The Character Flaw That Slows Your Success

When I retired in the year 2000, I did not accept any consulting work until I had taken time to reflect on my career and how I could have made success come easier. My one complaint was that I felt I had worked too many hours to achieve it.

After considerable thought, I had a revelation: I was a diehard perfectionist and my perfectionism had doubled the time it took me to be successful!

My partners and associates often commented, “Bob, you are a great detail guy. We love your reports. We can always count on you to strive for perfection.” I wore those comments like a proud war veteran who had been awarded medals.

The truth is, those “medals” were a millstone around my neck and were slowing me down. It took me years, but I finally realized that perfectionism is a time-wasting, money-losing goal killer.

It is amazing that it took me so long to realize that it’s more productive to “aim for good” and then “aim for better” than trying to be perfect every time.

Is perfectionism keeping you from accomplishing your goals?

Have you ever said anything like:

“I must find the perfect gift for my sister’s wedding.”

“This report has to be perfect before I turn it in.”

“I have to make sure my presentation is perfect before I meet with this client.”

The sad truth is, nothing is perfect. Striving for perfection is foolish – and it’s impossible to reach. So trying to make things perfect can prevent you from ever achieving the things you want to accomplish.

The other nasty thing about perfectionism is that it can stall you – keep you treading water instead of progressing. In other words, if you’re always trying to make your novel perfect, you’ll never get it published.

Keep in mind that you are a work in progress. So, too, are your goals… works in progress. If you never start on them… you can never benefit from the results.

Beating perfectionism is tough work. And sometimes the very thought that you aren’t doing something “perfectly” can stop you in your tracks and stomp on your motivation.

The Slump Buster

If you feel your energy level sliding, or if you are losing your motivation, here’s a simple strategy that will help you get back in the game.

Maintain a list of small, meaningful tasks that need doing – things like replacing a light bulb, writing a letter, or returning a phone call. Take out your list when you feel a slump coming on and take care of one of those tasks. You will be out of your slump by the time you have completed it.

Why? Because you will have “stepped back” to catch your breath. Plus, accomplishing even small tasks is energizing. Results are always good!

Don’t let perfectionism be a trap or hold you back from working toward your goals. If, for example, you have to get a winning sales letter in the mail to achieve one of your business goals, the only thing you can do is take a shot at writing it. Write your letter and test it. Aim for good. Once you receive the test results, you will be ready to aim for better, because you will have more information to work with.

Here’s another “trick” for keeping perfectionism at bay: Apply the 90 percent rule to every task you take on.

Let’s say you have been slaving away at a project. You’ve been putting in long hours, and wearing yourself out. As a result, you are beginning to neglect your other job responsibilities – and even your health. This is a definite sign that you are being a perfectionist. It’s time to put the 90 percent rule to work.

Say to yourself, “Have I achieved 90 percent of what I was aiming for with this project? If not, I will continue to work on it. If so, I move forward.”

Now this doesn’t mean that you don’t pour 100 percent of your energy and attention into important tasks. It just means that you stop trying to perfect every tiny detail.

It took me 25 years to learn the 90 percent rule. Do not wait that long to take advantage of this time-saving, money-making, and goal-achieving insider secret.

I stopped striving for perfection because it was too time-consuming and limiting. Had I implemented the 90 percent rule much earlier, I would have completed far more projects a lot quicker.

To this day, keeping my perfectionism under control is hard. However, when I consider “the bigger picture,” I know that I have to push to move my goals forward. That’s why, for the past seven years, this has been my rule: 90 percent means good to go!

Don’t waste time and energy striving for perfect. Do the best you can. Then take time later to fine-tune your work. As Michael Masterson always says, “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

[Ed. Note: You can change your life and accomplish all your goals with simple strategies like Bob’s 90 percent rule. For dozens more ways to achieve your dreams – plus tons of goal-setting tools and motivation to get going – sign up for ETR’s Total Success Achievement Program]