Embracing perfectionism as a long term goal

I’ve suffered for a long time with a condition known as perfectionism. It’s a debilitating disorder that hampers productivity through a constant pursuit of idealism.
There are many problems that come with being a perfectionist. Firstly, there is the aforementioned productivity impairment. But also, it’s hard to be happy with anything you produce or anything you’ve achieved in life, as you always believe you could have done better. This does have a side benefit of driving you toward your goals, the problem being that as a perfectionist, your goals are always evolving and often unrealistic.
I’ve fought with the productivity/perfectionism conundrum for a while now and have come to terms with the fact that I will always be a perfectionist at some level. Both my parents are perfectionists, it’s in my DNA. Instead of fighting this innate condition as I have done over the past few years, I’ve recently found a way of embracing perfectionism by treating perfection as a long term goal. So, what do I mean by this?
Let’s take an oil painting as an example. First the artist starts with a thick brush and large blocks of colour to give a general overview of his subject. At this stage he is much more agile and can easily change direction should he need to. Later, after the paint has dried a little, he adds more detail. He repeats this process until he is working with tiny brushes, on the minutest details. There is a great deal to be learned from this technique.
I am suggesting the long term goal of a perfect project, without getting bogged down by tiny details at the outset. Do just enough to fulfil the project requirements with a view to tweak (and perfect) further down the line; there is no point perfecting something that is subject to change. Giving yourself permission to let stuff go until later is the key, however it’s extremely important that this tweaking phase is included in the overall project plan.
Perfectionism is fine as a long term goal, just don’t let it hinder in reaching those goals.

3 thoughts on “Embracing perfectionism as a long term goal”

  1. Indeed. It’s about being pragmatic rather than an idealist. Treating perfectionism as the end goal of an iterative process makes a lot of sense. Allowing yourself to make mistakes and change your mind can result in the end product being all the better for it. Rigidly sticking to a dogmatic ideal is almost certain to result in a brittle, fragile end-product that fits your narrow ideal as it was formed at the beginning of the project, rather than evolving with it’s needs.

    1. Very true on the mistakes, they almost always have a positive impact on a project as a whole as they make it clear what not to do and help to unveil the correct solution.
      Delaying the perfectionism helps to speed up the mistake to correct solution process. There’s a whole other discussion on how to integrate automated testing with this approach.

  2. The pursuit of perfection is not chargeable. Delivery of the practical is. I’ve always thought that if something is made as well it can be made, then surely it’s ‘perfect’ because it cannot be better. The problem is that anything can be ‘better’. For some years I was the fastidious goon trying to line up pixels across platforms and browsers – but after owning and running (and sometimes failing to run) a business I realise this is pointless – an expense, not an investment. PS In my case I often added complexity in my pursuit of perfection – now, if anything, I try and keep it ‘perfectly’ simple – it’s usually alot nearer what will actually work, plus it’s deliverable.

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