Home » Perfectionism is a Disease; Achievement is a Myth

They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their minds.” –Wilt Chamberlain

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This Week’s Practice

Combat Perfectionism

(1) Reflect on the following:

Perfectionism is a particular form of unhappiness; moreover, it is a myth that perfectionism leads to success.

• Do you see perfectionism as a problem for you? Your children?
• What do you do that might be fostering perfectionism?
• Do you value your children’s character over their achievements? If so, how do you communicate this to them?

If perfectionism is a problem for you or your children, script your change. What is the specific situation in which you tend to foster perfectionism? What will you do differently in that situation? What will you say?

(2) Practice “satisficing”: model it, teach it directly, and practice together.

Here are three simple steps for practicing saticficing:
1. Outline criteria the criteria for success. You might also want to set time limits with some kids (or for yourself).

2. Choose the first option that meets all of your criteria for success. This means truly stopping when those “finished” signs appear.

3. Focus on the positive aspects of the choice you made or project you completed. What worked out well? What do you like about it? Resist the temptation to think of what “might have been.”

Join the Discussion

• How do you communicate to your children that you value their character over their achievements?
• How do you feel about the idea that achievement is really a myth, that our accomplishments do not equate with our potential?

Suggested Reading This Week

Raising Happiness, pp. 55-57.


I also recommend the documentary “Race to Nowhere.”


Weekly Thoughts

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.” –Leonard Cohen

To escape criticism: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”–Elbert Hubbard



These are selected books and articles you may be interested in reading. For a full list of references, please see the notes section in the back of the book, Raising Happiness.

  • The best review of the science behind mind-sets, written for a general audience, is C. S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Pscyhology of Success (New York: Random House, 2006).

  • Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less (New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2004).
  • Clay Risen, “Quitting Can Be Good for You,” New York Times (December 19, 2007).
  • J. Loehr and T. Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement (New York: Free Press, 2003).
  • C. M. Mueller and C. S. Dweck, “Praise for Intelligence Can Undermine Shildren’s Motivation and Performance,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75, no. 1 (1998).
  • Julia K. Bowhm and Sonja Lyubomirsky, “Does Happiness Promote Career Success?” Journal of Career Assessment 16, no. 1 (2008).
  • Michael J. A. Howe, Jane W. Davidson, and John A, Sloboda, “Innate Talents: Reality of Myth?” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (1998).
  • K. A. Ericsson, R. T. Krampe, and C. Tesch-Romer, “The Role of Deliberate Practice in Acquisition of Expert Performance.” Psychological Review 100, no. 3 (1993).
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