Do you ever have that “stuck” feeling? You know that feeling you have when you have plenty of things you need to do and decide, but you don’t know where to start. Ugh, I hate that feeling.
I would describe myself as a “recovering perfectionist.” It was (and still is sometimes) a journey for me to recognize my unhealthy pursuit of perfection. I remember really confronting my perfectionism during my senior year of college when I got my first “B” in Microeconomics. That “B” was so good for me.
For years, I thought perfection was a prerequisite to progress. But, I’ve learned that perfectionism actually inhibits progress. The pursuit of perfection was paralyzing. It made me feel “stuck.”
I’m a researcher by nature. I love information. I love learning. All of these things are great, but when it comes to making a decision, oh my! I used to take forever to make decisions. I hated making decisions. What if I make the wrong one?!
I remember being pregnant with our first daughter and processing through all of the options when it comes to hospital, birthing center or home birth? Co-sleeping or her own room? Which car seat? Fully vaccinate, alternative schedule, no vaccines at all? And the list goes on. I had to consciously remind myself that there are no perfect decisions. I’m a black and white person, so this was hard for me.
But, I was okay with that and here is why—I learned to value progress above perfection.
Perfection is fleeting and unattainable. Progress is tangible, measurable, meaningful.
So, in my journey out of perfectionism and into the land of intentional progress, I’ve found a few things to be very helpful:
First, reflect on the truth that perfectionism inhibits progress.
The pursuit of perfection leads to paralysis, but seeking progress leads to purpose. Consciously decide to value your progress over perfection. Focusing on excellence is healthy; pursuing perfection is not.
Next, think of a situation in your life where you need to do/decide something.
If you’re overwhelmed, start by “brain dumping” all of the things you need to do/decide on a piece of paper and then pick the one that’s bothering you the most.
How can you make progress on that one thing today?
Maybe you don’t have time to complete the task, but you can start it. Progress is all about starting! It’s about doing something. If you really can’t start today, block some time off on your calendar this week. Blocking time off on your calendar to do the thing or have the conversations you need to have to make the decision prevents the sneaky friend of perfectionism (procrastination) from sneaking in and allowing you to make an excuse.
This was the hard one for me, because unless I knew I could do something perfectly or finish it today, I did not want to start it at all. But doing a little today is still better than doing nothing at all. And, I promise, the first step is the hardest.
Finish it well.
If not today, then pick a time and get it done. Make the things that are important to you a priority. If it’s important to you it’s probably because it’s something you value. Your values are important, so give them the time they deserve. And remember that focusing on excellence is healthy; pursuing perfection is not.
Let’s go take some ground and make some progress.