Is perfectionism really such a bad thing? Is it something that should always be preceded with "how to overcome?" As the winter Olympics kick off, I'd like to explore the benefits of adaptive perfectionism.
Olympic athletes live the idea of perfection. What they sacrifice and endure in pursuit of athletic perfection is inspiring. What truly drives them? Sure, everyone wants to win, but why? Self-worth? Fame? To impress their family and friends? Fear of failure? Sheer love of the sport? To avoid the wrath of their coach? Ending up on a Wheaties box or cashing in on endorsement opportunities? As with any career path, those who work toward achieving a big-picture goal are driven by a mix of motivators. However, self-motivated perfectionism is much more productive than anxiety-driven perfectionism.
Olympic athletes no doubt have natural talent, but dedication and persistence are their defining attributes. In Scott Young's post he states, "Stopping at “good enough” is an easy way to ensure you’ll never accomplish anything remarkable." He goes on to describe the two types of perfectionism:
- Short-term perfectionism on a particular project, task or goal. (Stifling/bad)
- Long-term perfectionism on projects, tasks and goals, in general. (Crucial/good)
[Side note: As you may have guessed, I fall into the perfectionist category. If birth order has anything to do with it, I'm the first born of two first-born parents. Doing my best to stay on the functionally adaptable side.]