3 ways to stop perfectionism from ruining your career

Often seen as an important part of success, perfectionism can actually do the opposite. Here’s how to not let it undermine your success. By Satyaki Sarkar

In our day to day lives, we all strive for perfection in some way or the other. Be it at work or in our personal life. Many a time we end up obsessing about minor details and parts of our lives just because they aren’t the way we would like them to be. While we should try better ourselves, an obsession with perfection, however, can end up being a dangerous hindrance.

Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, delivered one of the most gripping TED talks on this topic, with an emphasis on how running behind perfection has stopped many girls from entering the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, as they are known together. Here are the three ways Reshma says she uses to keep her perfectionism from becoming an obsession that could make you miss deadlines and affect your productivity at work.

1. Make a list
Every time you have a new idea or think of something that you feel will work great, if you proceed to work on it and turn it into a PowerPoint presentation with a countless slides, or write an entire book detailing them, not only will you lose the flow and essence of the idea, you will never end up finishing your work. This is why so many brilliant and talented people end up scrapping their ideas and abandoning projects midway. Instead, write you ideas down in a notepad one by one. That will ensure you can organise those thoughts and tackle them by looking at the big picture as a whole.

2. Know where and when to invest efforts
When faced with a do or die situation, we know that everything is on the line and end up putting all our energy and resources towards it, risking heavy emotional and financial ruin. However, what we fail to realise is that when faced with the undeniable possibility of losing, we should in fact brace ourselves and try to live to fight another day. Exercising moderation in situations like these is extremely important, and many a time just looking at a problem from a different perspective and trying to learn from the situation can in fact reap greater benefits in the future than the losses suffered at that moment. Attending a low-impact, low-cost conference, or even discussing the situation with your brain trust, or listening to podcasts that discuss it can help alleviate the pressure and figure out the best way to find solutions.

3. Know what can go wrong
Although it’s contrary to popular belief, thinking about the worst that could happen and knowing what can go wrong can actually be one of the best ways of dealing with your need for perfection. Having been a journalist prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Reshma was quite insecure about what the future held for her. It’s when she pragmatically thought about her fears that she figured out that the worst that could happen would be that she would lose some time and money, but in the end, would gain immense experience and quite a few stories to tell. She accepted the possibility of failure without letting it cripple her, and she didn’t fail, but instead, by making peace with the fact that she could, she was able to take the risks that have led to her success. 

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