Perfectionism: The Soul Eater
Okay, so the title might be just a bit dramatic. But bear with me. This is my last semester in the MATD program here at Roosevelt. I can’t even list everything I’ve learned about instructional design, learning and most of all myself. One of my biggest lessons gained during this program was about the not so pretty side of perfectionism.
My first year in the program, I was so focused on getting all of the points on my assignments and participation, that I didn’t allow myself to be fully immersed in the learning experience. I was so caught up in perfectly matching the rubric, that I was spot on when it came to applying the theories and methodologies, but I wasn’t fully taking advantage of the opportunity to connect with the art of instructional design.
There is a flow and beauty to a well-designed learning experience. Where learners are engaged, active, practicing and able to use what they learned when they click out of the software or walk out of a room. Basically, they get it, they liked it, and they use it, all due to a clear and thoughtful design that has an energy and groove of its own.
Why it Matters
I was missing out on balancing the science and the art of instructional design. It wasn’t until my second year in the program that I was able to shift my focus from maintaining my 4.0 GPA to allowing myself to free fall, and take chances with my projects and thoughts that I shared. I expressed a deeper honesty in my posts about shifts in thinking, the exhilaration of success and the fear of failure. It was a real change for me to focus on the pursuit of excellence instead of scrambling for perfection.
I decided to do a bit of research on the perfection vs. excellence approach to life and work. This image really exemplified why this shift is so impactful (Courtesy of Sarah Burke http://www.getspokal.com/is-being-a-perfectionist-holding-you-back-from-achieving-greatness/):
Now did I experience everything listed under perfection? Absolutely not, but I could see the possibility of it happening. And I wanted to be proactive. I keep a copy of the “Healthy Striving” side of this image on the wall of my office as a reminder.
You might be wondering, “how do I get from the first column to the second column?” For me, it was an “ah ha” moment, and my thinking just started shifting. I started to see the opportunity to approach and think of everything differently. According to the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Clinic, there are some other ways to get the process going:
- Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of trying to be perfect.
- Increase your awareness of the self-critical nature of your all-or-nothing thoughts, and how they extend to other people in your life.
- Be realistic about what you can do.
- Set strict time limits on each of your projects. When the time is up, move on to another activity.
- Learn how to deal with criticism.
Bigger Than You
The ability to identify perfectionism is useful beyond individual development. The capacity to see it in clients, colleagues and learners can lead to strategies to approach interactions and situations clouded by perfectionism. These changes could lead to increased productivity and improved interactions.
So Worth It
The result of my shift in thinking was a sense of calm and ability to focus with clarity and connect more deeply, professionally and personally. And yep, I still maintained my 4.0 GPA. I’m continuing the process of striving for excellence vs. perfection. I see it as a journey and not a destination.
No one is perfect. And that’s wonderful. Some of the world’s biggest “mistakes” and “failures” have led to innovation and positive change. Embrace excellence, you won’t regret it!
Thanks for reading my post.
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About the Author
Niké is an instructional designer and trainer with a passion for organizational development, dancing, laughing, fabulous live music and a great meal. She will complete the MATD program at Roosevelt University in a few weeks and is going to miss working as a Graduate Assistant for the Training and Development Department. Due to her naturally social nature, she is looking to connect with as many ID and OD professionals as possible. Connect with her via LinkedIn to stay in touch.