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Perfection is Overrated: Focus on Forward Progress
Episode 1421st February 2023 • Constructive Liberty • Ken Eash
00:00:00 00:23:36

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Today I'm talking all things perfectionism.

The problem with perfectionism, the characteristics of perfectionism, and the three types of perfectionism. (Who even knew there were three?)

But we don't stop there, we talk about the upside of perfectionism as well.

The problem:

  • it's portrayed as both a strength, AND a weakness, which is confusing
  • no one and nothing can be perfect
  • impossible to attain
  • can cause stress, anxiety, and depression

5 Types of Perfectionism

  1. Unrealistic or Impossible Standards
  2. Being Extremely Critical Towards Oneself and Others
  3. Focusing Only on Results
  4. Fear of Failure
  5. All-or-Nothing Thinking

The Three Types of Perfectionism

  1. Socially Prescribed Perfectionism
  2. Other-Oriented Perfectionism
  3. Self-Oriented Perfectionism

The Upside of Perfectionism

  • Big Dreams and Drive
  • A Desire for Excellence
  • Dedication
  • Extra Attention to Details
  • A Refusal to Accept Failure

Mentioned in this episode:

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Transcripts

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Today is going to be a really great episode because we're talking about something that is actually a struggle for me.

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And I think actually quite a few people struggle with it. Some have overcome it, some are still deep in the depths of fighting it, and others don't even care about it at all.

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But for those of you who this affects, I think this is really going to hit home with you. The topic today is perfectionism.

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Title of the show is Progress Over Perfectionism. We're going to talk about what's the problem with being a perfectionist, the top five characteristics of perfectionism, three types of perfectionism, and the upside of perfectionism.

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But first, a word from our sponsor.

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So now that we're done with all of that, let's talk about perfectionism and what actually is the problem with being a perfectionist. Okay?

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Like, I'm a perfectionist. I like things to be done right. I fully believe that there is one way, and that is the right way, to do things.

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And oftentimes, things in society agree with that. Society glorifies perfection. is often considered in job interviews, both a strength and a weakness.

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Like, how is that?

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It's usually made out to be a good thing all across social media and all of those places that you look like. Perfection is great. You know, all the Instagram posts, everything looks fantastic.

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Perfection is made out to be a good thing everywhere you turn.

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And that's the problem. See, perfection is so highly desired that it gives us the idea that it must be a good thing, right?

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But in reality, perfection isn't possible. No one is perfect and no thing is perfect.

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It can't be. We're human.

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We are human and everything that is made today is made by humans, therefore nothing is perfect.

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Striving for perfection is an impossible task. And it means that perfectionism is slightly unhealthy.

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There's a lot of different aspects to health.

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Perfectionism is one that does not contribute to health. It's good to get it done right, yes, but we'll talk about that a little bit.

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So perfectionists, now that I've like torn you down and all of that, ripped you apart for being a perfectionist, they do have good traits for sure. They have the drive, they have the ambition.

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I have those things myself. We set lofty goals and we work really hard to achieve them.

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We want to be the best that we can be as a perfectionist. Those are undisputably good character traits. Like you cannot deny that those are good things to see in a person.

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The problem is that perfectionism takes those things and pushes them over the edge. It pushes them to like toxic levels. That's not good. Okay, like where,

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Really good or even great is not good enough because it's not perfect. That's not good,

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Every goal no matter how lofty it is.

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Needs to be Just a little bit better or or they push it a little bit farther than like, okay now we're going for a harder goal perfectionists are never satisfied. And that's one of the reasons why perfectionism is unhealthy.

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It doesn't have any limits. It doesn't have any boundaries. And it has standards that are impossible to meet. It gives you stress and anxiety. Messes with your mind because, yeah, you can't live up

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to that. It can cause depression. It can cause mental health issues. In some cases, you know,

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those things lead to suicide. People get injured, like athletes get hurt from pushing themselves too far. The desire, the need to be perfect leads others to procrastination. Okay? So

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like there's these people that push things so far they can never finish a project because.

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Won't put it out there. The other person won't ever start because they don't ever get started because the time's not just perfect. You have to go do the thing. You have to put one foot in front,

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of the other. There's the old saying that an object in motion tends to stay in motion.

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And if you can get out of the perfectionist cycle, you'll go a lot farther in life. So So the positive personality traits of a perfectionist, they tend to get turned back on them because they push them too far.

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I think that makes sense. When you overdo something, a good thing, it's no longer a good thing. I love shrimp.

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I love oysters. I love crabs. I love all seafood, most seafood.

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I'm not so huge on squid and octopus, but most seafood that I eat, I love. But too much of it and it's no longer a good thing. Anything is like that. Perfectionist is the same way.

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Another problem with perfectionism is that as perfectionists, we tend to apply those traits to other people and try to hold them up to those high standards.

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And there's nothing wrong with holding people to a high standard. We need to do that. But you can't set the bar so high. Like I know you're not capable of this, but I'm gonna put the bar way up here.

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And then when you like only get about 10% of that, I'm gonna rip you apart because it's just not good enough. We can't do that to people.

