You can strive for your ideals but to sustain such an effort requires a realistic approach. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
It seems just ‘common-sense’ to not approach life, manifest in our behaviour and decisions in an ‘all-or-nothing’ fashion.
This is just a reflection I had (I am not saying it’s true): but perhaps perfectionists may be more likely to succumb to inertia when they think “if I can’t do the job fantastically, it’s not worth doing at all.
For example, when I was studying, I seemed to work for hours on some occasions, caught up in the good feeling associated with achievement.
However, when I felt flat, or just couldn’t feel naturally excited, I would allow myself to become too complacent with the number of mistakes I would make. People who think that ‘only perfection will do’ are faced with a difficult task when the work still needs to be done, there may be limited time in which to do it or feeling unwell in any way.
However, the problem with perfectionism, is that anything less than an ideal result can leave one feeling deflated, having not lived up to what were unrealistic expectations.
The “all” part of all-or nothing behaviour may not just be ‘all done perfectly’ but also ‘all finished’ , with an unrealistic ambition for how much work ‘should be’ completed . This can lead to mental and physical fatigue, an unbalanced lifestyle as well as making silly errors as the price to pay for efficiency.
Perhaps “realistic idealism” could be a more helpful and a healthier, alternative? That is maintain one’s standards of trying to do the best job (idealism) one can without compromising life-balance, or physical or mental health (realism). Or without taking up an amount of time not justified by how important it actually is. That makes it ‘realistic’ – because this kind of effort is sustainable, because you are leaving time for other parts of your life that you value.
With ‘realistic idealism’, the realistic part (that is not overdoing it) means the job gets done, which in today’s busy world, is necessary, whether we like it or not. Not everyone is an idealist. You may be realistic and a practical kind of person. However, if you were born with that kind of personality which tends to want to keep improving on your efforts, then you can avoid depression and the other problems that may arise from expecting too much from yourself. However, doing the best you can do, and aiming to improve, within these realistic constraints allows:
• A praiseworthy end-result
• Better time management:
Other obligations can be achieved with less stress and rush
More time doing what you love
More time to spend with those important to you – friends and family
A sense of pride and achievement that you’ve still done your best
Less stress from ulcers you can give yourself trying to be perfect, as well as from leaving yourself rushed because of so much time spent on one project
• More consistent work efforts as you find a middle road between ‘all or nothing’
In conclusion, by maintaining high standards but keeping in mind other parts of your life you can still strive to be your best in all areas of your life that you value.