One of the roadblocks to doing diversity work that I set out to explore with The Diversity Dividend is the limiting assumption of perfectionism and its companion all-or-none mindset. As part of this exploration, the book I want to showcase next in the Inspiration Shout-Outs series is The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life by Tal Ben-Shahar.
The myth this book helps to explode is that the pursuit of perfection helps us to achieve success. In fact, perfectionism may take us away from success because it blinds us to possible options, discourages us from testing our limits and taking risks and condemns us to the belief that anything less than perfect is equivalent to failure.
“Like most people, the Perfectionist says that she wants to learn from others. But she is unwilling to pay the price of learning—admitting a shortcoming, flaw, or mistake—because her primary concern is actually to prove that she is right.”
Furthermore, perfectionism stresses the belief that there is only one right way to success and this can trap those not on that way into hiding this fact, and their purported failures, from others.
“[In most organizations] looking good is often a stronger motivation than being good (by owning up to and learning from one’s failures).”
Finally, when we strive to be perfect, we may give up before the job is done, perhaps even within steps from our goal, because of the fear of failure perfectionism instills.
“Failure is essential in achieving success—though it is of course not sufficient for achieving success. In other words, while failure does not guarantee success, the absence of failure will almost always guarantee the absence of success.”
Befriend failure; make it one of your tools for success. Think of the diverse paths you would be free to follow if there were many right ways to the top.
Tal Ben-Shahar. (2009). The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life. New York: McGraw Hill. Or the 2010 paperback Being Happy: You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life.
The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.