I often hear dentists describe themselves as perfectionists, and itâs easy to see why. It is a profession where skill is measured in microscopic margins, a profession that tends to attract those who proudly sweat the details. In that respect I understand the obsession with getting things perfect.
But there are three things to keep in mind when we talk about perfectionism.
- Context is important. Saying that you are a perfectionist in your work, and in your expectations for the team, can sound like you have simply set the highest standards, which is admirable. But unless you have the right systems, training, and support in place to allow people to reach and maintain those standards consistently, you are inevitably going to fall short of that standard. When that happens, a commitment to perfectionism can be a recipe for disappointment and discouragement. Which leads to my second point about perfectionism...
- It needs to be motivating. When we talk about perfectionism, especially with the team, it should always be in the context of an ideal outcome that we know is possible and that inspires and guides our actions. It should be exciting and motivating. In that sense, perfectionism is more than a standard you set; it is a mindset you use.
- Perfect is a moving target. This is an important thing to keep in mind. The very notion of perfectionism implies that there is an ideal that cannot be improved upon, and we all know that simply isnât true. The real beauty of ongoing personal and professional growth is that you never reach that moment where everything is perfect and will be foreverâwhat you discover is a new level and a new way of seeing that opens up even more possibilities. When you look at it that way, you realize that although you always want to aspire toward perfection, you would never want to be truly perfect. You can be so much better than that.
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