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Perfection, Performance
Monday, April 25, 2005

I'm pretty sure I've seen this before, but Robert Strandh has a nice answer to a perennial question:

But why do people deliberately waste time when there are much more efficient ways of working? This is a very good question. In fact, it is such a good question that I decided to ask a good friend of mine, Lisa Feldman Barrett, who is professor of psychology at one of the top universities on the east coast of the USA. What she told me was ... that (with respect to this phenomenon) people can be roughly divided into two categories that she called perfection-oriented and performance-oriented.

[P]erfection-oriented [people]have a natural intellectual curiosity. They are constantly searching for better ways of doing things, new methods, new tools. They search for perfection, but they take pleasure in the search itself, knowing perfectly well that perfection can not be accomplished. To the people in this category, failure is a normal part of the strive for perfection. ...

[P]erformance-oriented [people] on the contrary, do not at all strive for perfection. Instead they have a need to achieve performance immediately. Such performance leaves no time for intellectual curiosity. Instead, techniques already known to them must be applied to solve problems. To these people, failure is a disaster whose sole feature is to harm instant performance ...

As Strandh points out, people can be oriented differently in different areas of their lives.

I can think of several people whose behavior this generalization helps explain and as Yoda said, "Explaining leads to understanding. Understanding leads to compassion and compassion leads to hope."


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