Sometime in your life someone, a parent, teacher, coach, or friend, told you something like ‘whatever is worth doing is worth doing well’. Since then, has the prospect of taking on challenges paralyzed you and stopped you from doing your best, even though you were aiming for perfection? Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why the noble goal of wanting to do well feels so awful to try and achieve? Maybe you attached the wrong meaning to that well-meaning advice.
One meaning of the above advice could be ‘don’t even try unless you think you’re going to do it absolutely correctly’. That kind of thinking has stopped a lot of people in their tracks. It goes against how we’re naturally wired. Think about it. You probably don’t remember how many times you fell when you learned to walk as a child. Maybe you have some idea of how many times you skinned a knee when you learned to ride a bike when you were a little older. How many times did you fail the driver’s test before you got your license? When you think about it, the idea of doing most things perfectly the first time is absurd.
Maybe the advice you got about doing well meant that you should make a plan before you get started. That’s a good thing unless you plan so much that you never get started because the fear that you’re not going to do it perfectly stops you.
Perhaps that sage advice means ‘go for it’. What have you got to lose. Once you’ve made your plan, the best next step is to do something – anything – toward your goal. No matter how well you have planned, one of two things will happen on your way to the goal you’ve set for yourself. Either you’ll go off course and have to correct to get back on track, or your plan will not have accounted for something beyond your control.
So go for it. Perfection is a noble goal. None of us will ever achieve it except Jesus Christ, so make your best plan, take your best shot, and go for it. Enjoy the ride. Feel your fear of being perfect melt. Keep score. Play a game with yourself to see how many good things you can do. Forget keeping score of how many wrong answers you got, how many opportunities you’ve missed, how many times you forgot to take care of something you meant to do.
A funny thing will happen on your way to avoiding perfectionism. You’ll become more perfect.