Is Perfection Slowing You Down?

September 1, 2023

by Sue Clement

Recently I came across a postcard that said, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” At first, I thought: now wait a moment – isn’t perfect good? I was brought up believing that doing something perfectly was… well, good. It was, after all – perfect! Now before I get carried away here splitting hairs between perfect and good, I must admit I’ve been a victim of holding back, waiting till everything is absolutely right before I begin or complete a task.

I used to be proud of my drive for perfectionism. But now, thinking of all the ways I held myself back and all the things I didn’t do in fear that they would be somehow flawed, I query the cost. Even this article is a prime example. I kept putting it off again and again because nothing I wrote ever seemed, you guessed it – perfect.

I believe procrastination is born out of an excessive drive to perfectionism. Often, when we feel we don’t have the time, energy or resources, it seems better to put off taking action or to take no action at all rather than risk being imperfect. Over time, we build the habit of procrastination and end up paralyzed by inertia.

So what is the answer? I’m not suggesting we throw caution to the wind, surrender our standards or accept shoddy work. But can we agree that not quite perfect is often good enough? Could it be that as long as, moment by moment, we aspire to do our best, accepting our flaws and inadequacies along the way, it is enough? That striving for and reaching “good” is a noble goal? Think for a moment of what more you would do if you surrendered the notion that everything needs to be absolutely, utterly perfect.

I can’t begin to measure the amount of time I’ve spent dwelling on something. I’d be disappointed or embarrassed when in hindsight I realized that it wasn’t perfect. But no longer – I’ve decided that things just need to be “good enough”. Perhaps, I’ll hold onto the belief that really big or important things need to be perfect – but not at the cost of doing them. Because, you see perfect really is the enemy of good.

In the coming week ask yourself…

• Is there anything I’m not doing – things I’m holding back on because it might not be perfect?

• Do projects sit on the corner of my desk gathering dust simply because I believe I don’t have time (or don’t know how) to do them perfectly?

• Does decision making slow me down because I waste so much time searching for the one perfect solution to a situation rather than choose from a wide variety of “good” possibilities?

Remember, you don’t have to get it perfect; you just have to get it going!

A dynamic speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, and business coach Sue Clement brings the experience of more than 25 years in management and sales to every presentation and coaching session. After building a local employment agency from concept into a multi-million dollar enterprise, she is no stranger to the challenges of owning a business and is an expert in marketing, sales and customer service.

To find out more about Sue’s coaching and teleseminars please visit

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7 Responses to “Is Perfection Slowing You Down?”

  1. A Great Post on Perfection | Freelancing Journey on September 2nd, 2007 1:12 pm

    [...] Great Post on Perfection I found this really great post at Cultivating Greatness on how perfection can slow you down. I must admit that I am a perfectionist and I agree with so much that was said in this post. When [...]

  2. SimoneM on September 4th, 2007 3:53 am

    Hi Sue,
    I love your insights, particularly about changing our focus to a “wide variety of “good” possibilities”. As a semi-reformed procrastinator I recently wrote a post on the topic:
    I would appreciate any feedback!

  3. Erin on September 5th, 2007 6:36 pm

    After Priscilla Palmer’s self development list my friend Jenny and I have decided to try to help build the self development community as well with a little contest. I would like to invite you to find out more details at Win a $25 Gift Certificate.

  4. University Blog on September 6th, 2007 1:48 am

    Note (9/5/07)…

    - Cultivating Greatness: Is Perfection Slowing You Down? (via Freelancing Journey)

    - 24 Tips to Becoming an Early Riser (via Joe Carter)…

  5. Howie on September 7th, 2007 12:42 am

    You are right about “perfectionism leading to procrastination”. Some say that they are not perfectionists, but it often leads to waisting time because they are waiting for the right moment.

  6. Josh Bickford on September 7th, 2007 2:59 am

    I too am sometimes guilty of waiting for everything to be perfect. However, some of my best ideas and plans have come as a result of deciding to do things now rather than when everything is perfect.

  7. Charlie on September 10th, 2007 1:53 am

    True. Most of us are not aware of it until we realize our mistakes. It’s better to accept simple things, than wait for the perfect moment and waste most of our time.

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