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 yourself procrastinating, focusing only on your mistakes, or any other manifestation of your perfectionism is to ask yourself:
"Did I do my best?”
“What did I learn?”
“What will I do differently next time?”
If you didn't do your best, that's fine. It's just about being aware and noticing. There's so much we can learn from simply asking these questions and reflecting. This will help you learn from this perfectionism action (procrastination).
Other questions you can ask yourself when you notice perfectionism:
Why do I feel I need to be perfect with this specific action?
What will happen if this doesn’t go perfectly?
Separating yourself from the product or the work
When we're running a business, it's really easy to attach yourself to your work: the blog post you're writing, the class you're teaching, the course you're selling, the podcast episode you're recording.
This is a big one in my opinion. I’m not a therapist, so this is only coming from a place of experiencing this and seeing others do this as well.
"I need you to know that you are not your marketing. You are not your service. So if that thing does not work, my dear friend, you are not broken." - Amanda McKinney
When things don't go as you had hoped, you are not the problem. Most of the time (if not all of the time) there are other things happening. So we have to separate ourself from the offering, from the marketing, from the product.
For example, when you're launching a new offering, if you don’t sell as much as you thought, it’s easy to think “I’m not good enough."
Step back and say "this is something I'm trying." "This is something I'm exploring." Instead of saying "I am the problem" if it doesn't work.
There's a quote I love: “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” - Alexander Den Heijer
This is such a beautiful quote. I have never seen anyone yelling at a flower outside because it didn't grow properly. Instead, you look at the soil, and you think - did it rain a lot? Did it get enough water? Was the sun shining? You never blame the flower. My dear friend, you are the flower. You have an environment that may not have been perfect for what you were trying to create.
When we are fearful of not being perfect or at least seeming perfect, we are often very attached to the work or the outcome of the work. You have to separate yourself from the product or the thing you’re trying or else you could end up not making any progress at all.
If you need more help with this mindset shift, listen to episode #133 of the podcast: How to Deal with Negative or Limiting Thoughts as a Yoga Entrepreneur.
Be okay with failure
Here's the harsh reality: You WILL fail when you try new things. It's inevitable.
It's how we learned how to walk, it's how we learned how to talk, how to speak a second language, how to skip rope, anything we've ever learned. It's part of learning to fail.
I love this quote from Pat Flynn: “You have to be a disaster to become a master." How great is that? You have to mess up before you can get better at something.
Other quotes I love that help reframe failure:
“He refined success for me. Failure became not about the outcome but about me trying.”
- Sara Blakely
“Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” - Arianna Huffington
“Failure is success in progress.” - Albert Einstein
Overall, failure is part of the process. So unless you’re willing to stop the perfectionism, you will not succeed in your business.
You have to be a beginner when you're first starting! You have to try. You have to fall and get back up again. You will learn along the way. Yes, it sucks when you fall and it might be embarrassing too, but you know what’s worse? Not achieving what you really desire.
Is it really worth it?
Ask yourself what you truly want in your business and in your life.
If you really want it - not what others want but what YOU want - it will be worth it. It will be worth the falling, the possible embarrassment, the tears, and the doubt, because it’s what your heart desires.
Yes, I’m talking about business, but I’m really talking about whatever you’re going after in life.
Remember when you were certain you wanted to go to yoga teacher training? You figured out a way to pay for it, even though it was thousands of dollars.
Remember when you really wanted something new in your home and you sacrificed things to save the money to get it.
Remember when you really wanted to feel healthier in your body, so you pushed through the cravings until you now crave healthier foods.
When it’s what you really want, you find a way to work through the perfectionism and the hard stuff.
So ultimately it’s asking yourself: is this worth it?
If yes, move through perfectionism and go get it. If no, let it go and figure out what is worth it and go get that.
Your next step
Figure out what’s worth it for you and what you really want. Then commit to the affirmation of “Done is better than perfect” and get after what you really want in life and in your business.
Until next time, give yourself permission to go after what you want and grace along the way.
"So ultimately it’s asking yourself: is this worth it? If yes, move through perfectionism and go get it. If no, let it go and figure out what is worth it and go get that."
- Amanda McKinney
Resources from this episode:
VeryWell Mind Podcast, Episode #104 - 10 Signs You May Be a Perfectionist
Ready to take action and move through your perfectionism?
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