Do you remember a time when a project took you so long to complete because everything needed to be “just right”? Maybe you’re a music composer, and you can’t quite finish that new song because something in the lyrics just refuses to make sense. Or, maybe you’re like me, and you were writing a book that created internal turmoil because that book could only house thirteen brilliant ideas individually picked from a lifetime of knowledge.

The explanation? Perfectionism.

The problem with perfectionism? It’s impossible. It’s waiting for every single piece of the puzzle to be spotless.

When we find ourselves confronting spouts of perfectionism, it makes accomplishing our Great Work ten times harder and ten times longer to achieve. If we can find a way to let go of being the best and pleasing every single person on the face of this earth, we can achieve something greater than perfection: Commitment to Excellence.

As I approach my Great and beautiful forty-fifth year of life this week, I reflect on how much Great Work I have achieved and will continue to achieve. I celebrate my willingness to be unique and my strength to fail fast.

Because if we can’t let go of getting it right on the first try, there’s no possible way to achieve our Great Work in enough time to be able to celebrate it.

Perfectionism is a PROBLEM, and yet many of us proudly proclaim it as our favorite weakness.


I think it’s largely because we have it confounded with a commitment to excellence (totally different, and something I wholeheartedly support), but these are NOT the same thing!

And perfectionism comes with a multitude of problems including editing out yor originality, making your workload much more extreme and slowing your progress down to a crawl.

As I approach the exact midpoint of my life (I turn 45 on Saturday) I’m leaving this nonsense behind.

Many of us are willing to be perfectionists because we’ve confused it with a commitment to excellence. 

But they are NOT the same thing. 

A commitment to excellence is a strategic stance, it involves knowing our weaknesses, asking for feedback, and working to our strengths. 

Perfectionism is driven by worry, can never be satisfied, and exploits our weaknesses. 

Instead, I want to focus that energy on being clear with myself on what I’m hoping to accomplish (Great Work!) and then by being in relationship with myself and the people around me so I can communicate clearly and authentically.

Join us as we discuss: 

00:59 Perfectionism is the number one weakness in our lives.

02:10 The two problems of Perfectionism.

04:44 How perfectionism can play that role in creative work, scientific work, and in an email. 

05:24 Perfection is impossible but we’re making it as our standard.

07:19 The difference between Perfectionism and Commitment to Excellence.

09:55 Perfectionism is based on other people’s perceptions and expectations.

11:05 Perfectionism is removing uniqueness from your work.

12:52 Great Work is built on the four pillars of great work.

15:04 What is a defensive failure, and how perfectionism becomes a defensive failure.

16:45 The consequences of perfectionism

About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. She is the author of Great Work, the host of the Unleashing Your Great Work podcast, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost two million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.