I know I’ve written about this subject before but it keeps coming back to me. It’s probably because I keep struggling with it myself, and because I keep gaining more insights and more examples to illustrate the folly.
The folly? Thinking that I need to know EXACTLY how to do something PERFECTLY before I even started. If I don’t know how to be perfect at it, I can’t start.
Is the perfectionist in you alive and well, too? Do you hesitate for hours, days, months, or even years, to feel READY before you jump in? Maybe you never feel quite ready? And perhaps think that when you do [that thing you want to do], you’re going to get ‘caught out’ by someone, even though you really DO know the subject matter well? Or do you think “Who am I to do this?” Or “It’s not going to be perfect, it’s going to be judged and I’ll never survive the criticism?”
Oh man, you have my empathy.
A short diet story
Recently my husband and I embarked on a very healthy diet that helps to rapidly diminish inflammation in the body. With the inflammation that disappears, weight drops off, as do aches and pains, while energy levels soar and skin quality visibly improves. It’s remarkable.
It’s called the Perricone diet, and was developed by a dermatologist who observed the aging effect of inflammation on the skin.
We started this diet about 2 weeks before our holiday started. We knew we were going to indulge on our holiday, and wanted to drop a bit of weight beforehand, so we didn’t have to ROLL out of the car on our return. (Know the feeling?)
Awesome things happened to us, in a short 10 days. I kid you not, after 3 days we could see the difference in our face – less lines, and more ‘lifted’ features.
The remarkable changes are not the point of this post, though.
The point is the first few days were DIFFICULT – not because I had cravings (never had any); not because I missed coffee (not allowed on this diet). It was difficult because it took enormous effort to PREPARE the food!
No fast food on this diet… We had to prepare an omelette and big-flake oats every morning, with freshly chopped fruit like cantaloupe and berries. For lunch we had to have a large salad (with tinned fish like tuna or salmon) and fresh fruit. For dinner we had mountains of veggies, salmon and again, the fresh fruit.
The First Morning
Andrew needed take his healthy packed lunch to work. So the first morning in the kitchen, we were preparing both breakfast AND lunch. We ended up shouting at each other very impatiently. We didn’t have our rhythm yet and we kept bumping into each other, each trying to make decisions and put bits of food into containers. It was chaotic.
The second morning, we had a slightly better plan, because we had a bit more experience. We started earlier for one thing, and didn’t get so impatient with each other.
The third morning was a breeze compared to the first. I had started preparing the oats the previous night, by putting it into boiling water so it could soak overnight – and it had to be cooked only a few short minutes on the actual day. The whole prep process took us probably 10 minutes, instead of the anxious, stressful half an hour on the first day.
We’re still sticking to this diet around 90% of the time. It’s no longer stressful. In fact, it’s EASY and we almost look forward to the prep because we know how it’s increased our energy. We are still seeing benefits like dropping fat, feeling wonderful and KNOWING that our new habits will have long-lasting, good effects on us. The point?
We didn’t have a clue how to do all the prep ‘perfectly’ on the day we started. We really were completely unprepared for how much time we had to spend in the kitchen. We didn’t have a clear execution plan, and it felt very hard on the first 2 days.
And the good news is!!
It only took 2 days for it to start feeling easier, more in flow. We knew what to do, how to make it simpler (like pre-preparing food) and how to streamline our efforts.
Take Action and Refine
It’s often just not possible to have a perfect plan, a perfect way, and a perfect action when we embark on a new journey. We have to DIVE IN, take action, try things out, experiment, and find new strategies WHILE we are taking action.
We can REFINE our actions, rethink our strategies when we’ve gained experience, and do things simpler, easier and better.
Generally we cannot do that, unless we’ve jumped in, got our hands dirty and stumbled over things that didn’t seem to work the first time around. It’s hard to imagine how to do it better if we haven’t experienced a way that didn’t work too well.
We could’ve stopped on the first day and said “You know what? This is too hard. It takes too much time. We end up getting impatient with each other. Let’s stop. It’s difficult and we’re not perfect at it.”
Isn’t that what we often do with our projects and goals? We throw in the towel when it isn’t perfect on the first try. Or we think we ‘failed’ and say “Gee, won’t try that again!”
A healthier mindset
What if every single time we do something, we gain experience that we can use to refine our process and goal, and HOW we go about it?
What if it’s not about having it all perfectly planned before we start, but working towards excellence, improving and learning?
Is there something that you’re NOT starting because you’re afraid to do it with flaws, that it’s not going to be perfect, or that you’ll be criticised?
Is there a way that you could rather say:
“I have a learning and growing attitude. I wonder what I’m going to LEARN on my first few attempts, that I can use to improve on?. I wonder who I’m going to GROW into, on this new journey?. “
Many introverts I work with have a large dose of perfectionism and procrastination that stop them from taking action. They have very active minds (beautiful quality), and think things through SO carefully before they take action.
If this is you, I invite you to book a laser-focused “Tapping into Possibilities” coaching call with me. We’ll spend 20-30 minutes together, zone in on a troublesome spot, and find a strategy that will work for you so you can jump into action and start gaining experience.
Book here: www.savvyselfgrowth.com/mini-coaching and the offer is open until Monday 28 November.
Liesel helps sensitive introverts to see their sensitivity as a superpower, love their work and practice awesome self-care so they can be energized and make a difference in a meaningful and fulfilling way. She helps them to overcome the fear of being visible, avoiding the spotlight and conflict, being ‘too nice’, perfectionism and procrastination.
She’s the author of “No Problem. The Upside of Saying No”, which is a handbook for those who struggle to say no, are overwhelmed and exhausted.
Click here to read about the book.