Put your hand up in the air if you’re a perfectionist!
At one point in my life, my hand would have been raised in the air – high in the air.
I was definitely a perfectionist until I realized how being a perfectionist was actually holding me back from being as successful as I could be in my work as an international business coach.
I wrote this article in hopes that you don’t let this happen to you.
Perfectionist behavior is a tough topic. So many of us are passionate about what we do. We want to be the best that we can be, make the best things that we can make and give the best part of us that we can give.
Set Up to Fail
Heck, many of us wear the term “perfectionist” like a badge of honor! But what you may not realize is that when perfection is your goal, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
I know, it seems like the opposite, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t being perfect guarantee that you succeed? After all, you’ve done everything right.
You’ve dotted every i, crossed every t, and then probably painted that entire page with a colorful mural, you overachiever you. Of course we all want things to be perfect in our businesses and our lives. But does that always happen?
Not necessarily. Real life is messy. Real life is accidentally dotting the t and crossing the i, and then getting dots of blue paint on your brand-new dress. And when you spend all of your time trying to get it right, you’re actually doing it wrong.
The Joy of Finishing
You’re keeping yourself from the things you can learn along the way. You’re keeping yourself paralyzed in one place instead of moving forward. You’re keeping yourself from the joy of FINISHING IT already.
We all make mistakes sometimes, but no matter what, you have to keep taking action.
- Even if it’s imperfect.
- Even if it’s a disaster, actually.
- Even if it’s hands-down the worst you’ve ever done.
Mistakes are what help us grow. Mistakes are how we learn.
Seeking perfection also doesn’t allow for some of the greatest discoveries and lessons. If we don’t give ourselves a little breathing room for the unknown, we may never stumble upon the ideas that could boost our business in a whole new way.
Perfection Doesn’t Make the Maps
Do you remember learning about the great explorers throughout history in school? The ones who set sail to continents unknown, having only visions of what they would find there?
The ones who discovered never-before-seen wild animals and weather patterns and geography that made their very hearts stop beating in their chests for a few tremendous moments? The ones who MADE the maps, not followed them?
Do you think at any point they were striving for perfection? Or were they so immersed in the unknown and the thrill of the ride that the very concept of perfection was laughable? I suspect the latter.
I was reflecting on explorers on a recent trip to Istanbul with my daughter, Jasmine. One evening, Jasmine and I were having a fabulous time peeking into the different shops and markets in Istanbul, holding the artisan goods in our hands and taking in the scents of the city.
Well, we took one too many twists and about five too many turns and wound up completely and utterly confused, far away from our hotel.
It would have been tempting to freak out, flag down the nearest person and make frantic gestures until they pointed us back in the right direction. But we didn’t. We simply went with it.
And a funny thing happened — we somehow ended up safe and sound, right back where we started. And along the way, we found some things we never would have seen if we had stayed on the “right” street the entire walk.
Was the walk perfect? Not when compared to what our plans were. But did it evolve in a perfect way? Absolutely.
My mother used to bring home these paint-by-number sets. Remember those? They were great. You essentially had an entire picture in front of you with the instructions on how to make it yourself. It was perfect.
But the problem is, when you stay on those dots, you always know what you’re going to get. Isn’t it more fun to go outside the lines a bit and see what you can create? Doesn’t that add an entirely new dimension of life to your artwork?
Exploration is the same way. Sure, someone could hand you the complete step-by-step instructions to your entire existence when you’re a tiny tot, but then what excitement would there be in waking up every day?
Getting Lost Leads to New Ideas
As entrepreneurs, we build these elaborate road maps in our heads of what our perfect business should look like:
- A list of 10,000 people
- A social media following of 5,000
- Sixty percent conversion rates on every sales page
- Six figures in my first year of business
- Land a show on Oprah’s network
And what happens when you think you should achieve these things and don’t? Or you achieve them, but because you achieved them in a less-than-perfect, roundabout, unplanned for way, you barely congratulate yourself.
You beat yourself up. But life isn’t a track, and you’re not a train! Perfect doesn’t exist. Life is messy. Life is unpredictable.
Getting lost leads to new ideas, space and creativity. Get off the railroad, and allow yourself the freedom to go wherever you choose.
So if you feel “off track” right now, let it be. Be gentle and kind with yourself and see what comes of it. If feeling less than perfect makes you scared, dig a little deeper into what’s behind it.
Give yourself the time to explore. Your business deserves it. You deserve it. Know that it’s part of life’s adventure, and let it guide you for a change. Then channel the explorers of years gone by, and march forward one imperfect, off-the-beaten-path step at a time.
(Photo by Ryan McGuire/ CC BY)