Perfectionism: Good or Bad?
Most of my life I’ve been wanting to do something as good as I could because my name was tied to it’s quality. The better and well put together the project, the better I looked. So becoming a Perfectionist wasn’t too hard for me. In fact, for many years I thought being a perfectionist was a compliment.
However, as time went on, I came to realize that being a perfectionist was an excuse. That if you boiled it down, I wanted to be certain of getting desired outcome before even trying to make an attempt at that outcome.
One of the things that first hit me when I was in grad school was this idea that perfectionism could actually be a bad thing. That making sure that something you produced was good enough for you. That everything was perfect.
In grad school, they talked about how there were PhD candidates that would be so involved with having a perfect dissertation that they’d miss their defense date and not graduate for another semester.
That is a stark difference than what I had seen in my undergrad days or even before – when I was rushing to get things “done” and turning them in on time. It was hard for me to believe that people could miss deadlines by trying to be perfect – because wasn’t meeting that deadline part of being perfect?
Perspectives of Perfectionism
Afraid of Being Wrong
As I think back, though, I remember one time after I had taken a salsa dance lesson. I had learned a new move and wanted to try some things out with a friend. However, because I was too imperfect in my mind, I was afraid to even be on the dance floor. I couldn’t do what I came to do. It was torture.
Sometimes the hard part is starting. Sometimes it’s finishing.
In the creative life, it’s been said that as a creator you’ll always find something that needs to be touched up on. Whether that’s a speech, a painting, or a video, you’re never going to be truly satisfied. You’ll need to find out how to say “Well, that’s good enough”.
Simply accept that no one is perfect and neither should their work be.
Failure, the Twin of Success
Without failure, we can’t learn. I know, I know. School and Corporate America would tell you otherwise. The thing is, though, is that failure is necessary for growth. Have you ever heard the saying “If I’m not failing, I’m not trying?” Here’s another perspective for you. If you’re not trying, you’re not doing what you’re meant to do. Which means, if you’re not failing you’re not doing what you’re meant to do. Which is worse? Failing or doing what’s meaningful to you?
Tactics to Overcome Perfectionism
I recently saw this quote graphic on Facebook:
Setting priorities is key. If we stretch ourselves too thin, we’ll be creating opportunities for our perfectionism to get the best of us. When you focus on one thing at a time, you’ll have a high likelihood to get that one thing done. Make sure you realize how much time you’ll need and set realistic time aside accordingly.
I recently posted about my weekly scheduling routine in this post. Weekly scheduling does a couple of things. First, it takes those priorities you just listed and gives them mini-deadlines in a given week. Deadlines are important because setting them and meeting them helps you get to your next priority.
Scheduling, especially with an app like Google Calendar, also gives you a mini-time line and helps you keep track of things you’re going to be doing.
How Do You Eat An Elephant? One Bite at a Time.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself continually hitting a wall when you’re trying to do a project during a certain amount of time. That’s when you know that you’ll need to cut your projects into smaller components. An example might be doing a project for school.
When I was doing my major projects for school, including my senior design project and my thesis, there were milestones that were set for me. As a creative doing our own thing, we need to be able to figure out what those milestones are on our own. If your shooting to get 10 things done in a week and you’ve fallen short, try getting 2 done and see how long that takes.
Fire, aim, ready. Repeat.
In the world of engineering, we’re taught to measure twice and cut once. Be as efficient as possible. However, that can really kill you as a creative. Why? As an engineer we have parameters that we have to build something in. On the other hand, as a creative, we have little to no parameters – other than those we set for ourselves. So the easiest way to figure out what those parameters are is to just fire, see what the bullet hits (if anything), and then adjust accordingly. Then try again.
In the end…
The trick to fighting Perfectionism is to not fear or dread doing your projects.
You still have to get them done. However, Just Do-ing It might involve being a little strategic.
Take back control.
Get your stuff out there and see the difference in the world you can make!