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It's controlling.

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It strains relationships. It ends friendships. their marriages end over that, careers are wrecked, jobs lost.

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Perfectionism is not always a good thing.

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But the good news is that it's not impossible to get out from under the weight or the strain of being a perfectionist.

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Can't do it overnight, probably. It's gotta do it little by little, as with all good things, little at a time.

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Hard work, dedication, and the good thing is that perfectionists are known for their hard work and dedication.

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So if you are a perfectionist, you do have what it takes to overcome that little trait.

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And dial it back just a little bit to where it's a positive, to where it's perfect, and not too much. Alright? So the top five characteristics of perfectionism.

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So if you see yourself on this list, you're probably a perfectionist.

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Number one, unrealistic or impossible standards.

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To be perfect or if you set standards so high that even Superman might have trouble meeting those expectations? I mean you're probably a perfectionist. Expecting perfectionism is,

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the number one characteristic of perfectionists. Okay? We need to realize that it's impossible for us to meet those standards and it's super impossible for other people to meet those standards,

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as well, leads to frustration, anxiety, and can cause mental health issues when we hold people's feet to the fire over little things because it's not quite perfect. Number two is being extremely

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critical towards ourselves and towards others. Because we want to meet those high standards that we set for ourselves or others, we expect to achieve that and we expect others to achieve that,

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as well. We're hard on ourselves when we don't. When failures happen, when mistakes happen.

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We get really upset and we beat ourselves up and fall into depression and.

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It's just a never-ending hamster wheel. Quit being so perfect, but I like being perfect. I want to be perfect. It's not perfect. Quit being critical towards yourself and others.

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Number three is focusing only on the results. If you enjoy the journey towards reaching a goal, or you're so focused on achieving the goal that you forget about the process, life is a lot less enjoyable.

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Like that is only an end result focused.

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I'm only focused on getting the million dollars, not on becoming who I need to be, or not on becoming the best version of me in order to better utilize that million dollars.

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So you can see there that the growth and the learning along the way is actually the best part of achieving a goal.

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But if you can't see anything except the goal, then you're a perfectionist.

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It's like you took a long road trip across the United States and all you could see was that West Coast, because I'm in the East side of the United States and I'm heading West.

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All I can see is that West Coast and I'm just laser focused on the West Coast at one spot. I don't see anything in the middle. That is focusing only on the results.

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You have to focus on the journey as well. That is what makes life enjoyable and worth living. Number four is a fear of failure.

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So often we are absolutely terrified of failing. I don't like to fail. Like I don't like screwing up.

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I don't like little mistakes. I sure don't like big mistakes. For some people, the thought of a mistake just makes their blood run cold. They have nightmares about failing to live up to those lofty expectations they set.

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Of their own expectations, but they set them so high and then they lay awake at night because they can't achieve it.

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That, that is something that I can definitely work better at. So often,

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maybe I don't think of, you know, fearing failure, but I fear how long the journey might take to achieve something.

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And I lay awake thinking about what I need to do to move a little faster, a little closer to the thing that I want.

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And that is something that fear of failure does, is it pushes you to work harder and faster so that you don't fail.

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Trait number five is all-or-nothing thinking. So if you think it has to be perfect or it doesn't count, then you probably fall into the all-or-nothing thinking. So most people would be thrilled to be 99% right or 95% right.

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A perfectionist considers it a failure if it's not 100% right. Oftentimes when a perfectionist starts a business and starts hiring employees,

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they want their employees to be 100% perfect as good as they are.

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When in reality, 80% is usually good enough.

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And that's so hard to do. It's such a difficult thing.

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So we have to allow a little bit of space in there for really good, doesn't have to be perfect.

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So get rid of that all or nothing thinking. That was number five. Those are the top five characteristics of a perfectionist. again, unrealistic or impossible standards, being extremely critical towards yourself and others,

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focused only on results, fear of failure, and all or nothing thinking.

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Now the three types of perfectionism.

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I don't know if you knew this or not, but there's actually more than one type of perfectionism, or it's in different areas of life.

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And while not all perfectionists share all things in common, they do have one or more of the different kinds or types of perfectionism to varying degrees.

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So most are predominantly the third type of perfectionists, but it can be these others.

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So let's get right into it. The first type of perfectionism is socially prescribed perfectionism.

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This is the rarest kind of perfectionism because the people who experience it, they often become self-oriented perfectionists.

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Perfectionist is imposed on a person by somebody else like either their parents or society or school or the workplace Oftentimes it's imposed on those people by other perfectionists who have extended their impossible standards to those people,

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So like I said the school the workplace to family some societies they bring out impossible standards in some areas so pressure from,

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all the areas at once often has long disastrous long-term consequences and when you know a child who grew up under that becomes an adult and they can't,

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meet these impossible standards they often develop anxiety and depression and major self-esteem issues so we've got to work on that. Then you have the others oriented perfectionism. This is the second most common type of perfectionist,

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And it can be the most destructive. Well, it is the most destructive because it has to do with you,

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projecting your perfectionism on other people, both in your social life, your work relationships.

