Perfection: A Time to Finish

You may remember that we considered the type #1 personality (The Perfectionist) a little while back when we looked at the Enneagram. Today, I was reminded of the importance of getting things finished and I started thinking to myself about how many half finished projects I have laying about. In my case, it is not because I don’t want to finish them, it is simply a matter of priorities.

Neverthleless, the reminder did cause me to think back to a little incident I remember from when I was attending a painting and drawing class some years ago. The lesson was about learning to see light and shade. Really, when you can see light properly and then reproduce what you see, you will be able to draw – instantly. The principle is that important.

Anyway, in this particular lesson, I was drawing a picture of an ancient Roman sculpture. The lesson was two hours in total and I had spent about half of the time doing half of the image. It was looking good, but I thought I had got the hang of the technique and wanted to finish the drawing more quickly than it was probably going to take. So instead of trying to faithfully reproduce the second part of the face, I thought I would make a kind of joke and I drew the image winking at the observer.

When the tutor saw what I had produced, she complimented me on my technique and suggested that I should really have done the whole thing to the same standard as the first part. So with that encouragement, I erased the second part of the face and began to work on reproducing what I saw, faithfully. An hour later, I was still working on the picture when another student began walking around the class speaking to the others and spraying their images to set them – they were charcoal on paper.

When this student came over to me, I was still looking at the subject and continuing to make little adjustments as she continued asking people if they had finished. She took one look at mine and commenting that she could see mine was finished, she removed it from my desk and sprayed it before I could object. So it wasn’t really me who decided that picture was finished, it was her.

And sometimes, perfectionism operates like that. There is always something you want to do, there is always something that needs to be changed, there are always ways to make it better. But, hey, to everyone else it looks like you’ve finished. If you are a perfectionist, this is not only a difficulty you need to be aware of, but also, one you need to find a way of managing.

For such people, perhaps a second opinion can prove to be immensely valuable. As someone once said (maybe even me, I can’t remember): you don’t have to get things right, you have to get them going! Of course there is always room for improvement, but remember that you can always continue to tweak your products and services after they go live.

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