Looking for Perfection

Do you have any goals, you know you cannot reach? And, if so, what is the whole point of having these goals in the first place?

Perfection Goals

Sure, there are goals you might not reach. But, is it worth pursuing a goal you know you will never reach?

Imagine you would like to be the perfect parent, partner, entrepreneur, etc. On the other side, you know you will never be perfect – perfect according to your very own definition of course. This is (perfectly) fine.

There will always be something you can improve. Therefore, technically, you will never achieve these “perfection goals”. It is a constant development. And this is OK.

It can be frustrating though. You try to improve, you work so hard and, on the horizon, you always see the ideal future you – unreachable. Although this can be motivating on one hand side, it can also make you unhappy. It is important not only look towards the future to see what you have not achieved yet, but also look back into the past to see where you are coming from. Only then you see what you already have achieved and what to be proud of.

A good exercise, in this case is to pause from time to time to review and celebrate what you have achieved already.

Do Not Compare Yourself to Others

What or whom shall you compare with? If you want to become the perfect entrepreneur, you surely have some role models. This is good. You can learn from them, you can adapt some aspects, but it might not be a good idea to compare to them.

This is a bit like comparing your car to your neighbor’s car. Your neighbor might “need” a sports car and you need a family car. You might have completely other priorities than cars, a family vacation for example.

Comparing yourself to others is like pursuing other people’s goals instead of your own ones.

Instead of comparing, rather recognize your strengths and work on those. If you still would like to compare to someone, compare yourself to your past you. What progress have you made compared to one year ago, or five years ago?

Moving Targets

When you have a perfection goal like becoming the perfect entrepreneur, how long should you pursue this goal? Will there be some point in time where it is just good enough?

Let’s put the entrepreneur aside for a while and consider a marathon runner, an amateur marathon runner. Probably he wants to run faster than last year, but he knows he will probably not break the world record. Maybe the goal is to finish at a certain time. This is a clear and measurable goal and no perfection goal. However, maybe next year the runner wants to run just a little bit faster.

Now, let’s go back to our entrepreneur. What would be a measurable goal? Revenue is easy to measure and reaching one (or ten, or one hundred) million USD revenue is quite a common goal for a company. Guess what happens when the company, one year reaches the target and has a revenue of one million USD for the first time. Well, most likely nothing will happen. Of course, the objective for next year will become 1.2 million USD but other than that nothing will really change.

All the hard work, all the aspiration, then the success and then nothing!? This is a trap. It is the luxury trap as Yuval Noah Harari named it in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. The idea of the luxury trap is that at some point in life you think if you reach a certain goal this will ultimately make you happy. For example, if you are in your early twenties you think if you make one million USD by the age of 30 you will retire and live happily on an island. If you make one million USD, let’s say by the age of 40 then, you might not quit and go to your island. In the meantime, you have an expensive house, an expensive car and an expensive yacht. Although, one million seemed a lot in your twenties, it is by far not enough anymore in your forties.

As a side note, this is an extreme example. Don’t worry if you are in your forties and have neither one million in cash, nor a yacht 🙂

Good Enough

When is something good enough? If you want to be the best in your field, you will surely look for perfection and you might come very close. But it comes at a price. If you want to be the world’s best violin player, you have to practice hard and sometimes even sacrifice good parts of your childhood and adolescence. Although the latter might not have been your decision but the decision of your parents.

If you want to have a balanced life and still want to improve in a certain field the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is a great approach. It says that 80% of the effect come from 20% of the causes. This also means that the last 20% towards perfection will cause 80% of the effort.

Your Impact

If you have the tendency to work hard to optimize the last tiny bit of a not to important project, if you are a perfectionist, think about the price. Think about the impact your effort can make in other areas. Do not look for perfection where perfection is not necessary.

You only have a certain amount of effort available. Think wisely where to invest and how to leverage it to reach the biggest impact.

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