From the time you were a small child, you have been taught to strive for perfection. When you did something quickly and sloppily just to get it done, your parents would tell you, “That’s not good enough. Do it again.” In that way, you learned that some things do need more of your attention than others, and you learned that you should always give your best efforts in everything you do. But for some people, that concept goes a bit too far. They develop an “all or nothing” type of attitude in everything they do, and see anything that is less than perfection as a failure.
Carpenters that build rough frames for buildings have a saying that they use when they crack a two-by-four or bend a nail while they are working. They say, “Well, this ain’t no piano.” In other words, perfection is not necessary in their endeavors. Getting the work done in a timely manner and to the satisfaction of their clients is more important than one bent nail. They give their best effort, and even if the outcome is not perfect the work is still acceptable.
There are times when what you are doing is a “piano.” For example, one small mistake can ruin a laboratory experiment, or hitting one wrong key on a computer can wipe out hours worth of work. Being less than perfect does not mean you should just say, “Oh, well. At least it’s done.” It just means there are times that you need not waste valuable time obsessing over what you are doing. If you can complete your work 95 percent perfect in one hour and 100 percent perfect in two hours, you have to decide if that 5 percent improvement was worth the time and stress in your pursuit of perfection.
You can be a high achiever without being a perfectionist. A high achiever sets high goals and is satisfied with doing a great job and achieving excellence, even if those high goals are not completely met. A perfectionist, on the other hand, will accept nothing but perfection, and “almost perfect” is not an option. Perfectionists tend to have more stress than high achievers, since they are much more critical of themselves. In everything you do as you go through life, you have to remember to ask yourself, “Is this a piano?”
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