Working, working, working and honing, honing, honing

“I recently interviewed David Burns, author of “Feeling Good”… In his more than 35,000 therapy sessions he has learned that the pursuit of perfection is arguably the surest way to undermine happiness and productivity…

Have you ever obsessed over a report when your boss said it was already plenty good enough? Have you ever lost an object of little importance but just had to keep looking for it? Do colleagues often tell you, “Just let it go”?…

This left me wondering: what if trying to be average could actually accelerate your success?…

Overachievers have such high expectations of themselves that their “average” might be another person’s “really good.” So instead of pushing yourself to give 100% (or 110%, whatever that means) you can go for giving 75% or 50% of what you usually might offer. This idea is captured succinctly by the mantra, “Done is better than perfect”…

The word “perfect” has a Latin root; literally, it means “made well” or “done thoroughly.” Another translation would be “complete.” And yet today, we use it to mean flawless…

To understand why, we need to understand the role of fear in perfectionism: “If I don’t perfectly [fill in the blank] something terrible will happen.” Often perfectionists are so used to this anxiety that they no longer even consciously recognize it; it’s just the fuel that keeps them working, working, working and honing, honing, honing…

Here’s how Burns put it: “There are two doors to enlightenment. One is marked, ‘Perfection’ and the other is marked, ‘Average.’ The ‘Perfection’ door is ornate, fancy, and seductive… So you try to go through the ‘Perfection’ door and always discover a brick wall on the other side… On the other side of the ‘Average’ door, in contrast, there’s a magic garden. But it may have never occurred to you to open the door to take a look.” As he wrote in a recent entry on his blog, “Much of our suffering derives from our perfectionism, and our belief that we should be ‘special.’ But…[w]hen you don’t have to be special, life becomes special…

If you think you are the type of person who takes on hard assignments with ease, you might try to do something really hard: try being average for one day. What you find might surprise you…”

~ Greg McKeown.  For full article, go to HBR: Today, Just Be Average

Image Credit


  1. Reblogged this on kingsfordobiriyeboah.


  2. I’m average and very happy.


  3. Interesting – I heard David Burns speak when I was in grad school…I think there’s more to this than just trying to be average. Most people understand on some level that they aren’t ‘perfect’. Nor do people really believe they are ‘average’ – choosing to believe that there is something that makes us unique and special in some way. My own view – over-achievers run from the thoughts that they aren’t good enough, and they run fast and hard.


  4. I gave up trying to be perfect, years ago. 😀


  5. Hmmm? …. and what’s wrong with brick walls exactly?


  6. I’m having trouble thinking of the perfect response to this.


  7. It would be very hard to try to be average. (Not to BE average, but to TRY to be.)


  8. Some good advice here! 🙂 I think the mere stress in trying to be the best or perfect is in itself what gets in the way of something being good – focusing the mind on the ‘perfection’ aim, not on what ‘is’ being done. So maybe aiming for average, just allows the mind to concentrate on ‘what’ we are ‘actually’ doing. It makes sense that the result of that would be much better – perfect even! 😉


  9. to be imperfect is to be human


  10. Damn, this is SO me! Still, after all these decades…. 😦


  11. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    I wish people would recognize those of us who are just average. Instead we see images and shows depicting and rewarding these “perfect” people. And we aspire to those unrealistic goals. I like “be yourself” – whoever that is.


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