Done is better than perfect. Easy to say, hard to live it out.
I know this because I have to remind myself of this all the time, too. When we have high standards, it’s easy to get in our own way when it comes to achieving business and life goals. If you struggle with perfectionism, this conversation is for you.
We'll be digging into what perfectionism is, how to catch it and combat it, and how to focus on progress instead of perfection.
**This was also a podcast episode (episode #143. Use the player below if you'd prefer to listen to this message.
When I first sat down to think through this podcast episode, the first thing I did was look up the definition of perfectionism.
“Perfectionism is often defined as the need to be or appear to be perfect, or even to believe that it’s possible to achieve perfection.”
"Perfectionism is driven primarily by internal pressures, such as the desire to avoid failure or harsh judgment." - Psychology Today
What perfectionism can look like in our life:
Here's a list of things that can show up for me or that I've seen before:
Worried about what others are thinking or might think
Focusing only on the mistakes, what didn’t work, the negative comments, all the things that aren’t “perfect”
Focusing only on the RESULT and not recognizing the learning along the way and the progress you've made
Feeling like you need to do the right thing all the time and you can't mess up
Having incredibly (almost impossible to reach) high standards for yourself
How being disciplined and having high standards is different than perfectionism
You can expect amazing things from yourself but not “perfection."
Psychology Today says "Adaptive perfectionists desire growth, enjoy being challenged, and problem-solve well. Their perfectionistic tendencies are a strength, not a weakness."
I would add to this conversation the idea of a Growth Mindset versus a Fixed Mindset. Carol Dweck writes about this in her book “Mindset."
She talks about the difference between a Growth Mindset and a Fixed Mindset. When you enjoy a challenge and problem-solving, you don’t worry about not being perfect. You are aiming to achieve a goal but it’s not stopping you from making progress. This is a Growth Mindset and not a Fixed Mindset.
Progress over perfection
"Action leads to progress!" - Amanda McKinney
Action leads to progress, and I think we all agree that you want progress in your life and certainly in your business.
What stops progress is lack of action and that is often because of perfectionism. Instead of letting perfectionism stop you in your tracks, go forward into what you're doing without an attempt to reach perfection, but instead asking yourself: How can I take an action today that will get me one step closer to what I want to achieve?
The little things add up to the big things. Commit to the little things. It’s not the individual ingredients in a recipe that are fantastic but it’s the combination that makes it great. Just eating flour doesn’t taste like bread but if you add everything little ingredients together you can get delicious bread at the end of the process.
(I can't take credit for the baking bread analogy: It's from Ally Love on the VeryWell Mind Podcast with Amy Morin.)
If you focus on little steps towards progress instead of aiming for perfection, you will actually do better at achieving your goals in the long run.
"You have to take the little steps along the way." - Amanda McKinney
How to catch yourself and stop perfectionism
Noticing your perfectionism is half the battle!
Think about it this way: If you don’t know you're biting your nails, you can’t stop it but if you can start to notice “oh shoot, I’m biting my nails,” you can interrupt the pattern.
My suggestion: Take imperfect action as quickly as possible when you catch this.
For example, after you catch yourself biting your nails, sit on your hands or do something else with your hands to stop the action you want to stop.
Most often we will realize it later and think “Yep, I procrastinated today by scrolling Instagram instead of doing what I told myself I would get done today!" Instead of beating yourself up, take some imperfect action immediately. It's fine. You're doing great, just keep moving forward and make that progress.
Something else you can do when you catch you