+44 (0) 7973 953586 paul@impro.org.uk

Join the Anti-Perfectionist League

What are the benefits of joining the Anti-Perfectionist League?

It takes away the stress and pressure of having to get everything right. Which is a good thing in circumstances in which you don’t have to get everything right. But that is not the same as ‘Embracing your mistakes’.

Anti-perfectionism allows you to adopt a positive strategy of ‘good enough’. I think this is preferable to how some anti-Perfectionists make their pitch, which is to invite you to ‘fail frequently’ or ‘celebrate your mistakes’. The trouble with encouraging people to make more mistakes is that most mistakes are (at best) irritating for those making them and often for those around them.

Suppose our topic is  ‘anxiety in meetings’ or ‘risk-aversion’. There’s lot of conversation to be had about not-being-perfect, before anyone needs to raise an issue about mistakes. What we want to arrive at is ‘How best to approach meetings/presentations’ and ‘How to take on the appropriate level of risk?’, or more generally, ‘What counts as good enough in a given context?’.

It’s more useful to encourage people to succeed and get things right (and for them to notice how they do that) than to encourage them to make mistakes (which are at best delays along the way).

The trouble with perfectionism is that it gets in the way of having a go, because we suspect we may not do well enough. So we need to carefully examine what ‘well enough’ consists of, and encourage people to ‘have a go’ – and see how things work out.

The emotional ‘weight’ of a mistake depends on the context. Away from safe settings such as improvisation workshops, they might well be unembraceable! Mistakes might happen and be fine. Equally, they might happen and not be fine: let’s see case by case.

In short, there’s a lot we can do to counter needless Perfectionism, to feel less anxious and to grow more confident. And if we want to embrace something, let’s make it a friendship with uncertainty, rather than an unwelcome hug with getting things wrong.

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