WASHINGTON, July 26, 2014 – Do you tend to delay launching new projects? How about finishing them? If you can’t start and you can’t finish, you may be in the grip of a debilitating syndrome known as perfectionism.
What a great and timely topic to write about. A little research in the personal memory banks dredged up the thoughts of Plato on this topic. What better company can you have when it comes to a discussion on perfectionism. On a roll now; no delays here!
Plato talked not only about love (the Platonic variety), but he also seems to have been the first guy to write at length about perfection (the Platonic ideal). In fact, he wrote about it a lot in his “Dialogues,” which are records of conversations among a bunch of his really bright friends and associates, including a guy named Socrates. In a way, you could call Plato’s “Dialogues” the first examples of creative nonfiction.
Interestingly enough, they couldn’t have been perfect dialogues, because people still discuss them today—and even debate them. (If they were perfect, they’d be admired rather than discussed, right?)
One of Plato’s points is that things in the material world, which changes constantly, are less “real” than they are in the ideal world of pure thought.
In other words, what you think about—or how you want things to be—is better than such thoughts, aims and desires actually are in real life. So if you have a project that’s not yet started or completed, your “ideas” about what it should look like or how it should be when it’s done will likely be way more “perfect” than what you actually end up with.
Essentially, you’re doomed—in fact, damned—damned if you complete the project (it won’t be perfect) and damned if you don’t (it will never exist). Ergo, we arrive at perfectionism’s evil twin, procrastination. (Forget for a moment that you just might be lazy or scared. Those alternatives are less interesting.)
Pondering such weighty matters got me to writing this article about procrastination and perfectionism, which I decided to title “The Dangerous Twins.” Pausing a moment, I wondered if anyone else might have something similar posted online? No legit writer wants to be a copycat. Besides, there might be some useful ideas floating around out there that could prove helpful.
Googling “procrastination,” “perfectionism,” and “dangerous twins” drew a blank. The only “dangerous twins” anyone mentions are hypocrisy and jealousy. Worriesome. Let’s pinch in on “dangerous twins” only and see what that yields.
Bingo! Turns out “The Dangerous Twins” was actually a movie, dubbed on one site as “one of the best Nollywood (Nigerian Film Industry) films of 2004.”
Plot summary: twin brothers swap their lives to fix a family problem. Subsequently, the same film company released “Dangerous Twins 2” and “Dangerous Twins 3.” Should I watch all three of them before I begin this new article?
And what’s this about “Nollywood”? My ever-extending search-along provides interesting new information: Nigeria is the world’s third-largest producer of feature films. What have all of us been missing for the past ten years?
Should I watch “Dangerous Twins” 1, 2, and 3 to ensure my references are appropriate? Perhaps a mandatory rereading of Plato’s Dialogues to make sure I’m not missing any nuances?
Hmmmm. It suddenly dawns on me that I’m trying to write an article about procrastination and perfectionism, but going about it in a way that clearly demonstrates precisely how both of these work in tandem. Sound familiar?
Here’s the equation:
Perfectionism + Procrastination = Paralysis
Do you, too, find yourself perfect in your procrastination? If the answer is yes, plan to get nothing done.
Fran Ponick, MA, is certified in P-ESL (Pronouncing English as a Second Language). Fran’s company, Leadership English®, offers full-service business communication skills, training, and coaching for executive and entrepreneurial non-native and native speakers of English as well as award-winning writing and editorial services for businesses large and small.
Leadership English®: Your Voice. Your Future.