The ultimate secret behind “Perfection” – Why you must keep that in control?

A deep analysis of the root causes of "Perfection addiction". Recommended to read - for top level executive-aspirants. (Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash)

Dr. Chodisetti

4/12/20234 min read

Perfection involves full of changes. In other words, editing such as additions, deletions, and modifications. As I said in the article “What is focusing?”, such frequent changes bring focus. Focusing is addictive since it brings dopamine. Hence, we like to stay in the mode of perfection, that is why we are addicted to making changes frequently. During this addictive period, our mind even bypasses a natural intrinsic warning system which alarms us about stepping onto an off-target track and wasting time to reach the goal. It is also not so easy to overcome such perfection-based addictions. That is the reason why before we embark on making any changes to get perfection, we must instruct ourselves to check if those changes are going to be meaningful and necessary in the current situation. Before analyzing the possibilities of how to overcome perfection addiction, let us discuss what perfection means.

This kind of perfection-based addiction is beautiful if applied to good habits which are cyclic in manner such as practicing music, going to gym and brushing teeth etc. But addicting to perfection in uni or multi directional projects which are usually noncyclic in nature, prolongs goal reaching time and squanders lot of energy.

What is perfection?

Perfection is an illusion. It is like water in an oasis. We usually imagine how exactly the final outcome should be and strive to reach that level of perfection by applying changes. But the secret is, we actually are not sure if that is really the final outcome that we want. As soon as the final outcome reaches the expected perfection level, our brain increases the dosage of perfection that is needed. Perfection is not an abstract or an absolute number. It is always relative. Our brain keeps on creating an endless milestone of perfections because, by making changes to reach those perfections, our brain gains dopamine. Our brain can create unlimited ways and targets of getting perfection. Each time we reach a milestone of perfection, we feel soothed. We also feel proud of being perfect because we feel we achieved something that we want in the short term. But we are actually trapped. We feel soothing in achieving short term perfection rather than thinking about how far we are to achieve our actual goal because it is usually challenging to make ourselves believe that the ultimate goal of the project that we are doing is achievable. Each time you think of your ultimate goal, you feel challenged and feel a bit uncomfortable. On the other hand, the feeling of achieving perfection in the short-term cycles makes us feel comfortable. You believe that achieving perfection in each individual task is going to reach you to the goal but unfortunately, it is not true. Reaching the goal at less possible time is more important than doing things perfectly. It is always the ultimate goal, which is important let me say this again. Perfection is almost negligible in front of the importance of achieving a goal in less time. What is always important is what amount of perfection you need to allow to achieve that goal in the least possible time.

The reason behind this addiction

Whenever you want to do something perfectly, you make frequent changes. Frequent changes lead to focus. When you do something with focus for a while, meditation starts to happen. Meditation is addictive. It generates a lot of pleasurable neurohormones. Hence, our mind craves to do anything with perfection. Due to this, progress will be delayed because in the pretext of perfection, one will lose the broad view of the goal, vision and deadlines of a project. Hence, it is important to limit this kind of addiction. Meditation can be practiced separately and should be delinked with such daily projects. It is not to say meditation is wrong. The only message is habits should be kept within their limits so that one will not be diverted towards uncontrollable addictions which delay our projects. The human brain always molds us to do meditation some way or the other for example, in the form of listening to music, while feeling beautiful emotions, while we watch some movies or while craving for perfection when doing things, or also through some mannerisms and habits. All these things that I mentioned here are the opportunities that our brain uses to bring itself into a meditative state because meditation is addictive. Even a good habit, which is uncontrollably followed, leads to bad results. Hence, everyone should choose separate time or other cyclic habits to do meditation so that one can de-link such perfection like addictions from important projects. We must control perfection, so that we will not get trapped in it.

What should we do to get out of the addictive perfection cycles?

There are two visions. One is focused vision and the other one is peripheral vision. We always must keep our ultimate goal in our focused vision and the process that brings us to the goal must be kept in the peripheral vision. What actually happens in perfection-addiction is the other way around. We bring the temporary tasks which are the part of the process to reach the goal into the focused vision and we call it mindfulness and then we push the main goal into the peripheral vision. We should be careful that this “mindfulness” does not lead to perfection-addiction.

For example, when you are riding a bicycle, what happens if you turn your focused vision towards your rotating pedals? You enjoy each round of pedaling. But you are not sure if you hit an obstacle, or you cannot follow a turn, or you will reach the wrong destination. But if you keep your focused vision on the way (the immediate goal in your project), your subconscious automatically adjusts the strength at which you need to peddle to get the optimum speed.

Before you make any addictive changes, check the following check list to make sure you are not running into any addictive perfectionism.

  1. Check if the change that you are going to make is really urgent.

  1. What is the fraction of time it (this change) is going to delay reaching the goal of the project.

  1. Is this change going to be a mandatory part of the final result?

  1. If this is important, can you still assign this to someone else in your team and then you take the next important task which is more suitable to your skills and puts the entire project one step ahead?

  1. For every 10 important imperfections that come to your notice, deliberately skip correcting at least one imperfection to practice yourself not to get into the addictive mode.