Excellence vs. Perfection

From time to time I have taken the opportunity to discuss in these e-letters, issues that come up often with my coaching clients. Most of my clients are successful people who are interested in moving or growing into their greatness in new areas of living. For many, success is the result of personality traits or acquired operative belief systems that have guided them for a large part of their lives.  

These traits and systems are part of the story that we create to identify ourselves to ourselves and form the basis of the values we hold by which the outside world can identify us. But growth, by definition, requires that we constantly review and remold these values to allow our forward movement. Old standards and ways of doing things can support our safety and comfort but they do little to fertilize our desire to create change.

One of the conflicts that I often encounter in this process is between the traits of Excellence and Perfection. Striving for perfection can be a dynamic motivational tool. It is not unrelated to Obsessive-Compulsive behavior patterns. I often hear people say that most great human achievements can be traced to a striving for perfection...but is that actually true? My sense is that what really creates results is the striving for excellence, not perfection.

Perfection is what we used to call in the therapy business a "crazy maker." Some action that gets us what we want but makes everyone around us crazy in the process.  

Below are some comparisons I have collected over the years that help to identify the differences between these two ways of being that may help you sort out what is true for you. Further discussion on each of these items is available in my book, "Man In Transition." Click on the link for more information.

  • Excellence is journey; Perfection is destination.0
  • Excellence is the willingness to be wrong; Perfection is being right.
  • Excellence is risk; Perfection is fear.
  • Excellence is powerful; Perfection is anger and frustration.
  • Excellence is spontaneous; Perfection is control.
  • Excellence is accepting; Perfection is judgment.
  • Excellence is giving; Perfection is taking.
  • Excellence is confidence; Perfection is doubt.
  • Excellence is flowing; Perfection is pressure.
  • Excellence is surrender; Perfection is consuming.
  • Excellence is trust; Perfection is selfishness.

© 2007, Kenneth F. Byers

Other Transition Issues, Books

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A permanent state of transition is man's most noble condition. - Juan Ramon Jimenez

Ken Byers holds a Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in Men's Studies, one of the few ever awarded in the U.S. Ken is a full time Certified Professional Life Coach specializing in working with men in any form of transition and an instructor of design at San Francisco State University.

His books, "Man In Transition" and "Who Was That Masked man Anyway" are widely acknowledged as primers for men seeking deeper knowledge of creating awareness and understanding of the masculine way. More information on Ken, his work and/or subscription information to the weekly "Spirit Coach" newsletter which deals with elements of the human spirit in short commentary, check the box at or or or E-Mail You are welcome to share any of Ken's columns with anyone without fee from or to him but please credit to the author. Ken can be reached at: 415.239.6929.

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