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Thomas Curran — Embracing the Power of “Good Enough”

The Perfection Trap: Embracing the Power of Good Enough (book cover)

Today, burnout and depression are at record levels, driven by a combination of intense workplace competition, oppressively ubiquitous social media encouraging comparisons with others, the quest for elite credentials, and helicopter parenting. Society continually broadcasts the need to want more, and to be perfect.

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” —anonymous

“Perfection is man’s ultimate illusion. It simply doesn’t exist in the universe. If you are a perfectionist, you are guarantee to be a loser in whatever you do.” —David Burns

Shermer and Curran discuss:

  • Curran’s own perfectionism and how that led him to research perfection
  • “What’s your biggest weakness?” “My perfectionism”
  • What is perfection? Is he measuring perfection or something else?
  • operational definitions of perfection and related subjects
  • The Big Five Personality Scale (OCEAN) and where perfection falls in it
  • perfection, goals, meritocracy, high standards, and conscientiousness
  • self-oriented vs. other-oriented vs. socially prescribed perfectionism
  • examples of perfectionism: Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Lance Armstrong
  • the origins of perfectionism: nature/nurture, Judith Rich Harris, Karen Horney
  • personal consequences of perfectionism
  • social consequences of perfectionism
  • social media and perfectionism
  • TED talks and perfectionism
  • education, Operation Varsity Blues
  • success, happiness, meaningfulness
  • economics of perfectionism: income inequality, UBI, GDP, growth economy, supply-side economics
  • aports analogy with the economy: end competition? No! Smart rules & regulations.
  • helicopter parenting & coddling: perfectionism or generational differences
  • generational differences in perfectionism & Jean Twenge.

Thomas Curran is a professor of psychology at the London School of Economics and author of a landmark study that the BBC hailed as “the first to compare perfectionism across generations.” His TED talk on perfectionism has received more than three million views. His research has been featured in media ranging from the Harvard Business Review to New Scientist to CNN and he has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. He is the author of The Perfection Trap: Embracing the Power of Good Enough.

About the Book

Gathering a wide range of contemporary evidence, London School of Economics psychology professor Thomas Curran calls for both introspection and broader, societal change. He shows what we can do as individuals to resist the modern-day pressure to be perfect, and in so doing, win for ourselves a more purposeful and contented life.

The Perfection Trap is for anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by the soul-crushing need to not just compete but compete to a level beyond reason. In place of an ever-moving treadmill, it offers the relief of letting go to focus on what matters most.

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This episode was released on August 15, 2023.

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