"Perfect is the enemy of good."
That expression makes my anxiety spike. A little voice in my head protests, How could "perfect" be a bad thing? And why would you want to be "good" when you could be "perfect" instead?
Well, that little voice is the misguided perfectionist inside me, struggling to be heard against my better judgement.
Because finally, at some point in early adulthood, I learned that trying to be "perfect" is fruitless. Being a perfect human being is impossible—we all make mistakes. And struggling to perfect our work—from the big presentations to the briefest of emails—can actually make us less successful, in the long run.
Why Perfectionism Is The Enemy Of Real Estate Success
Wastes your time
Have you ever spent 30 minutes writing an email that should have taken 3 minutes? You were probably tweaking the formatting, looking up whether to use "who" or "whom," worrying that your note sounded too chirpy or too formal...and on and on.
When you try to make every little thing absolutely perfect, you end up wasting a lot of time on things that—in reality—aren't very important.
Causes you to procrastinate
Imagine you want to host a client appreciation event at your office—but you're so worried it won't be "the biggest event of the season" that you never even start the planning process.
“When you need to be perfect, and you’re afraid that you’re not, you won’t start projects you’re scared might not succeed,” writes Psychology.com contributor Andrea Brandt, Ph.D., M.F.T.
Holds you back from trying new things
Video marketing is all the rage right now (and will likely remain important in the foreseeable future), and you should definitely give it a try! But many agents feel hesitant to try something new, because they know their initial work won't be perfect.
Digital marketing expert Neil Patel says, "The challenge of 'perfection' can intimidate people so they don't even try. If perfection is the goal, yet unattainable, what's the point?"
Invokes analysis paralysis
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says there are two ways to approach decision-making:
- as a satisficer—someone who, even with high standards, will make a decision once they've found a solution that meets their criteria
- and as a maximizer—a person who is so determined to make the optimal decision that even after finding a choice that meets their criteria, they still continue to research more options for something even better
"Studies suggest that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers," writes Rubin. "Maximizers spend a lot more time and energy to reach a decision, and they’re often anxious about whether they did, in fact, make the best choice.
Keep this in mind the next time you make a purchasing decision for your real estate business. Don't spend days researching every email marketing service in existence if, after a few solid hours of dedicated research and a recommendation from your coach, you already found a great service.
Puts a strain on relationships
Do you have unrealistic expectations for others? Do you expect your assistant to read your mind (and then, when he doesn't, do you get angry)? Do you focus too much on what your agents are doing wrong—and not enough time celebrating their successes—so that you totally crush team morale?
Don't let perfectionism hurt your relationships (those at work and in your personal life). Relationships are everything.
Keeps you from reaching your highest potential
To be successful, you first have to get comfortable with failure.
If you expect to always succeed at everything, even on your first attempt, you're going to get frustrated with yourself. You're going to get down on yourself. You might even write it off as a failure and quit.
Any successful real estate agent will tell you that their success came from years of dedicated work, sticking to a process, and practicing good habits every single day. All of those little things add up over time. You don’t have to be an amazing cold-caller your first day on the job. But if you do it a little every day, imagine how good you’ll be a year later.
Prevents you from learning from mistakes
“When you accept that you are imperfect," writes Brandt, "you can remove yourself from the emotional distress caused by ruminating over every error. Instead, you can examine your mistakes and learn the important lessons they offer.”
How To Stop Trying To Be Perfect
There's a fine line between "driven, dedicated, hard-working" and "perfectionist." If you find yourself teetering over the edge into perfectionist territory, stop and check yourself with these tips.
Get feedback from your peers on whether your standards are too high.
Instead of getting trapped in the silo of your own perfectionist mind, reach out to colleagues or your boss, suggests Harvard Business Review contributor Kerry Goyette.
"What does a good job look like to your boss, peer, or client? Seek their feedback on expected results, costs, and timelines rather than trying to meet your extremely high standards."
Goyette suggests doing these checkins several times during the timeline of your project.
"Don’t wait until you think the project is finished, build in checkpoints where you share your progress at 50% or 80% done. Your boss or client just might tell you that the work is good enough at that point."
Prioritize which clients and leads get the higher-level, "in a perfect world" treatment.
In a perfect world, you'd have time to call up all of your past clients to wish them a happy birthday and catch up on life. But that perfect world doesn't exist, so you need a more realistic strategy. Segment your leads and clients by priority. "A" leads and clients will get the more personalized, time-consuming communication (birthday phone calls, for instance). Everyone else gets less personal, but still good communication (generic birthday text or email).
Keep reminding yourself that you don't have to be perfect.
You can't be perfect, because perfection is impossible. We're all human, and we all make mistakes. All you can do is your best. Give yourself grace, recognize that you are going to make mistakes, reframe those mistakes as "learning opportunities," then go forth and put your newfound wisdom into practice.