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I have an adorable nephew who loves to draw — so much so that I receive a new piece of artwork from him at least once a month. He’s no Claude Monet, but I dig his drawings. I feel a sort of familial obligation to put them on my fridge.
After making a habit of this routine, I started to notice an interesting trend. He was making increasingly cohesive art. At first, I figured this was a natural byproduct of him growing up, but as it continued, I wondered if there wasn’t something more to it.
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When I finally asked him about his (nearly identical) drawings, he said, “These are the ones everyone likes best.”
His answer really made me think. He wanted to perform perfectly every time, and that desire ultimately stopped him from experimenting or trying new styles. The pressure of being exhibited on my fridge choked up his creativity.
In my house, we don’t overthink things anymore. “It doesn’t have to go on the fridge,” we say, and then let ourselves experiment. This simple statement reminds us of the importance of creativity and the necessity of making occasional mistakes.
Ready to take on perfectionism in your own life? Read on to learn the methods that helped me beat it once-and-for-all.
Map out the possibilities.
It’s natural to fear the unknown. When you think about it, there are an infinite number of ways you could potentially fail. As entrepreneurs, facing unfamiliar territory never really becomes comfortable, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming either.
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Sit down and write out your worst-case scenario. Write out the worst thing that could happen. Maybe your company fails and it ruins your reputation. Maybe your book doesn’t sell a single copy and your children starve. Dive into the horrors of what could happen.
Next, consider your best-case scenario: Your company is profitable from Day One, or your book sells out the week it releases. Get specific about what it looks and feels like.
Your outcome will probably fall somewhere in the middle of these two scenarios. Once you’ve explored the potential outcomes, it’s easier to feel confident moving forward. The unknown isn’t quite as unknown anymore.
Drop your nasty comparison habit.
Much like exercise, taking inspiration from others is a good habit, but it can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. Heroes can become nemeses if we aren’t able to see the full picture. Perfectionism turns our admiration for them into derision.
If you find yourself becoming a green-eyed monster, consider that we never really see the full picture when we look at our heroes. It’s easy to compare our failures with everyone else’s highlight reel. Social media compounds the problem. Everyone on LinkedIn is successful. Everyone on Instagram is beautiful. If you compare yourself with these fictitious super-selves, you’ll never develop any confidence.
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Comparing yourself to others is a terrible habit, but it’s a tricky one to give up. How do you avoid it?
For me, it’s through connection. When you find yourself admiring another person on a platform, reach out to him or her. Those that are worth learning from will get back to you and help you gain a greater understanding of how they’ve found success.
Invest the effort to meet your heroes in real life and spend time with them. The experience will be more valuable and you’ll be able to see them warts and all.
Utilize the power of delegation.
Sometimes, being an entrepreneur requires you to wear many hats — from sales manager to accountant. Although taking on these extra demands is important, it can quickly spell trouble if you stretch yourself too thin. If you end up juggling too many balls at once, chances are your company as a whole will suffer — you won’t be able to keep everything up in the air.
Even if you can successfully apply yourself to various areas of your business, it’s important to understand that this behavior will likely only be helpful for a specific amount of time. As your business grows, you’ll need to delegate the tasks that don’t play to your strengths to find the most growth.
At first, delegating these tasks may make you feel uncomfortable — it’s tough to admit you can’t do everything — but it’ll pay off in the long run. With others tackling the tasks you don’t excel at, you’ll free up your time to optimize crucial elements of your company.
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How is perfectionism holding you back?
The dangers of perfectionism are real, especially in entrepreneurship. When we strive for perfection, we often set ourselves up for failure. Luckily, not everything we do has to go on the fridge.
If we truly want to succeed — in life and business — we need to get real about the possibility of failure, choose the right mentors and understand that we don’t have to do it all to be successful.
I am what I am today because of my failures — and I’ve had a great career. Get creative and embrace occasional failure. The less you focus on perfection, the more you’ll find yourself succeeding.
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