Have you ever tried to take action, such as writing a book, quitting your job, or moving to a new city but you couldn’t get yourself to move forward? What was holding you back? In my experience it is perfectionism. You want everything to be in order before you take action. Everything must be planned out and all of your bases covered. The problem with this type of thinking is that nothing will ever be perfect. There will always be unknowns and you must start on your path to get anywhere in life.
Perfectionism is something that I have dealt with my entire life. I used to wear it as a badge of honor, believing that the only way I could be happy with myself was if I was perfect but perfection is an illusion. I believed that failing at something meant I was a failure. If I wasn’t the best, then I was the first loser. I had a strong need to “win” every argument. After a lot of work, I now realize these beliefs are false and do not allow for growth as a person. While I do believe there are some positives to being a perfectionist: hard-working, driven, and attention to detail, the negatives outweigh the positives in the long run. Perfectionism drove me to need to control everything and made it very easy for me to get stressed out and blow up from time to time.
While I still struggle with perfectionism, the following changes in my thinking helped me move forward.
1. Perfectionism is just fear in different clothes.
It is fear that causes us to worry what other people will think if we aren’t perfect. It keeps us from taking action that will move us towards achieving our goals. There is not a perfect time to put your work out in the world, there will always be flaws. If perfectionism is holding you back, like it did for me, take action and begin moving forward.
2. We are all a work in progress.
We are all beginners at some point. When you listen to podcasts from the likes of Tim Ferriss or Joe Rogan it is easy to think they’ve always had great interview skills. This is not the case. I am sure both of them were very unsure of the work they were putting out when they first began. When you begin a new journey in life there will be many ups and downs along the way. Don’t worry if you think your work is sub-par at first, put it out in the world and then put something else out. Every time you take action your work will improve. You will begin to figure out your path and before you know it, you will be an old pro. Just keep moving forward.
3.You can come back from any setback or failure.
In 1914, Thomas Edison’s factory burned down after a massive explosion. Edison’s life work was in the building. He lost everything. He was 67 at the time. The next day he commented to his son, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” No matter what happens in your life, as long as you’re still alive you have the chance for redemption. Every failure that you believe is tragic will be a faint memory years down the road as long as you don’t quit.
Don’t let fear hold you back. Perfectionism is not a badge of honor to wear or a higher standard that you hold yourself to. It is the fear of making mistakes, being judged, and rejected. We are ever evolving beings progressing on an upward path in life. Taking action is the number one thing you need to do to move forward. Don’t get stuck worrying that everything isn’t perfectly planned out. No matter what happens in life, unless you’re dead there is always a chance for redemption. Learn to love the cycles of life and enjoy the journey.