Chapter 5

The Lesson of Diminishing Returns

Learn to Analyze Your Effort

The Seduction: “More Is Better”

Consider the following scenario: Bob goes to his doctor for his physical shortly after his 40th birthday. The doctor tells Bob that although he's generally healthy, they should discuss Bob's family history of cardiovascular disease. “What is an easy, preventive step I can take to minimize the chances of heart problems?” Bob asks. His doctor points out that there is some accumulating evidence that having a glass of red wine with dinner each night has been shown to help reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. Bob really likes this idea and decides to follow up on his doctor's suggestion that very evening. He returns a year later for his annual physical and tells the doctor, “I liked the glass of wine with dinner so much that I am up to a couple of bottles of wine each day now.” The doctor then decides to send Bob to rehab.

Although this example is clearly exaggerated, it does speak to a core principle that many individuals with perfectionism share: If a little of something is good, then more of it must be better. Think of the cases in which your belief in “more is better” has held true: The more time you spent on a document or presentation, the better it was; the more time you spent learning that new software program, the more efficient you were in the long run; the more time you spent with a client, the better the relationship was and the happier the client ...

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