Make Life Easier on Yourself by Accepting “Good Enough.” Don’t Pursue Perfection, Pursue Progress

Photo by danny howe on Unsplash

Becky Beaupre Gillespie once said, “Good enough is the new perfect.”

Stop chasing perfection.

Perfection suggests a state of flawlessness, without any defects.

To be perfect implies a condition where your action or performance attains a level of excellence that cannot be exceeded.

Voltaire once observed, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” In other words, instead of pushing yourself to an impossible “perfect,” and therefore getting nowhere, accept “good.”

Millions of people are obsessed with perfection.

This obsession makes it difficult to make a decision without wasting too much time analyzing every detail.

Seth Godin explains:

Perfect is the ideal defense mechanism, the work of Pressfield’s Resistance, the lizard brain giving you an out.
Perfect lets you stall, ask more questions, do more reviews, dumb it down, safe it up and generally avoid doing anything that might fail (or anything important).
You’re not in the perfect business. Stop pretending that’s what the world wants from you.
Truly perfect is becoming friendly with your imperfections on the way to doing something remarkable.

Perfection is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough, that we should keep try again, and again and again without getting to done.

In The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brené Brown says, “Perfectionism is not the same thing has striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”

Perfection is a moving target. It’s an illusion.

Done is better than perfect

The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists.

It rewards people who get things done.

Give yourself time in your life to wonder what’s possible and to make even the slightest moves in that direction.

You will screw up in the process of getting anything worthwhile done, but it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for making a mistake or making a wrong choice.

It will only lead to self-destructive behavior.

It’s okay to screw up as long as you are willing to try again.

Non- conformists and originals screw up a lot. But they move on, knowing that at some point, the breakthrough will happen.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, “No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it. (There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud.) At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is — if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart. Which is the entire point. Or should be.”

No matter how many mistakes you make, or how slow you progress, embracing good enough, and sharing your work is still better than everyone else who is waiting for flawless art.

Free yourself from the fear of mistakes

When you follow your own true north you create new opportunities, have different experiences and create a different life.

Don’t let the fear of making mistakes be greater than the excitement of getting things done and shipping.

Screwing up does not mean you will never, ever be successful. Trying and failing is better than doing nothing.

Making a mistake will not irreparably damage your credibility or reputation.

Remember, being completely terrible at something is the first step to being pretty darm good at it.

Heidi Grant Halvorson (Social psychologist at Columbia’s Motivation Science Center, speaker, contributor for HBR, Fast Company, Forbes, 99u and author of No One Understands You and What to do About it, recommendations the following steps to shifting your mindset, and freeing yourself from the fear of mistakes:

Step 1: Begin a new project by explicitly acknowledging what is difficult and unfamiliar, and accepting that you will need some time to really get a handle on it. You may make some mistakes, and that’s ok. That’s how ability works — it develops. (Repeat this to yourself as often as needed.)

Step 2: Reach out to others when you run into trouble. Too often, we hide our mistakes, rather than sharing them with those who could give us guidance. Mistakes don’t make you look foolish — but acting like you are a born expert on everything certainly, will.

Step 3: Try not to compare your own performance to other people’s (I know this is hard, but try.) Instead, compare your performance today to your performance last week, last month, or last year. You may make mistakes, you may not be perfect, but are you improving? That’s the only question that matters.

Don’t wait until your work is perfect

You can’t help it. It’s one of the biggest reasons most people can’t ship or launch anything meaningful…yet.

Creative professionals put so much pressure on themselves to create something that is 100% perfect.

But guess what, perfectionism is unreachable. Don’t wait until it’s perfect.

You may be doing it wrong, but at least you’re doing it.

And once you’re doing it, you have a chance to make it better.

Waiting for perfect means not starting at all.

Release and show your work when it’s good enough to be shared. You can always adapt, grow, and adjust along the way.

Progress is better than waiting for a perfect day to ship.

Don’t hold yourself back by telling yourself it’s not ready yet when you know it’s good enough to share and iterate.

You’ll learn more by doing than planning.

Creativity flourishes when you don’t seek perfection.

Focus on getting stuff done. Just do. Start. Move, make, create, ship, do.

“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well”, says Agatha Christie.

Just start. What you do matters, not what you think or plan.

Stop telling yourself your work is not good enough

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” — Henry Ford

Fear sucks.

It can range from mild to maddening to career-killing.

Most people can’t show their most amazing work to the rest of us because they fear criticism. They feel inadequate.

They are scared people will think it’s not good enough.

Others are living in their comfort zones because of fear.

You don’t act because you are afraid of too many things that could go wrong.

Don’t be afraid of the unknown, because everything is unknown.

Keep doing what you love, even if no one buys it, sponsors it or shares it. It matters that you show up and create.

You’ll suck at most things in the beginning. It takes time, persistence, and patience to create your most amazing work.

Every magic happens outside your safe zone.

Pursuing creative work comes with some level of discomfort.

That shouldn’t put you off.

And it shouldn’t take away your creative expression either.

The fear of failure never goes away. It can prevent you from putting yourself and your work out there.

Use fear to your advantage.

Ship and don’t look back

When you ship, momentum happens. You evolve.

Your creative processes gets better.

If you aspire to be a great writer, just start writing.

You can’t be an amazing artist if you don’t enjoy the intense process of sharing your work with the rest of us.

So if you don’t like writing, trying to become a famous writer might not be the best career choice.

Author Kurt Vonnegut says, “Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”

It’s so easy to focus on the results — the revenue and the outcomes of success.

It’s easy to sit around and read inspirational stories but that won’t prepare you for the career you want.

But the real world rewards those who ship. Those get work done. And not those who are perfect.

Start something you deeply care about and don’t look back. Don’t stop because it’s not perfect. Don’t stall because it’s not good enough to ship.

Shipping is the antidote to uncertainty, and fear of failure.

Paul Jun, author of Connect The Dots: Strategies and Meditations on Self-education encourages us to ship, and learn in the process.

He writes, “Shipped projects are essentially a reflection of how your skills and mind are evolving. Each project is a step up from the last. Your first project, say, is a level one — not so great. But as long as that project ships, as long as you learn from it and poured your heart into it, your next project can’t help but be better.”

You don’t need to be perfect to be successful, so don’t stress yourself, perfectionism often leads to micro-managing, procrastination, low productivity, depression, stress and anxiety.

Sometimes being a perfectionist can even prevent you from achieving your goals, so try to avoid obsessing over every little detail and focus on the bigger picture instead.

Pursuing progress allows you to celebrate each step that feels like an accomplishment, leading you to stack achievements as you grow.

Before you go…

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