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And others oriented perfectionists projects their perfectionism onto other people.

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They expect other people to be perfect. I expect other people to be perfect. I don't like when other people aren't perfect. I do have some grace because I've worked on that,

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and I'm not perfect myself, but we have to we do have to allow that grace. It's a struggle allowing that other people may not be perfect.

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Okay? It's very, very hard on others, you know, in our social settings or the workplace or romantic relationships, when we project that other oriented perfectionism onto those people and hold them to that standard and don't have grace.

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Then last of all, we have the self-oriented perfectionism. This is the most common type of perfectionism and it's one in which yourself, the perfectionist, holds yourself to those high standards.

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Oftentimes society considers us to be good or desirable and as a boss, I want people who hold themselves to really high standards because they're high achievers and they're very productive people.

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Those types of people can also fall into the trap of procrastination. They start something and don't finish it or They never get started at all.

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That Leads to poor behavior or poor production or whatever Poor in whatever this person is doing these people seem to have it all together on the outside,

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Because they have to appear perfect But on the inside they may also suffer from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem.

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Put on them by themselves typically because they think that they are worthless, not based on what other people tell them or say to them or anything like that,

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but based on their own ideals and not being able to live up to that.

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That is not a lot of fun for people that struggle with that. I struggle with that. That's probably my worst one.

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But anyway, we've talked a lot about the negatives of perfectionism.

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Let's talk about the upside of perfectionism.

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It seems like I've been saying, like, being perfect is all bad all the time, but that's really not true.

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Perfectionism isn't all bad. Might seem that way because of the negative effects that it can have on people, but it's not always the case. or perfectionists have a lot of positive traits and.

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Are very desirable to me and to others and they're often some of the most successful people in life. The only problem like we talked about before is when we take those great traits, take them too far and they become toxic.

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So here's a few of the positive qualities that perfectionists share.

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Number one is big dreams and drive. We have huge dreams.

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We want big things. Perfectionists have a passion for massive goals. We call them a BHAG, Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

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And they have a huge drive to work towards those things. That is incredible in and of itself.

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Most people don't even set goals at all, but they sure don't even consider, like it would never cross their mind to set the kind of goals that a perfectionist has every day.

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Like they think about all the time. That, in and of itself, can give perfectionists a much better chance of succeeding in life.

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Number two, they have a desire for excellence. Now there's nothing wrong with having standards.

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That is what we as perfectionists are great at, is having big, high, lofty standards.

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The problem is when those standards are impossible to meet and we put them on other people, we apply them to other people, and they're gonna fail to meet them every time.

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So we often perform better and create a better end product because we have such high standards, but it can take longer to get to market.

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It can drive away the people that we might have working under us because they can't ever live up to our standards.

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I'll tell you a little story about perfectionism and a desire for excellence.

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My cousin, Dave Kaufman is a business coach and he had a client who was developing, I think it was like a credit card reader, I don't remember exactly what it was, but he had a ready to market product.

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It was ready to go, he just couldn't decide on the color.

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The color, it wasn't perfect enough for him. And he held off so long that somebody else beat him to market with the product and he lost out on all that time and effort he had put,

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to developing this thing.

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So don't let it go too far. That's the toxic end of it. Anyway, number three is dedication.

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It is hard, almost impossible to find someone more dedicated to reaching a goal or succeeding out the thing they set out to do than someone who is a perfectionist.

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Than others, chasing after the things that they set their minds to.

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They almost become laser focused and everything else fades away, single-minded in their pursuit of what they want.

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That can move them to think outside of the box. That can also make you so narrow-focused, you forget to think outside of the box.

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You have to, there's a fine line there, but perfectionists are dedicated to the process and to achieving the thing they set out to do. Number four is an attention to detail.

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That desire, the need, the drive for perfection gives you the the eyesight, it helps you to see the small things.

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Gives you that, just that little extra attention to the detail.

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They're detail oriented people who pick up on flaws. They pick up on things that seem out of place. Things that most other people miss, perfectionists see.

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And the last thing, number five, is perfectionists refuse to accept failure.

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We don't know when to give up, or even if we should. You know, we set out to do something and it takes years.

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I know what I'm going after. I know what I'm achieving. I know what I'm driving for, but I'm not going to give up. Refusal to accept failure, stubbornness.

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I'm very stubborn, ask my wife. But perfectionists often have incredible breakthroughs in whatever their field is because they have such a drive to achieve that thing.

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So again, those five great qualities, The upsides of perfectionism are a big drive and dreams, a desire for excellence, dedication, attention to details, and a refusal to accept failure.

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So whether you're a perfectionist or not, I hope that if you're not a perfectionist, maybe you can add a little bit of perfectionism to your day.

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And if you are a perfectionist, somebody who's let that hold you back in life, I hope you can let go of that just a little bit.

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Like don't let go, don't let it go to the wind, but open up just a little and maybe go for 90% is good.

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Instead of 100%. Instead of spending, you know, look at it as the 80-20 rule. 20% of your effort can get you to 80% perfection.

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It takes 80% of your effort to fill in the last 20% of perfection.