Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Happy Perfectionist

Most of us think of perfectionism as a bad thing. But research shows that there are actually at least two distinct kinds of perfectionism--adaptive (good) and maladaptive (bad).

The bad kind is when we strive for external approval. When we do that, we get caught up in being good. We get paralyzed by fearing the judgment of others. And we stress out about it, big time.

The good kind, though, is internally driven. It's about the creative process itself, about organization, about motivating ourselves and others. We set high standards because it brings us joy to write or speak or manage as well as we can. We see the process of mastery never ends and enjoy learning for it's own sake.

Bad perfectionists tend to be difficult and miserable. Good perfectionists get themselves and their teams caught up in the flow of their own efforts. They work to as high a standard as possible, and then let go.

And they're actually happier as a result.


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  1. Oh boy. Flow, along with that kind of 'good perfectionism,' is everything I miss about my work. Just had the really uncomfortable realization that not only do I have huge difficulty achieving flow in my full-time parenting, I'm often a 'bad perfectionist' at it, too. Yikes. Lots of possibility in those ideas, though. Thanks.

  2. Remember not to beat yourself up :) ...it's really just about noticing what's happening, without the "good" or "bad" labels. And noticing what works for you.