5 Reasons to Stop Trying to be Perfect

prefection-on-booksPerfection can kill the motivation of the brightest minds. Some people just want every detail to be perfect.

I think perfection is for losers. When you try so hard to make everything perfect, you bind your creativity. Instead of putting out something wonderful, you end up putting out crap that is over processed and boring.

Greatness is not about being perfect. Being great means making mistakes, big mistakes and learning from them.

I wrote this article because I’ve been binding my thoughts and hands, which deflated my confidence. My projects went unfinished.

My presentations will always need improvement. My eShorts will need to look prettier. My teleseminars will need to give more and more value.

That’s the nature of the game. Master car technicians will always come across a problem that they can’t solve. You will have projects that frustrate you.

You need to let go of how you want your project to play out and just do what feels right instead of letting your old habits of perfection lock up your ability to take action.

I put together a list of 5 reasons why you need to stop trying to be perfect.

1. Less Stress

Your stress level goes way up when you set the bar too high, which results in restricted thoughts. Your body and mind constrict and stop allowing the flow of oxygenated blood keep you calm. Stress will very rarely make you better at what you do.

I recently worked with a co-worker who was under time restraints to finish a report by the end of the day. He was gnashing and groaning the whole time. His boss walked in and told him that the report could wait until the of the week, giving him two extra days to finish. I could see the pressure just ooze out of him.

He still finished the report that night because he stopped worrying and relaxed with the work.

When you stop trying to make every piece exactly how you want it, you will make it easier to enjoy what you do.

2. More Creativity

I refuse to let a blank Word document sit on my screen for more than five seconds. I just start typing with whatever is in my head. I know those first few sentences will be crap. But that’s normal.

I’ve stopped trying to craft the perfect sentence because it locks up my brain. By writing a few bad sentences the mental wheels are greased and the sentences start flowing.

When you are just about to start something don’t think about how, why, or what. Just start doing the first thing that comes to your mind. Let it out and fix it later.

3. Work becomes More Fun

You have probably worked on a project that was a big deal, whether it was at school or on the job. It may seem have seemed like everyone was looking over your shoulder.

When you work on a project that doesn’t have as much pressure attached to it, you are probably able to joke around and have more fun. When you don’t put too much pressure on yourself you won’t need to make every detail just so; all you need is a solid concept. Those projects are usually more enjoyable and produce better results.

4. Less Procrastination

I used to be a big procrastinator. I held off on dealing with a project until the last minute. I thought this helped my creativity.

When I stopped imagining what the project was going to look like (how great and grand everyone would think it was), I finally was able to work in the moment and stop putting off my work.

This post caused a blip in my mastery of non-perfection. I started writing and was about to check my email because I got stuck on number 3 on this list. My frustration kicked up a small notch and I was about to lose 15 minutes to my email. I relaxed and smiled. I saw the pattern. That’s when I read number 1 and number 2 again. I stopped pushing to complete number 3 and just let the writing flow. I know I won’t ever be the most graceful writer, but I know how to get my point across so it keeps you reading.

5. You’ll Get Bigger Projects Accomplished

You have probably been putting off a big project because you’ve been afraid of achieving less than perfection. Whether you are trying to start a website, write a book, or lose weight, you need to let go of how you think it will come together and just break off little chunks, work on them and watch how much you accomplish.

You will always see a lot of mistakes, and this is fine just as long as you see them and fix them the next go around. You can always keep trying until you get it right.

You are filled with potential. You have greatness that you need to let out. Just let go of your need to make whatever you do perfect and your motivation will kick up a notch and you’ll start getting more accomplished.

Want to work happier and enjoy what you do? Then sign up for the 10 Week Work Happy Now eCourse. (Sign up is on the top left). You’ll receive a new lesson in your inbox every Monday.


Sometimes I forget the most important elements of blogging. Darren Rowse of Problogger always keeps me in line. Check out one of my recent favorites – Usefulness – Principles of Successful Blogging #3.

If you enjoyed these post then spend a few more minutes improving your work happiness with these posts:

Image courtesy of Scarleth White

22 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Stop Trying to be Perfect”

  1. Hi Karl – Ah, two of my favorite topics: perfection and creativity. What is it Ansel Adams said? Perfection is the enemy of the good? Something like that. For me you hit it with #4 – procrastination and perfection are intimately linked (and they stifle my creativity to boot). If I’m not careful I can wallow in them, so I just need to get over myself and do the work.

  2. Karl,
    I used to be in that perfectionist mode. And that’s a great mode for not fully accomplishing anything, or for it taking a painfully long time. In recent years, I’m much more okay with getting something out there, and then tweaking it as we go along. And really, what is perfect, anyway? How I would define perfect is probably not how you would define it? So, it would only be perfect for one person…and all that time and energy…for what? For what we perceive to be perfect…

    Great points, Karl. Here’s to creating and then getting it out there!

  3. I’m glad I am not a perfectionist but I always strive to do my best. I would assume that a perfectionist is never happy with anything that they do. To me, that sounds like a sad existence. I would assume that perfectionists tend to expect that also from loved ones and friends which could alienate them. As my previous commenter mentions “What is perfect, anyway”. It’s almost like “What is success?”. Everyone has their own definition.


