Excel Formula For Determining Wins And Losses Based On Score Why Perfect Doesn’t Work

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Why Perfect Doesn’t Work

As a coach, a common cause of problems I encounter with my clients is the all too common human desire to be perfect or perform perfectly. Preempting this desire to be perfect and to do places a burden on both the client and the trainer. It is better to focus on being and striving to excel in our performance. There is more than just a semantic difference between the words perfect and excellent. There is also an energetically experienced difference that can either compel greater performance or prevent it altogether.

Striving for perfection leaves no room for error. The result is black or white. The performance, project, outcome or objective was either delivered according to specification or it was not. Often, nothing can (or does) performance-wise until perfection is achieved. Continuous judgment with continuous refinement becomes the order of the day. Interestingly, none of the traditional measures of perfection usually include as a top-level question “does it work or not”?

Functionally speaking, excellence refers to functionality. Something is great when it performs or when it works in a way that creates a minimum of unintended consequences and achieves a greater measure of the desired result. In this sense, it is elegant. It’s not perfect, but it works pretty well.

The advantage of focusing on excellence rather than perfection is that doing so leads to action. Primarily what we are doing as coaches is working to create an environment that makes it possible for the client to live their results rather than living by arbitrary standards of what that result should be and how it should be achieved. The difference is energetically literally moving forward (living within) versus standing still (living up to).

As a coach it is useful to be familiar with some of the qualitative differences that separate these two performance approaches. As you might expect, there are some very strong dynamics associated with perfection. Some are so strong that they can literally take the focus off the performance. Chief among these are:

• Focus on protecting a valuable self image where there is no room for error

• A pervasive mood in lifestyle in which the client operates out of fear (ie, not being good enough, not measuring up, being “found out,” etc.).

• Major risks are either ignored or overcalculated

• Obsession with control and the need to be “right”.

• Critical judgment of self and others against arbitrary standards

• Lack of choices… do it by the “book”.

• Focus on protecting what I’ve already got – playing not to lose vs. playing to win

• Focus on creativity versus mechanism

• Concerned primarily with “looking good”… “Me” focus

• A narrowing of focus that allows one to see only the chosen path to an outcome to the exclusion of other possibilities.

• Classic win/lose approach to relationships

As you can probably imagine, focusing on being (or doing) perfect over time creates tell-tale hallmarks in and with one’s “body.” We will explore the notion of “body” more fully later in the book. Suffice it to say at this point that I use the term “body” to include not only the physical, but also the energetic, emotional, mental, and spiritual bodies. In this context of “the body”, a perfectionist approach sets up a situation in which a general mood of contraction, rigidity, narrowness of focus and judgment will almost always be experienced by the individual and those around him. This is not an insignificant result. One aspect of leadership that we attend to as coaches is the quality of movement that our clients inspire in themselves and their followers. This movement is strongly influenced by the “body” of the leader.

Alternatively, a focus on excellence can be seen as having the following basic characteristics:

Willingness (also willingness) to learn from mistakes. From this perspective, mistakes are generally viewed as inevitable, even desirable, information-gathering opportunities. (I am reminded of Honda Motor Company founder Soichiro Honda’s comment when asked about his secret to success – “I made mistakes as fast as I could”)

• Action based on excitement, energy, fun, excitement

• Willingness to take challenging risks

• Operate in life with clarity of purpose and empowerment

• Operates easily through acceptance and appreciation of differences

• Seeking feedback and variety of input

• Uses creativity and accepts an abundance of choices

• Dual focus on journey and results

• Concern for the greater good… an inclusive “we” focus

• Establishes win/win based outcomes

Like a dominant focus on perfection, a dominant focus on being (or doing) the best creates telltale hallmarks in and with one’s “body.” These will usually manifest as a relaxed and open body and mind. The words approachable and curious are often used to describe someone with this orientation. The shoulders will tend to relax, the eyes will soften, and, internally, the voice of criticism will be dampened. Not surprisingly, this “body” effectively influences the external world, which is likely to increase the quality of movement among the leader’s followers that is physically different from that of the perfectionist leader.

Having said all of the above, I want to be sure that I am not talking about abandoning standards or abandoning the commitment to continuous improvement. One can have extremely high standards and still be coming from a position of excellence. In this case, the difference between the two approaches is the answer to the question “for what?” These standards exist. With an excellence-based approach, the answer to the question is tied to the desired outcome to make the criteria possible. The question may be answered with a perfectionism-oriented approach because the standard itself is important—often as important as the actual outcome. Again, it’s really a question of what is possible to achieve the standard?

To use a sports example to illustrate this difference, one need look no further than champion golfer Tiger Woods’ efforts to constantly refine and improve his swing. To some, this may seem like being a perfectionist. However, my position is that Tiger is working from a position of excellence within the framework of Excellence vs. Perfection. He is not standing still; His efforts to improve are to be the best golfer to ever play the game; While he’s in the process of rebuilding, he’s not worried about looking inferior to others—he’s learning. It is a productive and productive process for him.

This opens up a fundamental question for coach and client as to which of the two approaches is likely to be more productive? It is my position that the coach strives to encourage an excellence based approach in the coaching process, in the process of moving their client towards their results, and in general to live a life that ultimately produces results that are very sustainable and welcome. Excellence stems from more than striving for perfection.

In fact, coaching a client to move from a point of view that goes to perfection (and usually is) can be a wonderful coaching opportunity in itself. Being able to draw the client’s attention to the differences between the two approaches opens the door to much richer conversations and more lasting results than might otherwise be possible.

(c) 2010 by Blaine Bartlett

All rights reserved

Note: This article is adapted from the introduction to the book Three Dimensional Coaching by Blaine Bartlett. The book is due to be published in 2010.

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