I Am a Perfectionist (And You Are Probably One Too)

I am not a perfectionist.

At least that's what I thought.

If you asked me about it, I would have told you something clever (smart🌜ssy) like, ‘I’m not a perfectionist. I’m an exceptionalist’ or ‘I’m after excellence, not perfection’.  But if I'm being honest with myself, is there a big difference between the two?

It’s easy for Perfectionism to mask itself as many things, including excellence and fear. Without a clear definition of what excellence means to you, Perfectionism can turn your good intentions into impossible goals.

 

Perfectionism masked as excellence:

'Oh, sure, I’m working on a music album, but right now my songs still need a little polish..'

 

Perfectionism masked as Fear:

'Oh I can't start a _________ (business, app, blog, book, ) I don't know enough yet..'

 

Perfectionism masked as Indecisiveness:

'Yeah right now I’m writing a book, but it needs a lot of work, so hopefully, I’ll have it finished within a year or so..'

 

Perfectionism masked as Distraction:

'I bet I can write 1 blog a day, release three podcast episodes a week, work on my novel, exercise, practice guitar every day, pishh no problem'

...

I could go on and on. Perfectionism can disguise itself and become a substitute for what we actually want.

Perfectionism isn't something we are, its something we do.

It's a habit we fall into that distracts, befuddles, and limits us from our goals.

 

In his new book Finish, Jon Acuff talks about how goals tend to grow into perfection monsters. Our goals get bigger, complicated and have impossible timeless. All in the name of hustle, right?

You don’t  just want to run a 5K, You’ve gotta go big and run a marathon. (Even when you haven’t run a day in your life!) Sure you could write a book, but what if you wrote a five-book part series instead, wouldn’t that be better.

The problem, of course, isn’t the lofty goals, but our expectation attached to those goals. We expect to do more, and when we don’t have immediate results, we get bummed out and quit.

This insight really hit home with me. I tend to create huge goals and have big dreams for myself, but when days, weeks, months go by, and it seems like I’m still thousands of miles away from where I want to be, I feel discouraged.

One solution Jon suggests is to cut your goals in half.

I know myself — I'm always going to think BOLD and go after the biggest, baddest goals I can dream up. But instead of focusing on the entire goal all at once, why not cut the goal in half and focus in on a small portion that I can do without feeling overwhelmed.

Cutting your goals in half gives you perspective on what you can do next.

A goal like 'I will writing a book' has no edges you can grasp onto. It's infinite, timeless, and impossible to completely wrap your head around. 'I will write one crappy page a day' has edges and it's easy to grasp. You know what you have to do and it doesn't have to be perfect.

Tim Ferriss and Neil Strauss have talked about something similar. Focus on a small goal for the day that seems tackle-able.

Write one blog post, or fix one bug. Once you blow past that goal, you’ll be ready to hit another. Don't just floss — aim to floss only one tooth. It's so ridiculously small to do, that you'll go and floss all your teeth anyway.

 

Q: How can you take your goals and cut them in half into bite-sized executable tasks?

— Keep Pursuing,

Josh Waggoner

Note: This post was intentional written imperfectly. :)