Perfectionism Is Killing Your Progress
May 3, 2016
The dictionary says perfectionism is defined as "A personal standard, attitude or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less."
But I'd like to offer you a different definition. Perfectionism is also the biggest barrier to creative expression and personal growth. In fact, it is little more than fear masked as the desire to be great.
Yes, I said it.
Don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer in raising the bar and pushing ourselves to live our best life. But the first step to becoming "perfect" lies in the understanding and acceptance that we are all imperfect. Therefore, our work will be imperfect too. That's a pill that most of us are hesitant to swallow. So instead, we use our perfectionism as an excuse to not start.
I see this issue come up with clients who won't write the book that they've always dreamed of out of fear the first draft will suck. Some are afraid to take the next step in a relationship because it's just not "perfect." They hold off on transitioning to a career that they have always thought about. Why? The timing just "isn't right." I have had radio clients who were afraid to apply for a dream job because they were just two breaks short of a "perfect" aircheck. They tell me they aren't "ready."
Even in my life, I've used perfectionism as a way to self-sabotage. You would be amazed at how long I can put off writing this column each week because I have a general concept in my head but won't start writing until it feels "perfect." I have delayed a new digital content strategy for my business longer than I care to admit because I'm afraid that it won't be "good enough." I had to fight through my feelings of perfectionism just to launch my business in the first place. The control freak part of me felt as if everything had to be in perfect order with a known outcome before I could begin.
Yet, every single worthwhile endeavor in the history of mankind was started by embracing the unknown. Any person who has created something that changed the world felt the fear of not knowing the outcome, but took a step forward anyway.
If you do a Google search, you can actually find the first drafts of several Oscar winning screenplays. What was in the terrible early draft didn't make it to the final product, but it was the seed from where the finished product could grow from. The writers had to give themselves permission to be imperfect before they could move forward. By the way, even after winning many awards, some of those pieces of work were still imperfect in some small way.
The Wright Brothers first attempt at flight only went 180 feet and lifted 10 feet off the ground. In fact, their local newspaper refused to cover the event because they felt the accomplishment wasn't "significant." Imagine how difficult travel would be for us today if Orville and Wilbur didn't' have the courage to see their imperfections as progress towards a much bigger goal.
You don't need to become smarter to get started. You don't need to wait for the timing to be perfect. You don't need to be more than what you are.
All that is required is a willingness to start. You will have to correct your course along the way when you make mistakes. Those "mistakes" are actually learning opportunities where you will expand your knowledge and skill set. You will try again and be better. You will feel the joy that comes from actually taking action and making progress. You will reach your destination. And it still won't be "perfect."
And that's perfectly fine.
I am happy to announce that I am now available for speaking engagements and to lead creative seminars for your company or organization. I approach my seminars the same way I approach my private coaching... with content specifically tailored to fit your group's needs. Does your station need a shot of creative inspiration? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can discuss how I can best serve your business.