  4. “I think perfection is for losers.” This cracked me up! You make some great points about perfection stifling creativity. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  5. I’m going to try not to take offense at the statement “I think perfection is for losers.” (smile) I consider myself a recovering perfectionist, and like any addict, all I can do is manage the beast!

    I like what you said about perfectionism slowing us down and zapping us of our energy. That’s certainly something I can relate to. I think there’s a time and a place to strive for our very best, but like you said, it’s important to realize that perfection exists only in our minds. Some of the greatest things ever be created were so-called mistakes.

    Have a super Monday!

  6. The other thing about perfection is that it can make a project so intimidating that you don’t even want to start it! I’ve noticed this about a lot of procrastinators, sometimes the idea of their project just overwhelms them.

  7. Hi Karl,

    Excellent article. You offer some really valuable advice here, for perfectionism will certainly rob one of much peace and happiness. It also makes projects take way longer than necessary. The thing is, who defines “Perfect” in the first place. Usually, it is the individual. That being the case, perfectionism will make it very difficult to work with anyone else because they will have different definitions.

    Thanks for the great advice Karl!

  8. Hi Karl,

    Great article on a subject that is so important. No one is perfect and there is no reason why we all should torture ourselves trying to be perfect.

    I used to be a perfectionist and it was so draining. Took time to overcome that dis-ease and as a result, it made life so much more enjoyable.

    So yay for getting rid of perfection! Hope all is awesome! 🙂

  9. Hi Karl: Some people say they’re perfectionists with pride as if it were a good thing. But perfectionism is really about a little voice we have our heads that says that nothing we do will ever be good enough. Like you say in this article, that voice must be silenced. Of course we should strive to do a great job, but there comes a point where the best thing you can do is release your creation to the world instead of tweaking endlessly to make it better and better. You can always improve it once you get feedback.

  10. Personally, I don’t believe in perfection. It’s only an illusion of our ego. Making things good requires trial and error and acceptance. In everything that we do, we need to do our best and that’s it. 🙂

  11. Hi Karl,
    This is an excellent post because I’m currently dragging my feet on an opportunity to grow. And yes I want it perfect;)

    So I’ll be putting me ego a side and begin soon. I believe this is a huge issue for many and am grateful you wrote it! Now I’ll go get to work!

  12. I agree to your post. Let us try not to be perfect all the time. Thank you for sharing this.

  13. Great words of truth, although often tough to accomplish.

    I’m always delaying completion of a project because I can’t stop tweaking things. Doing better, but it’s a hard habit to break 🙂

  14. Awesome 5 points Karl – I love number 1 probably the most out of them all. It is so true, perfection can kill a good thing. Just let things flow naturally and most likely one will get so much more out of things.

  15. I am not a loser! 🙂 Seems I’m in good company. What I’ve learned about the need for perfection is it comes from feeling “out of control”. or stressed. It’s yucky. Your post is timely as I sit to record my first video post…the evil perfection devil is showing his face!

  16. What a great site, mission, and article. Thank you.
    I have long used the distinction between perfection and excellence as teaching points. If you’ve ever read a classical music review you have probably heard someone say, “s/he was technically flawless, but lacked any real sparkle.” I say, bring on the Sparkle!

  17. Trying to be a perfectionist can destroy our own lives, not to mention those around us. We become obsessed in getting things right,without realizing that we lack spontaneity and nothing we do will ever be enough good for us…and so we spend our lives stuck in little things instead of taking risks and learn through mistakes.

  18. What a great website! I wish I had stumbled on it earlier. I’m so excited to read more about it. I’ve been an attorney for five years and a social worker before that. No matter where you go and what great people you work with there’s always something to learn about making your work environment more friendly.
    In June I quit my job and went with my husband to Africa, where he worked in a hospital and I worked in a legal clinic. Now I’ve come home to do things that make me happy…like volunteering and having more flexible time. I also decided to take up writing and have entered a contest, called the Good Mood Gig, where you get paid to write about your good mood five times a week, the first phase is a vote though. Check out my profile at http://www.sam-e.com/job/profile/564, you can vote every day.

  19. i think i do agree. i tried to be perfect once in my life , but i noticed something weird about that aspect. i was losing touch of who i really am and i felt like my life was being destroyed. i still try to be perfect but with limitations. i od not want to be very unbearable to the people around me and besides its a little more creative when u quit trying to be perfect and just live. it is even more fun.

  20. I think the same applies in relationships too. I have spent the last years trying to be the perfect husband, that perfect man that my wife was looking for. But you know what, all that has achieved is that i am less myself anymore. and that is who she fell in love with.

    My striving for perfection has left me trying to get back to where i was in the first place, which was happy, funny and a good person.

  21. Hey there!!! This is a wonderful article. I’ve tried to be a perfectionist all of my life, and now that I’m 32 I realize that perfection is for the birds…lol. It keeps me stressed out, and I’m going to change for 2011. I’m glad I found this, and youre right…perfection is for LOSERS..LOSERS…LOSERS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comments are closed.