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Achieving Your Perfection

What is keeping you from creating?

Perfect is the enemy of good. What is perfect? Perfection is all the desirable elements and characteristics at the highest level of quality it can possibly be. A perfectionist would refuse anything that falls short of perfect. Setting high standards is great in the eyes of clients. Perfectionists typically give polished results and fewer changes proving their skills in organization, analysis and an extraordinary attention to detail. Perfectionists are fantastic, with the exception of one major thing; they tend to lose sight of the objective. When they are unhappy with the results they lean into a state of depression and sometimes analysis paralysis. Perfectionism is not the only thing that leads to analysis paralysis; overloading information and overthinking your options can also play a factor to just about anyone at any time.

Analysis paralysis prevents us from taking action with over thinking strategies and possibilities. We go into a state of paralysis when we have hundreds of creative ideas and cannot make a decision based on a small detail. We fail to reach the end or procrastinate on a long term project in fear that we will make a regrettable decision. Although perfectionists may be incapacitated by the possibility of making a mistake, their idea of perfection is elusive to everyone else. Perfection is subjective and slows down progress in achieving the main objective or deadline. Instead perfectionists must always be accurate, pushed by the fear of being perceived less than.

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain

One summer my dad and I were going to replace the siding on the house. His objective was to finish the siding by the end of summer. My dad took some time off of work and we tore down the old siding and got started; I remember he wanted to get his cuts just perfect. We had some false starts, spending a good portion of our time adjusting and modifying each cut. It seemed like it was going smoothly until the Summer ended and we were less than halfway finished. With the frustrations of not getting far, my dad's perfectionist mentality started to decline. That next Summer we were making more progress. We understood each other's expectations and prioritized what was essential. We were able to get it done right, without the nitty detail of perfection. We were able to finish the siding and paint the outside of the house before fall.

My dad wasn’t a perfectionist motivated by fear of what others thought of him; he was a master of his craft. He learned from his failures early in life and wanted to pass them on to me and my brother. Had he been afraid of making a mistake or what other people thought of him, he would have never reached his 10,000 hours of mastery. The consequences of putting siding on wrong could have resulted in wasting our time, money and potentially harm our health. He was an achiever of high standards of excellence and expected that of me and my brother. He wasn’t incapacitated by analysis paralysis. He knew what had to be done and set high expectations for someone learning at the master's feet. I learned a lot from my dad besides basic carpentry that Summer. What stuck with me the most is that there are perfectionists and there are achievers. He has taught me the difference between the two and I will carry that with me and pass it on.

You don't have to be perfect from start to finish because done is better than perfect.

What can we do when we find ourselves in this state of paralysis? We need to be in the present, and focus on the now, not the past or future. Prioritizing your ideas will help you make a decision, make a list of ideas and rate them on importance and impact. Determine a goal for the current idea. Maybe it's to get it done, in which case determine a route and that will be your goal. Don't overthink it, because next you will dice your goal into bite-size, actionable steps to free yourself from paralysis. Last but not least, set an arbitrary deadline. A little pressure could go a long way. Not all decisions are final. Instead of competing with others, compete with yourself. Which are you, a perfectionist or achiever?

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