I don't know whether you've ever suffered from "paralysis by analysis," or observed someone who has, but it's not a pretty sight! From the gut-wrenching process of trying to make decisions, to chronic procrastination and wanting to have everything perfectly aligned before getting a project started, I struggled terribly with perfectionism.
That is until I became a full-time writer.
In Anne Lamott’s ground-breaking book on writing, Bird by Bird, she says the only way to get anything written is to write really, really crappy first drafts.
I think the same philosophy holds true in anything you do, personal or business. Before you can get good at something, you have to be bad – or least far from perfect.
"…whether it’s building a business or planning a family: you will never have all your ducks in a row."
It Will Never Be the Right Time or Be Perfectly Finished
In case you haven't already discovered this, let me tell you — whether it’s building a business or planning a family: you will never have all your ducks in a row. If ducks don't do it for you, think about trying to herd cats.
A few years ago, one of my mentors told me, "Karen, sometimes good is good enough." Whew! That’s not at all what I learned from my parents but you have no idea how liberating that advice was. I'm guessing that if you're reading this article, your idea of ‘good enough’ is probably most others' perception of ‘perfect.’ As the saying goes, we're often our own worst critic.
Whether you are working on your business or writing, just getting one new idea implemented — imperfectly —will always produce better results than not getting started until the conditions are perfect.
ACTION Always Trumps PERFECTION
This is because thoughts create feelings, feelings create action, action produces results, and results (positive or negative) help you gain more confidence. Action is really the only part of the equation you can control. It's difficult to control your thoughts and feelings and it's impossible to control the results, but you can 100 percent control your actions. Isn't that great news?
Do you ever wonder why people who do things that might not be up to your standards seem to have thriving businesses and actually have more fun while doing it? I used to look at these people and think to myself (please forgive the lack of modesty here) I could do that way better than her! Or, what does she have that I don't? How come I'm pushing so hard and not getting half the results she is?
The Answer Is In the Question
Often we're pushing so hard to do it exactly right that we do exactly nothing —zero — nada. So, guess what results we're going to get? It's all about taking action.
Your Assignment Should You Choose to Accept It:
1. Implement the '72-hour Rule.’ What great idea have you had recently (perhaps from a networking event or a seminar) that you heard about more than 72 hours ago and haven't yet implemented? If it was important enough for you to make a written or mental note of it, it’s something you should take action on, so make it a point to implement just one good idea in the next 72 hours. Don't analyze or over-think it; just do it!
2. Finish something. What project have you started this year, that if you got it finished — even imperfectly — would move you forward? Instead of being overwhelmed by so many great ideas and not knowing where to start, just pick one (or one aspect of it) and run with it. Give yourself an 'unrealistic' time line and resolve to finish and implement it by that date no matter what!
3. Start to exercise your 'perfection muscle.' Just like any other muscle, your perfection muscle will cramp or atrophy with lack of use. I love a great line from author, Geneen Roth, "…awareness is learning to keep yourself company. And then learn to be more compassionate company, as if you were somebody you are fond of and wish to encourage."
Watch your self-talk. Are you replaying old tapes in your head like, "I never finish anything," or "If anyone can mess this up, I can"?
One of my favorite speakers and writers, Lisa Nichols, calls this "changing the conversation." Imagine you have a CD player in your head. The next time that you're listening to your negative self-talk, actually take your index finger and press the left side of your forehead, as if to stop the negative CD from playing, and then press the right side of your forehead to start playing the more empowering one. I know what you're thinking, but I do it all the time, and it works!
I’ll leave you with the most recent advice I received personally from best-selling author, Diana Gabaldon. “Number one, finish the book. Number two, do the best that you can.”
Finish your task or project and just do the best that you can!
Former CEO of the Global Institute of Small Business Marketing, Karen Dodd is writer-in-residence at Latent-Literati.com, a blog for those who consider themselves empty-nesters, late-bloomers, or finally have time to explore their interest in writing. Her mission is to support, inspire and share insights so that latent writers don’t live one more day with their “music” still in them. Avid readers are welcome too!