If you’re anything like me, you like things done right, on time and under budget. I can still hear my dearly departed father-in-law saying “well, ok, Ms. Engineer” as I attempted to get Thanksgiving dinner in perfect order. Operating in excellence is something to be proud of and something that’s needed in our workplaces, families, and communities. But as I grew as a servant leader and as a mom, I came to appreciate the oxymoron of being an imperfect perfectionist. I came to evangelize the notion of wanting it done right, while realizing that it won’t always happen.

To help myself and those I’ve encouraged deal with this dichotomy, I use 3 simple life principles:

  1. Give yourself some grace – whether you are a petrophysicist or a rocket scientist (I know both), chances are you’re going to make a mistake, and when you do, be prepared to cut yourself some slack. It’s great to be a driven, high-achiever, that’s how we put a man on the moon! But don’t forget that you are still a fallible human…just say “my bad”! Take a note of what you did wrong and turn it into a teachable moment for yourself. You’ll be less disappointed in yourself if you capture the lesson that came out of it.
  2. Give others grace  – chances are if you struggle with #1, you blow it at this one. People who don’t give themselves grace find it really hard to extend it to others. The next time you’re about to blow a gasket with your son or your team member, remember the last mistake you made. Handle them the way you SHOULD have handled yourself. Grow in humility, grow in grace.
  3. Praise progress – In your pursuit of perfection, pause periodically to praise progress (now say that again!). When you recognize how much you (or someone in your charge) has grown, you’ll be able to focus on the flowers, and not the weeds! Oh, how sweet it is!

So if you’re a recovering perfectionist like me, celebrate how far you’ve come. Revel in the reality of having a critical eye, but a compassionate spirit. But, if you’re just admitting you have a problem, give the pointers above a try and see if the next misstep you encounter takes you out of orbit or just gets you off the ground. Measure and reward!