Have you ever procrastinated on a decision or important task? Have you been paralyzed by the number of possible outcomes from that decision?
I have. I procrastinated a lot.
I had deadlines but still wasted a lot of time. I felt defeated and tired. The stress was really driving me crazy.
I managed to complete the work involved, but I knew I couldn’t keep up with this way of working.
One day, I noticed something interesting while playing video games.
I was playing an indie game called Don’t Starve, where the point is, you guessed it, to not starve to death.
You need to survive alone in a foreign land full of monsters. You have to manage your resources and be careful of the dark as the monsters can kill you if there is no light source. All while trying to survive as many in-game days as possible.
It’s a challenging game, and you learn by dying a lot. At first, I barely survived for a week, but with small improvements and learning from my mistakes, I managed to reach my first month.
I also noticed that I started setting my own goals within the game; not just surviving as long as possible but also trying to improve the quality of life of my character. I implemented new ideas and learned from either success or failure. Each in-game day I set out to do one task: explore, gather materials, improve my tiny base, etc.
And that’s where it dawned on me. I wasn’t afraid of failing at the game because the worst that could happen is that I had to start over. I was creating an environment for small incremental growth and success.
Armed with this knowledge and my journal, I started doing the same thing in my life. I set small goals that I could complete in just one day. I also permitted myself to fail; as long as I learned something, it was ok to make mistakes.
Soon, these ideas led me to what I define as Sustainable Growth: A framework to grow as an individual with small experiments that led to rapid success or failure, and constant learning.
This structure helped me overcome my perfectionism and procrastination because the stakes were pretty low and the feedback I got helped me grow.
As I have said before, perfectionism is just fear in disguise. Giving myself permission to fail quickly on a tiny scale (often I would be the only one there), gave me the confidence to push forward. It made the fear of failure far more manageable.
Also, the outcome of the experiment was smaller and more manageable. Even if it involved money, I was just using a small part of my income, something that I could recover in less than a week if I wanted. It removed a lot of the stress that I feel when losing something.
And the best part is that if the plan failed but the idea was solid, I could just revise the plan and rerun the experiment. This process saved a lot of my willpower as I was not trying to achieve tremendous results in a little time, the goal was just a tiny improvement.
My journal entries showed the results immediately. They were more positive and had clear learning experiences and ideas to overcome the challenges I was facing. And as a bonus, I got more things done in less time.
So how can you do this?
The first thing you need to do is just to throw away all those ideas of overnight success and instant results.
I noticed this was the most important part of the process. When you realize that nothing changes immediately, that it takes effort and learning, you can achieve your goals. It will take daily habits, and small increments.
That’s why I believe all impossible things consist of smaller possible things.
Take the time to notice how your significant achievements are comprised of smaller incremental victories. You faced challenges and made mistakes along the way but still prevailed.
And that leads me to the second most important thing: Give yourself permission to make mistakes and fail.
Remove all guilt from the process and recognize that a big part of learning is making mistakes. I’m not saying that you should purposefully make them, but be aware that they may happen and that they are only a problem if you don’t learn from them.
Focus on noticing what happens when you make a mistake. Do you beat yourself up? If so, stop. Apologize to yourself and learn from the experience. That way the error will help you grow.
These two steps are crucial. They are the pillars of what I now call Sustainable Growth. Take the time to internalize them and then in my next article I will tell you all about achieving small victories that will keep you motivated.