Hi everyone. I’m Alex, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.
If I don’t keep an eye on myself, I will just stay focused on a tiny irrelevant detail for an insane amount of time.
But, perfectionism is just a term to hide the harsh truth behind it. I was a serial procrastinator filled with fear.
I used to read countless productivity blogs and constantly search for the next trick that could allow me to create the life I wanted. Now I see that it was just a waste of time and a way to procrastinate and avoid doing real work.
I meticulously planned all my business moves and took into account every possible detail I could. I was waiting for the perfect timing. Terrified to make a single mistake that would bring down everything.
Of course, all those plans went to waste when life pushed me to take action because of some tight deadline. I had to just run with my gut and sometimes with just a half baked plan.
And, you know what? I made a huge amount of mistakes over the years, but none of them caused lasting harm to me or my business. In fact, some helped me grow as a professional.
It was my monkey mind playing tricks. There was no terrible thing waiting to happen. Just experiences to be had.
Perfectionism dragged me down so I couldn’t create a life that aligned with my values. And it’s terrifying to see the same problem happening to my friends and clients.
We, as humans, tend to postpone the important decisions because we are afraid of the result. We often disguise it in some way, but the right word for it is procrastination.
We just tackle all those other things that aren’t important just to stay busy (or in a worst case, entertained). This behavior keeps us down, far away from achieving our goals.
But here is the worst part: When perfectionism and procrastination ally, we enter a cycle of productive paralysis. We get the feeling that we are moving towards our dreams when we are just stagnant.
In this terrible cycle, you come up with a fantastic goal or idea. Immediately you start planning and researching how to execute it; then you hit your first roadblock, a challenge of some sort.
You turn towards research again, and carefully revise your plan to avoid this obstacle. All good so far.
The problem starts when you find the second challenge and go back into research. And the cycle continues endlessly. Consuming all your energy and willpower until you simply can’t execute on your idea and you just give up.
That cycle is where all goals and dreams go to die.
Take a minute to reflect how many times you have fallen into it. It may not be for your business or career, but how about all those hobbies or skills you have always wanted to pursue?
So, you may be asking yourself: How do I get out of it? Is there some miracle cure?
It’s not a miracle, and it’s not fancy at all. In fact, it’s quite simple but requires effort and willpower.
I call it, sustainable growth. The idea is to grow slowly in a sustainable fashion over time, with short periods of research followed by short periods of execution and review.
It’s the same principle behind Iterative Design.
To keep it short and easy. Instead of endless research looking for the perfect solution, we apply what George S. Patton used to say:
“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
George S. Patton
The idea is to come up with a decent plan, and execute it immediately. Period.
But, what about failure?
Failure is not the end of the world; it’s a powerful learning tool that you can use to refine your plan. One small failure takes less time and can lead you to greater success than a full year of endless research with no action.
You shouldn’t fear failure; you should embrace the idea that failing is just a part of the process. You can’t grow and learn without making some mistakes along the way.
I know this is a lot to take in and I will explore failure and organic growth more in depth in following articles but for now, keep your eyes open to this endless research loop.
Take note of every instance where you start researching because you are afraid to take action. Don’t worry about changing it right now, just take notes.
I lost precious time because of this vicious cycle, and I don’t want anyone else being paralyzed by it. In my next article, I will tell you how I overcame it and started building a life I love.