Perfection Could Be Keeping You From Your Goals

Bobby Gruenewald

“Nobody’s perfect.”

We toss this phrase around a lot. Yet many of us secretly believe there’s something noble in aiming for perfection. There’s no harm in at least shooting for perfection, right?

Actually, there is.

Improvement is admirable. Perfection is impossible. The trajectories aren’t the same.

Our pursuit of an unattainable standard can keep us from getting anywhere near our goal. We end up tolerating more imperfection for far longer than if we accepted an almost-perfect solution.

Perfection in Play

We ran into this a while back when one of our YouVersion developers had recently joined the team. He was doing excellent work, so we gave him a project to fix a number of long-standing bugs in the app. His team leader was pleased with his progress on the project and was ready to release the updates. The developer wanted another week to work on it because he wanted to make sure it was perfect.

This is where I joined the conversation and asked the developer why he felt he needed the extra time. He said he wasn’t comfortable knowing there might be some bugs in the new update. I told him he was definitely ok with bugs. Confused, he assured me that he wasn’t at all ok with that—which is why he wanted more time. I then explained what I meant by that statement—as he was polishing his un-released project to perfection, people were stuck using the current buggy release.

Ironically, he had lowered his standards for what was an acceptable version. By not releasing the new, better-but-not-perfect update, he was tolerating a lot more bugs in the version people were currently using.

Perfectionism can turn us into an unwitting accomplice for the status quo.

When we buy in to the lie that we can attain perfection, we’ll hold out until we get there. The pursuit paralyzes us, and the problem we set out to solve continues to fester.

Put Perfection in its Place

Where are you waiting for that mythical perfect solution while you allow a problem to carry on? What would happen if you implemented a solution that accomplishes 85% of what you need it to? Would it help if you treated it as an experiment?

Is there a leader you’re polishing to perfection before you trust them with a new role? In your fear of how their performance will reflect on you, are you trying to protect yourself from their inevitable mistakes?

Excellence is important, but we can’t confuse it with perfection. Shaking off our unrealistic expectations aligns our problem-solving posture with our goals. We become less concerned with how we look and more interested in what gets accomplished.

Bobby Gruenewald

Life.Church Pastor, Innovation Leader

Bobby is passionate about exploring new ideas and finding practical ways to leverage them for the global Church. He oversees the YouVersion, Digerati, Creative Media, Spaces & Places, and Communications teams at Life.Church.

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