Why Imperfect Progress Helps Pummel Your Perfectionism


Anything in life worth doing at all is worth doing poorly, until you learn how to do it well.
-Zig Ziglar

Perfectionism wreaks so much havoc in our lives. At work we fail to take action on an issue or challenge because none of the solutions offered are without some negative consequence. We resist learning a new skill because we aren’t “good at it” the first time, or worse yet, we’re afraid to show our mistakes to others.

If your perfectionist tendencies are serving as a mental and physical roadblock to moving forward in some area of your life, stop and reflect on the phrase “imperfect progress.” You’ll find it has a tremendous way of reshaping the way you think about doing something new or in a different way. Here’s why:

It reduces the pressure.
Just asking yourself, “How can I make imperfect progress with ________________?” (insert current situation where perfectionism is holding you back) gives you permission to make mistakes. You’re more comfortable taking small steps because the goal is not getting something exactly right… it’s simply moving forward. Then, as the days and weeks of imperfect progress add up, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.

It creates a more positive learning environment.
Think about the energy you had to learn and try new things when you were a child. Even if you failed, your teacher or coach (if they weren’t a perfectionist) reminded you of where you had made progress on learning the new skill. As we get older, we often lose that love of learning because we feel pressure (from ourselves and/or others) to excel at it the first time. Imperfect progress reminds us of how we best learn a new skill… by trying it to get feedback on where we are, and then making changes to improve the outcome the next time we try it.

It inspires others which inspires you to keep going.
When you’re willing to try something new, make mistakes, and then share your journey with others, you’ll find that it helps them find the motivation to move beyond their perfectionist tendencies. Watching their willingness to make imperfect progress serves to reinforce your own decision that you made the right choice.

Where do you need to use the idea of imperfect progress to move forward?

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