For many years I saw myself as a perfectionist.
I wanted to do stuff better than the average joe. So I did my very best to do so.
While this can be good to some extend. It can one of the biggest procrastination issues. We all the know the feeling of how we would like to do something when the time is just right. It could be something like:
“Whenever I have achieved (Insert achievement), I will start a blog about it”
“When I have just gained a little more information about (insert a craft), then I will open my business of my dreams”
“When the (Insert investment) will hit that low. Then I will invest”
“When I have just saved (insert amount) $, I will go on that trip”
“I will say hi to that girl/boy when I have the perfect outfit on”
The truth is there will never be a perfect time to do anything. The most “perfect” time to execute on something, is this very day. Being a perfectionist is just an apology to postpone our dreams because of insecurity.
I deal with this myself. Writing on this blog is often terrifying. English is not my first language, and my vocabulary is far from perfect. But that doesn’t have to stop me, or you.
Trying to strive for imperfection can be a relieving feeling. The feeling of not have to do something perfect is awesome. It removes the inner voice in the head that says what we are doing is not good enough. Because that is what we are striving for. Things that aren’t perfect, but they are there. And they will do the job way better than something that doesn’t exist.
The Binary Mindset
Not that I’m a computer engineer, but what I do know is that computers operates in 0 and 1. Which mean either it does something, or it don’t.
This can be a healthy way to look at taking action.
To either do it. Or not.
Let’s imagine that you meet that cute person you have been thinking about the last month. And boom. Right next to you in the supermarket guess who is there? The cute person.
Now we want to take that binary mindset, and tell ourself to go from a 0 mode to a 1 mode. The trick is to forget the inner monkey mind who tells you all sort of weird things like you don’t have the right clothes on.
In this situation we could walk over to the person, and just say:
“Hi (Insert the person’s name)”
Now we have just went from the 0 to the 1, and our mission is accomplished.
The next time we hear this voice of doubt in our head. Acknowledge it. And then move on, and do something imperfect. Just do it. No matter how bad it is.
In fact. Try to do it bad. What our internal voice might think is bad, can probably do the job. And maybe even do a good job.
Perfection doesn’t exist.
Things can always be better.
Spending 60 minutes “perfecting” a 1 minute action doesn’t mean it will be 60 times better.
Far from it.
“This year I’m going to lose XX amount of kg, and I’m going to do it by eating well and run four times a week!”
Does that sentence sound familiar?
Way too often. We think that in order to do something, we need to take major action. Yes, taking huge steps toward our dreams will help us faster than small steps. But taking huge steps for a couple of months won’t take us anywhere.
That is where the perfectionist mindset about quantity comes in.
Let’s use me as an example. I could tell myself that in order for this blog to “succeed” I have to write at least 1000 words a day.
There is two reasons why this is bad for my progress on this blog:
- I’m setting myself a limit of 1000 words. Everyday I will sweat about those 1000 words. But whenever I hit that number. I will stop. “Man! Those 1000 words were hard to write. I better stop now”.
- When I don’t hit those 1000 words I’m going to feel bad. There is nothing wrong by setting ambitious daily goal. But going from 0 km/h to 200 km/h in no time. Is a bulletproof way of failing. And no one likes to “fail”.
What can we do instead?
Start being imperfect about what it takes.
Instead of telling myself I need to write a 1000 words, I can say:
“Just write 50 words everyday, if you feel like more, do it. If not, don’t”.
If we imagine taking action as floor and a ceiling. If we make big ambitious daily goals. We are more likely to create a ceiling for ourself. But if we make small daily goals we create a floor.
By focusing on the floor (small daily goals) the ceiling becomes infinite.
If I feel like writing 2000 words one day, good for me. But if I don’t feel like it the next day. I can just write my 50 words, clap myself on the shoulder and move on with a good gut feeling.
This can be applied to every area of our life.
If we want to eat healthier, we can just eat 1 piece of vegetable everyday. Forget about spending 30+ minutes everyday on shopping and cooking those salads. Maybe some days we will. And maybe it will be so life changing, that it doesn’t feel like a burden anymore. It is just a habit.
Or if we want to exercise more. Just run for 1 minute or take the stairs. Don’t even think about that you have to change to the sporty outfit. Just do a tiny thing. Maybe when we start to do so. It feels kind of nice, so that one day we feel like changing for to the sporty outfit and run for 30 minutes.
It can also be applied to investing and early retirement. Yes we would like to have +50 % savings rate. But just start with 5 %. That is what I did.
The beauty about taking small steps everyday is that we adapt. Running for 1 minute everyday ends up being super easy to do. Suddenly we will find ourselves running for 10 minutes, and that might end up being easy to.
Plus it is very rewarding to make progress everyday. Even small ones.
It will make us feel like doing more, instead of beating ourself up not accomplishing the big glamorous goals.
Almost 10 years down the road as an elite athlete I have seen a very clear pattern of the athletes who is world-class, and the ones who are not. And what the world-class athletes has is consistency.
We will do way better in any area of our lives by showing up at 95 % each day, rather than going 105 % when we kind of feel like it.