Striving for Perfection Hinders Learning

Striving for perfection, rather than for continual improvement, leaves children and students reluctant to admit mistakes or apologize when in the wrong.

Believe it or not, but a common manifestation of perfectionism is that students stop learning; they simply give up. Perfectionism becomes so tyrannical that students develop anxiety attacks. This leads to the thinking pattern that they cannot perform or engage in the activity because they will not be good enough. The next stage is total paralysis.

Adults should foster failure as feedback. Failing is a natural outcome of trying, and it is a great teacher. That is, it can be if the choice is to learn from it rather than be crushed by it. The adult’s message to the  youngster, therefore, is to emphasize that experiences—including learning—should be viewed as processes and as information, not as weapons for self-punishment. This positive mindset breeds a willingness to experiment, to try, to risk. This is extremely important since improvement only comes with practice. Especially at the early stages of learning, “Implement now; perfect later!” should be our mantra.