You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing

guide for athletes Apr 06, 2022

Text by Ann Zaprazny
Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

Perfection almost killed this article. I’ve been thinking about writing about this topic for two weeks. I kept putting off getting started. I wanted it to be just right.

Why an article on perfectionism? 

Because the desire to be perfect is one of the biggest challenges that adversely affect the performance of athletes and business professionals. 

It is said that perfection is the enemy of done.

Perfectionism is often tied to unreasonably high personal expectations. Perfectionism prevents us from trusting in our skillset. In believing our effort or that “we” are enough.

There are many positives about being a perfectionist. 

Perfectionists are very motivated, have a strong work ethic, and commit to their goals. 

Who wouldn’t want anyone with those traits on their team?

Perfectionists also have some challenging traits. They often evaluate their performance or themselves as an A or F. Good or Bad – no middle ground.

Perfectionists can overtrain and overwork to the point of injury or stress overload.

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How does PERFECTIONISM show up in sport? 

Athletes often share that they are not good if they are not perfect in their performance. 

It creates a personal level of dissatisfaction, frustration, and disappointment and often erodes the athlete’s confidence level.

A golfing client believed every shot had to be perfect for his round of golf to be good. When we peeled it back and got him to acknowledge and say “I don’t have to be perfect to play a great round,” I could see the stress leave his shoulders. The desire to be perfect is a heavy burden to carry.

I was watching a baseball client’s game one day. 

He made a nice play on the field. 

After a slight bobble, he made the throw first and got the runner was out. I could tell from his body language that he was annoyed because the play was not perfect. 

An out is an out. 

We teach clients to be accepting of a functional win and even an ugly win. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective.

How does PERFECTIONISM show up at work?

Let me count the ways. Professionals might be consumed for hours just to get a work assignment perfect when good would have been good enough. 

The extra hours perfecting a good product might be more effective in being used on the next project. Perfectionists are often at work after hours getting things just right. Or professionals might be extremely critical when evaluating their self-performance.

I had a first-time leader who, after 13 months, resigned. (I love this leader, and we remain good friends to this day.) 

When I asked him why he was resigning, he said, “ I grade things as an A or F, and I was not pleased with my year. I gave myself an F.” 

He had a great 1st year on the job, and I was sad to lose him. He said, “That was not good enough for him based on his standards. ”

We challenge our clients to think beyond evaluating their performance as an A or F (or 1 or 10) and to see the entire scale. It’s ok if today was a B or a 7. We teach to recognize we do our best for the moment.

Your efforts in sport, work, and life does not have to be perfect to be amazing

Say it three times, slow breath, and internalize this.

I am certain when I was younger. 

I was a perfectionist. I had the work ethic of a perfectionist to my detriment.

 In the pursuit of my collegiate basketball goals, I ignored the fact that I woke up daily with back pain and continued to train. 

I overdid it and lost my senior season due to my back injury.  I trained through the wrong type of pain consistently. (Not good.)

Maturity and life allowed me to give up my perfectionist traits. Life is a lot less stressful when you give up your perfectionist traits. It takes work to retrain yourself to get there. But when you arrive, you will be glad you did.

The perfectionist traits like the ones that drive you to prepare and prepare some more just so you get it perfect.  

We know that work expands to the time allocated.  

We teach professionals to timebox things. So instead of taking a day to write a quarterly report, allocate 2 hours to complete it. 

Instead of taking hours and hours to prepare for a presentation, trust your skillset and time box your preparation time.

Do you have perfectionist traits that are getting in your way? Let go of unrealistic expectations, trust in your skillset and go with the game you brought today.

And remember – you don’t have to be perfect to be amazing. 


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