Excellence vs Perfection

One of the virtues at Habits for Wellbeing is Excellence. As a recovering perfectionist, there are many personal reasons, why it is Excellence vs Perfection, but let’s start with some definitions to start the differentiation process between excellence vs perfection.


What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is hard to define, however the following definition gives some good insights –

  • “A disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable; especially: the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.” ~ Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary
  • “A personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less.” ~ Dictionary.com
  •  “Refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.” ~ Oxford Dictionaries


In the above definitions of perfectionism, you probably noticed the words –

  • unrealistically demanding goals
  • a sign of personal worthlessness
  • rejection or refusal of anything less (than perfectionism).

Now – let’s move on to Excellence.


What is Excellence?

Excellence is an individual thing, however the definitions of excellence say –

  • “The quality of being excellent.” ~ Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  • “The quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” ~ Google
  • “The state, quality, or condition of excelling; superiority.” ~ The Free Dictionary
  • “Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards.” ~ Wikipedia


So, now you have read the definitions of perfectionism and excellence, what are the main differences?

To answer this question, I am going to refer to the work of Thomas Greenspon and Tal Ben-Shahar.

In his book, Moving Past Perfect, Thomas Greenspon referred to the following quote that has been adapted by various people –

  • “Excellence is risk. Perfection is fear
  • Excellence is effort. Perfection is anger and frustration. 
  • Excellence is openness to being wrong. Perfection is having to be right. 
  • Excellence is spontaneity. Perfection is control. 
  • Excellence is flow. Perfectionism is pressure. 
  • Excellence is confidence. Perfectionism is doubt. 
  • Excellence is a journey. Perfectionism is destination. 
  • Excellence is acceptance. Perfectionism is judgement. 
  • Excellence is encouraging. Perfectionism is criticising.”

(p. 357 – kindle book).

Another one, I might add from experience and I have seen before is –

  • Excellence is surrender. Perfectionism is consuming.


The Perfectionist and the Optimalist

In the book The Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar, Tal included a diagram showing the differences between The Perfectionist and the Optimalist (see below).

Tal indicated that perfectionists don’t have to exhibit all of these qualities or have these qualities the same in every situation. However, according to Ben-Shahar the more people “…exhibit these qualities the higher their susceptibility to a range of disorders, problems, and challenges associated to perfectionism.” (p.19).

The Perfectionist verses the Optimalist

By seeing these two diagrams and comparisons, I trust you can see why I have chosen excellence instead of perfectionism! Also – as a recovering perfectionist, I continue to learn these lessons every day, so it makes sense to include them in our values.


Inspiring Quotes on Excellence…

Here are a couple of inspiring quotes on perfectionism vs excellence to sum it up –

  • “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle
  • “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” ~ Michael J. Fox
  • “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” ~ Vince Lombardi
  • “If you’ll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your life.” ~ Unknown
  • “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” ~ Confucius
  • “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Over to You…

If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heartwhy not join our Toolkit?


References –

Ben-Shahar, T. (2009). The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life. USA: McGraw Hill.

Greenspon, T. (2012). Moving Past Perfect: How Perfectionism May Be Holding Back Your Kids (and You!) and What You Can Do About It. USA: Free Spirit Publishing.