At some point in our lives, we have all wanted to be perfect at the things we love. However, perfection is an illusion holding you back from success. Today we’ll focus on how chasing perfection causes paralysis when making decisions. I won’t leave you empty-handed though, we’ll finish off with 3 ways to overcome this mentality.
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Chasing perfection before you start
If I just wait till everything is perfect, then I can start. Every single time I start a new project, this thought pops into my head. The way I see it, at the beginning of a task, there are endless possibilities. So many things that need to be done perfectly. This overload of choice leads to what psychologists call analysis paralysis.
It often comes about because of the illusion of perfection in our minds. We have already envisioned the perfect outcome, and so we adopt an all-or-nothing mentality. If I can’t get to the point of perfection, then why even bother putting the effort in?
My experience with perfectionism and analysis paralysis
The most recent example of this happening to me, was when I decided to create this blog. I had hundreds of blog post ideas and design themes. The problem was that these ideas never amounted to anything. They were all stuck in my head as I could never make a decision.
Do I pick a red background or a plain white background? What font would go well with that background? How often do I need to post on the blog? Do I need to post the same amount on social media? Can I really do this? The thought of having to make all these decisions terrified me.
So, I procrastinated. The weather isn’t looking great today, I’ll start next week. I’d take any excuse to avoid taking action. Why? I originally thought that it was because I was simply lazy. But it goes deeper than that.
See, growing up, I lived in a household where being perfect was rewarded. If you got good grades, then you were given more freedom to do whatever you wanted. If you didn’t, well that was a different story. To put it simply, you were shamed. Not overtly enough to be abusive, but subtly enough to leave an impression.
As a result, I learned very early on that perfection equalled being of a higher value. Anything short of that was a complete failure. There was no in-between, and so my fear of failure was born. As an adult now, this fear never really went away. In fact, to this day, I still hesitate to begin new projects because I’m terrified of the implications of failure. So what am I doing to deal with this?
3 ways to overcome analysis paralysis
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize.
If the desire to be perfect is keeping you from starting a task then you need to simplify the process. Ask yourself. What are the core things that need to get done? Let’s try an exercise.
- Take a piece of paper.
- Note that 10 important tasks.
- Reduce the tasks on that list to 5.
- Then reduce it further to 3.
It’s such a simple task, yet incredibly effective. It shows you what is truly important. For this blog, my 3 core tasks were to pick a topic to write about, choose a domain name and buy website hosting. All mammoth tasks to be completed but I eliminated tasks such as choosing the right font as it simply wasn’t a big enough priority.
Time waits for no one. I believe setting hard deadlines for yourself is a good way to spur you into action. However, the key to making this work is to be realistic.
I’m going to write 10,000 quality words in the next 6 hours. Impossible. When you set unrealistic expectations like this, you’re more likely to experience even more anxiety because you’ve set yourself up to fail.
Instead, take an honest look at yourself. What have you done in the past? Under what conditions were you the most successful? Once you have a good understanding of your work patterns, then you can set attainable deadlines.
Get comfortable with failure
Perfection is an illusion we create to distract ourselves from the real issue. The fear of failure. We’re so desperate to appear successful to the world that we won’t risk starting something new if it has the potential to fail. We care way too much what our friends will think. What our partners will think. What our parents will think..
So, how do we change that? Change our perspective on failure. Everyone fails. However, what makes a failure meaningful is how we choose to react to it. There are so many famous people in history that failed multiple times. However, what turned that failure into a success was the fact that they never gave up.
My favorite example is the Wright brothers. They had countless failed attempts at creating aircrafts before they finally got it right. Each time they failed, they made minor improvements to their work.
If they had decided to never test out their aircrafts, they would never have found out what needed to improve. Their failures were a fundamental part of their success. They realized that failure was never the end, it was simply the beginning of change.
If you’re curious to know how well you cope with failure, then I’d recommend taking this short quiz!
It took me a long time to realize that perfection is an illusion. I was never going to meet the unrealistic standards I set for myself. It’s fine to start a project not being 100% sure you’ll succeed. You don’t have to be 100% healed from a past relationship to get into a new one. Starting now is better than never starting.
So what do you think? Is perfection an illusion? Do you think it’s even possible to achieve it? Do you hesitate before starting new projects? Let me know in the comments below. I’m curious!
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