The Secret to Ending Perfection Paralysis

February 6, 2017

A year ago, when I decided to begin writing my book The 5 Second Rule, I held incredibly high standards for myself. I was convinced the only way my book would be a success is if it were perfect. As in the greatest thing ever written. No exceptions.

In my honest desire to create something special, I foolishly fell into the trap of perfection paralysis. Perhaps you’ve experienced this, too.

Perfection paralysis is a trick your mind plays on you in an attempt to keep you safe. Whenever you are about to put a piece of yourself into the world (say by starting a new business or asking someone out on a date) you form an idea of it in your mind first.

When I began writing my book, I pictured myself sitting at my kitchen table with ideas pouring out perfectly onto the blank page. I saw myself enjoying and loving every moment of the writing process and writing every waking moment of my day. I envisioned a flawless manuscript that was received with only glowing reviews and praise from fans.

It was all perfect in my mind, which caused problems. Real life isn’t perfect. There were times when I would sit at my kitchen table and the ideas wouldn’t come. There were some days when I didn’t want to write at all. When I started sharing my first draft manuscript with people I respected, it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine.

Related: 5 Ways Perfectionism Is Getting in Your Way

My dreams of literary perfection came crashing to a halt and so did my progress on the book. In fact, I rewrote it from scratch, twice. I felt miserable.

It wasn’t until my business partner told me there has probably never been a book released without an error that I recognized where I had gone wrong.

Her comment reminded me of an important principle from the science of systems and software design: the good-enough principle. The principle states that most consumers will use products that are good enough, even if there are more technically advanced options available to them.

This means that in most areas of life, good enough really is good enough. True success is progress toward goals that matter to you.

When you strive for perfection, you are bound to fail, and this can lead to even more self-criticism, turning your mind into your enemy. It’s no wonder perfectionism is linked to numerous negative health effects, including higher rates of anxiety, depression, unhappiness and eating disorders. One study shows perfectionists are 51 percent more likely to die at an earlier age.

By calling on the good-enough principle to reframe your perspective, you are giving yourself permission to fail. Trust me: You’ll fail at something along the way. It is only when the pressure of perfection has been removed that you can tap into your inner genius and do your best work.

Next time you find yourself stalling out on an important project, suffering from writer’s block or avoiding asking your cute co-worker out to dinner, remember the good-enough principle, and give yourself permission to try.

Related: What to Do When You Feel Stuck

 

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

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