How to Overcome the Perfection Syndrome – Part 4

Let’s say I’m interviewing you for a job opportunity and I ask you, “What is your greatest weakness?” What would you answer? If you said, “perfectionism”, you are not the only one. In my experience as a job interviewer, this is by far the most common answer to the standard what-is-your-greatest-weakness question; it’s to the point that one could conclude that perfectionism is epidemic in the world.

In the previous posts of this series, I focused on 3 manifestations of perfection paralysis, which immobilizes people and keeps them from taking action or making a decision:

  1. waiting for perfect conditions
  2. searching for perfect characteristics
  3. wishing for a perfect course

Now, I want to cover another side of the perfection syndrome: the perfection loop.

The perfection loop doesn’t prevent people from starting; it prevents them from finishing. It is the state of people who never complete a project because it’s never good enough. They’re stuck in the perpetual loop of trying to reach perfection; and because they can never reach it, their product is never ready to ship, their speech is never ready to be presented, their tasks are never completed, etc.

How many of your projects are sitting on your computer (or wherever else), “unfinished” because they are not quite perfect? To avoid getting stuck in the perfection loop consider these 3 tips.

1. Set the Shipping Date and Stick to It

Setting deadlines (and sticking to them) protects you from the perfection loop; it prevents you from tinkering indefinitely on your projects. Work hard until the deadline, but when it arrives, ship the goods. Perfect or not, ship the goods. You can’t sell what you don’t ship. If you don’t ship “it”, it can’t serve. Your book can’t serve anyone until you publish it. Your movie can’t entertain until you release it. The discipline of shipping on time will free you from the perfection loop.

2. Remember that You Can Always Upgrade

Shipping your “product” doesn’t mean you stop improving it. Most products you ship can go through an iterative process, where you make them better at every iteration. Apple just released the iPhone 7. It’s a nice device. But guess what: even after 7 iterations of the iPhone, it’s still not perfect. There are still improvements that can be made to it. And my guess is that there will always be. You can do the same: ship, upgrade, ship, upgrade, ship…

3. Set Up an Accountability System

It can be difficult to rid yourself of the tendency to get stuck in the perfection loop. If you are prone to let yourself off the hook on your own rules, you’d be smart to establish an accountability system that will ensure you stick to your deadlines. Your accountability system can be as narrow as making a simple request to a single friend, who will see to it that you don’t get stuck in the perfection loop, or as wide as a commitment made to millions of raving fans, impatiently waiting for your next product, who will publicly call you out if you don’t ship.

Work hard until the deadline, but when it arrives, ship the goods. Click To Tweet If you don't ship 'it', it can't serve. Click To Tweet

One of the challenges–and it’s a serious challenge–with the quest for perfection is that you never attain it. Like searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the search for perfection is a myth, and you don’t have to fall for it. Sooner or later, you must put the final dot and ship. If there is ever to be a version 2, you must release version 1.

Question: How do you make sure you don’t get stuck in the perfection loop?