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I have on a few occasions heard this said with derision and disdain: “Ideals (and values) just hold us back.” I think a lot of the time this is because they have confused Ideals with Perfectionism.

Ideals give us a grand vision to strive towards. There is no illusion about actually achieving these completely. If we aim for the stars, we may only get to the moon. But when we just aim for the next bus stop, we will only get to the next bus stop in the best case!

Ideals also fuel excellence. They drive us to go the extra mile, even as we struggle through the particularly hard or mundane parts of the journey.

Perfectionism, on the other hand, often engenders actions that don’t add significant value at best, or get in the way at worst. These are typically distracting and focused on small adjustments rather than significant steps forward.

Perfectionism can also breed procrastination when the endless small actions become overwhelming.

Ideals inspire others. They can gather similarly-motivated people around us. Ideals rally and focus energy to drive actions that achieve outcomes.

Perfectionism on the other hand drives people away. We are often left to do it on our own as others become frustrated by the lack of real progress and our obsession over minute details.

Having powerful ideals and values can influence our inner life-narrative in a powerful way. They reinforce who we are, why we do what we do, and how we choose to manifest our lives’ work. In expressing our values and ideals, we use them to powerfully boost our sense of place in this world and purpose in what we do.

What ideals are you living towards? How do they fuel what you do in your life and your work?

Or are you held back by perfectionism?

Image: Toy plane via Shutterstock.