Excellence or Perfectionism – Which Spirit is Running the Show?

I love the competition. If you want me to succeed at something, just tell me what the standard is and I will try to beat it.

However, over the years, I recognize this character trait has become both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because it allows me to do things that I otherwise would not do. However, it can also send my ego into overdrive and cause me to do things with the wrong motive or heart.

It’s been an ongoing process of learning how to keep competition in its rightful place. The pursuit of excellence can quickly morph into a spirit of perfectionism if you’re not careful.

Knowing the difference will involve a constant checking in with yourself and a heart-to-heart questioning of your motives. Use these guidelines below to help you recognize if you’re operating out of a spirit of excellence of perfectionism.

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When you're operating out of a spirit of excellence you ...

  • set realistic expectations.
  • trust God to help you get things done.
  • focus on being YOUR best, not THE best.
  • view competition and challenges as a tool to help you, and not the goal in itself.
  • simplify your life because everything is filtered through the lens of God and not your own ego.
  • give yourself lots of grace when you mess up.
  • understand that you will not win every battle and you're okay with that.
  • see obstacles and setbacks as opportunities, not as a personal judgment against yourself.
  • focus on the process, not solely on the goal.
  • recognize that you need support and accountability and don't try to do it on your own.
  • can only be pursued in God's strength.

On the contrary, when you're operating out of a spirit of perfectionism you ...

  • set expectations of unrealistic standards.
  • procrastinate on getting things done.
  • don’t trust others to support you.
  • always feel like what you've done is not good enough.
  • are hyper-conscious of making mistakes.
  • always say, ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘ought to’, ‘have to’, ‘need to’.
  • suffer from extreme guilt.
  • sees things as black or white only.
  • waste a lot of time.
  • aim to be the best at everything you do regardless of what it is.
  • beat up on yourself.
  • do not like criticism.
  • are goal focused—not that interested in the process.
  • tend to procrastinate as the task can get overwhelming.
  • prone to depression and anxiety.
  • are emotionally guarded and don’t let walls down so you can have difficulty in relationships.
  • are pursued by your flesh and willpower.
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There's no doubt that competition can be beneficial. Shows like The Biggest Loser, The Amazing Race and, even, The Bachelor draw us into the excitement and thrill of competition. Even our wildly popular 21-Day Challenge is proof that challenges change us and push us out of our comfort zone.

But be careful when pursuing your goals. If you are a self-proclaimed perfectionist, begin to notice how it can keep you from achieving your goal and can keep you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

Pray for grace and ask the Holy Spirit to show you when your perfectionism is running the show. As you learn to get to the root of your perfectionism, it will start to be replaced with a spirit of excellence as you turn over your control to God. To get to the root of your perfectionism, be sure to check out our Weight Loss, God's Way Program.

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Taylor Catrice Downing
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Taylor Catrice Downing

Good Morning,
This is an excellent article. Just reading this article made me realize that I struggle with perfectionism not excellence and that I now want to pursue excellence. Thank You so much for this article and GOD bless you.