Saturday, March 22, 2008

Perfectionist or Pursuer of Excellence? -- and why it matters.

OK - so with two weeks to go to my recital I learned a BIG lesson today!

My perfectionism cannot be in charge!  I must re-think what I am trying to do here.  As singers we often work so hard to "get it right" that we lose the beauty of why we went into music in the first place.  YES - it is important to know your notes, music, translations, etc... but there comes a time when we just have to make music and not judge or condemn ourselves for not being perfect.  *In case you're wondering, I am talking to myself.  

But seriously - what's going on here?  Life is not about being perfect but rather striving for excellence.  I really like what Dr. Kevin Leman (Psychologist) has to say on this subject.  In his book "The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are," Chapter 6 is entitled "Moving from Perfectionism toward Excellence."  He lists eight differences between perfectionists and pursuers of excellence:

1.  Those who chase perfection are always reaching beyond their grasp-for the top.  They set impossible goals.  Pursuers of excellence set goals too, according to their own high standards, but they put those goals within reach.

2.  Perfectionists base their value on their accomplishments.  They have to produce or else.  Seekers of excellence value themselves simply for who they are.

3.  Perfectionists are easily dismayed by disappointment and will often throw up their hands in total defeat because if they can't be perfect, why even try?  Seekers of excellence can be disappointed or hurt by a setback but they don't give up.  They keep moving toward their goal.

4.  Perfectionists regard failure as the ultimate evil and let it devastate them.  Pursuers of excellence are always learning from their mistakes and failures so they can do a better job in the future.

5.  Perfectionists remember their mistakes and chew on them the way a dog gnaws a bone.  They are sure everyone else remembers them too and are ready to pounce.  Seekers of excellence correct their mistakes and let them fade from memory so they aren't inhibited in the future.

6.  Perfectionists can only settle for being number one.  Pursuers of excellence are happy with themselves as long as they are sure they tried as hard as they could.

7.  Perfectionists fear and hate criticism and will either avoid it or ignore it.  Seekers of excellence don't enjoy criticism but they welcome it because it may help them improve.

8.  Perfectionists have to win or their self-image plunges to zero.  Pursuers of excellence can finish second, third, or even lower and their self-image remains strong.

I think the overall point of what he's saying is us perfectionists need to RELAX.  Not only is perfectionism a flaw - it can be very detrimental to your life.  I have watched myself waste and ruin so many moments in my life by getting mad at myself for not being perfect.  And while I hate this about myself, I am thankful for this moment to stop, evaluate and redirect my thoughts and energy.  I hope to meditate on these truths and set new goals for events such as my recital - a goal not to be perfect but something far greater!

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