenging, but realistic expectations, it is difficult to find success.

#3. It creates health problems.

Perfectionism happens to us all on occasion. When it occurs frequently, however, it can cause serious health problems. People striving to be perfect in all things can suffer from sleep disruptions. They might miss meals as they try to improve something. They lose time with family and friends.

To compensate for these losses, many start eating unhealthy foods that allow them to move toward their perception of perfection. They might start taking sleeping pills. Alcohol, drugs, and smoking may happen as well. In a quest for perfection, an entrepreneur often creates an imperfect set of healthy standards for themselves. That actually prevents perfection from happening in the first place.

#4. It robs the mind of creative juices.

Working hard takes a lot of energy. Now imagine how much energy is consumed in an effort to be perfect.

If the energy resources of an entrepreneur are directed toward perfection, then they cannot be directed toward creativity and innovation.

That doesn’t mean creative ideas stop happening – in the short-term, anyway. It does mean they appear less frequently. If the quest for perfection happens for a long enough period, those creative centers that fuel the entrepreneurial spirit may eventually run dry.

#5. You feel like a failure all the time.

If perfection is the standard and you have not reached it, then you have failed. That means there is a risk of massive failure associated with every attempt to be perfect. Should those failures begin mounting in number, it can cause the entrepreneur to abandon their business, their industry, and even their lives.

No one wants to feel like a failure all the time. That’s why it is important to balance challenge with realism. That process begins with a willingness to compromise. Entrepreneurs must be willing to adapt to changing circumstances to find ongoing success.

Realities change. This has been seen in profound ways in the cannabis industry within the last 5 years. Without adaptation and compromise, success is fleeting. Throw perfectionism into the mix and hope just about disappears.

#6. You stop taking risks.

Perfectionism could be called the fear of making a mistake. Those that seek perfect results are often the first to avoid a risk. You could play things safe. You might carve out a niche for yourself. Without risk, there is no way to maximize your full potential as an entrepreneur. 

Perfectionism does happen. Entrepreneurs create goals and plans for themselves every day and execute them flawlessly. We can and should celebrate these moments. And we must also celebrate the entrepreneurs who have learned from their mistakes and keep moving forward.

If you notice these traits in your daily routine, take a moment to stop and reflect on what you’re doing. Is it more important to be perfect? Or is it more important to be successful? 

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