Done is better than perfect! With that sentence in mind, I would like to kick off this new blog post. We live in a time and age in which the combination of productivity and exposure are at the core of any business or personal endeavor. But one of the most common challenges that come with it is actually that of exposure. I believe that one of the primary reasons most people today rarely start or finish anything is because they’re stuck in the trap of perfectionism.
With this article, I want to show you how perfectionism is almost in any instance a downfall, which can easily be overcome. So without further ado, let’s get right into it…
Ain’t such a thing as perfect
For a long time I was someone that would try to get everything done as perfect as possible. Somehow, I bought into the myth that if my creations didn’t live up to a perfect standard, the world would think of them as garbage. Fortunately, I’ve come a long way since then, and what I’ve learnt is that there ain’t such a thing as perfect. It doesn’t matter how well you do your job, there will always be room for improvement. Having that in mind, you can see that no matter how high you set the bar, if you’re a perfectionist, the result will never be good enough.
Think about all the creations that have been made throughout history and ask yourself, “How many of these creations would have been revealed to the world if the sole purpose of the creator had been to get it perfect?” If you ask me, I’d say probably none. Even the most brilliant work of art could surely have been improved with one touch less or more, but, ironically enough, you would never look at someone else its creation that way. Neither would any of the great historical artists, because if they did, their work would not have been revealed in the first place.
See, a true creator understands that even greatness is never flawless. That is to say, human creations—no matter how great—will always be flawed, and not revealing your creation to the world because of this goes directly against everything that makes it human.
Insecurity in disguise
When we tell ourselves and others that we’re perfectionists, we’re actually telling the world that we’re insecure about whatever it is we’re trying to create. We perceive our creations as an extension of ourselves, and so if our work isn’t “good enough” then neither are we. Put differently, perfectionism is nothing but a concealed state of fear, in most instances the fear of being judged or rejected. This is also the reason why most of us have a mental closet filled with unfinished projects. We start out with a blank canvas, but as we start stroking the brush and tapping more into the unknown realms of our creative imagination, we start becoming more and more concerned with the final result.
Basically, it all comes down to our expectations, whether it’s the expectations we have of ourselves, deriving from our internal desire to be perfect, or our need to live up to other people’s expectations, also known as socially prescribed perfectionism. Regardless of which one is more applicable to you, they both come from a place of “I am not good enough” and should be addressed accordingly. But we’ll get into that in a minute.
Good output will outlast perfect input
By now, I hope you understand that “doing things perfect” is a subjective matter and that perfectionism can lead to massive procrastination. Take this blog post, for instance. If I wanted to, I could have written for you a hundred blog posts on this exact same topic and published the one I liked the most. But what difference would it make? Some might argue that it would significantly increase my probability of publishing a blog post that would be grammatically more correct and contextually more coherent—but compared to what?
See, I rather have you reading this specific blog article over any other article that might be better in my head right now, because it’s this one on your screen that will actually transmit my message to you. What’s more, whenever I am writing an article, I don’t focus on getting each sentence as perfect as possible. Instead, I focus on creating a general structure and then start adding layers to it, word by word, passage by passage. Once I finish this process, I start rereading and rewriting until I get it right—not perfect, but right.
See, the more we tend to focus on getting things perfect, the less likely we are to eventually be able to share our results. So, instead, try focusing on getting things right by learning how to asses when an outcome is ‘good enough’ to put out it there, as opposed to dwelling on it for eternity. The world doesn’t care about your perfect little ideas, it cares about output. So, next time, remember this: real progress is not made by getting things perfect, but by getting things done! Got it?!
The comparison trap
I already slightly touched upon this in my previous paragraph when I asked, “Compared to what?’’ the truth is that the only comparison that matters is you versus you, but, even more specifically, you today versus you yesterday, not you today versus you tomorrow. That battle has yet to be fought. Personally, I find it very helpful to remind myself that there is no point in comparing oneself to an avatar that has yet to be invented. When you look at it like that, a comparison with your future self will all of a sudden seem awfully naïve (as it should).
Inversely, a comparison with your past self will allow you to identify the areas that might still need some improvement. Because, although I just mentioned that you should focus on output, you should definitely also focus on delivering the highest quality feasible, but just not in the way most people think. See, whereas most folks would argue that “Good output will outlast perfect input” and “Quality over quantity” are mutually exclusive, I actually believe that this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. The trick is to learn how to balance on the break-even point.
Yes, you should focus on creating quality output, but at the same time remember that there is a whole development process involved, and that it is okay to slip up or to not have things perfect from the get go. By keeping this in the back of your mind, you will unburden yourself from the resistance that is holding you back from getting things done. Trust me, it is better to assume that, from now on, your first 1000 blog articles will suck, as will your first 1000 videos, songs, paintings, sales attempts, knitting-works, or anything else you’re trying to accomplish (you get the picture, right?). This is not to say that you have to lower your standards. If anything, you are raising your standards by removing the mental barriers that are currently holding you back from finishing your projects in the first place. So, once again, the only comparison that matters from now on is you today versus you yesterday.
Perfectionism is the rival of execution. I think that much is clear by now. Luckily, I can tell you that it doesn’t have to be a permanent state. All it requires is a small shift in your way of perceiving the world, which I hope you managed to accomplish after reading through this article. Remember, you’re not a robot, but a human being who will inevitably make many more mistakes. I guess that’s what makes us human in the first place, right? So, next time, understand that the beauty of any creation lies in the very fact that it can never be perfect to begin with, and let this be the reason for you to share your magnificence with the world.