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Can being an Optimalist cure perfectionism?

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The latin root for optimal is “optimum”, which means “best”.

There’s a very big difference between making something into the best it can be, and making it “perfect”.

People often pursue perfection thinking that they are making something the best it can be,  but in their mind the best equals perfection.

And so they pursue, and pursue, and never consider something complete, because their definition of what is the best is skewed by the desire for perfection.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to get something to the best point you can. But there are usually so many outside factors that come into play that perfection becomes a fool’s errand.

It is distracting, discouraging, and delays the result you will eventually come to: nothing is perfect.

Shifting into the camp of an optimalist releases the need for perfectionism. You can think of being an optimalist as a caretaker. Your job is to support whatever it is you are trying to help get to its best version, whether that’s a relationship or a hobby or a work project.

The perfectionist smothers its object of focus in judgement continually, looking for everything that is wrong and needs to be perfected.

The optimalist focuses not on the perceived deficiencies of the object, but focuses on where they can create support to make the thing even better.

By the way, I was inspired to write this after reading an email from Brian Johnson, creator of In his email he references the book The Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar. Tal is the one who coined the phrase Optimalist.

I think it’s a brilliant way of recognizing the human desire to optimize things, but separate it out from the often destructive, or at least paralyzing force of perfectionism.

So ask yourself: where can I stop using perfectionism (negative judgement) and start using optimalism (intentional support for the betterment of something)?


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