To Live an Extraordinary Life You Must Avoid the Perils of Perfection

“Perfect is the enemy of good.”


You will never have a perfect life. And that’s good news.

We should all aspire to an extraordinary life, dream big dreams and live the life we’ve imagined. But some confuse extraordinary with perfect, and pursuing a perfect life will probably end far from perfection. 

Harvard Business Review published an article, The Pros and Cons of Perfectionism, According to Research. The authors conducted a meta-analysis of 95 studies on perfectionism to see the benefits and detriments. 

While there were some useful traits present in the perfectionists, like higher levels of motivation and conscientiousness, they also found that perfectionists had higher levels of stress, anxiety, burnout and depression. They also found that perfectionists weren’t better or worse performers on the job than non-perfectionists.  

There was one distinction worth noting. They found two different varieties of perfectionist, the excellence-seeking perfectionist and the failure-avoiding perfectionist. The excellence-seeking population had high standards for themselves and others, while the failure-avoiding people worried they weren’t good enough, or they would lose the respect of their peers if their work wasn’t perfect. 

High standards and excellence differ from perfection. Excellence is a component of an extraordinary life, pursuing new and wonderful experiences. But fear of failure is limiting and detrimental to living life to the fullest. We avoid the unknown, afraid we won’t be good enough. We miss out on all life offers for fear of failure.

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”

Michael J. Fox

There is no perfect you or perfect life. There is better. A better you, and a better life. There are many acceptable versions of the life you could live. Our goal isn’t a perfect life, it’s a life better than the one you are currently experiencing.

Live an extraordinary life. It will include mistakes and flaws, but that should never diminish the experience, so long as we keep perfection at bay and a healthy perspective on what makes life extraordinary. 

Perspectives to Ponder on Perfection

“Perfection is shallow, unreal, and fatally uninteresting.”

Anne Lamott

“The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Perfectionism rarely begets perfection, or satisfaction – only disappointment.”

Ryan Holiday

“Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard Cohen

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