“Some of us (perfectionists, especially) fuss so much over making the ‘right’ choice, but in life, all that’s really needed is to make ‘any’ choice, believe in it, go through with it and accept the consequences.” – Anonymous
Okay, I’ll admit it, “My name is Thérèse, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.” If you relate but are not quite on the road to recovery read on.
Perfectionism is often shrouded in pretty words like “detail oriented”, “meticulous”, and “conscientious”. These words are even used on our resumes to impress prospective employers.
Growing up I was all three and some. And in a past life, I’ve spent countless hours going over the minute details of the various projects I’ve worked on that often never saw the light of day.
You may be thinking, “Big deal.” or “I could think of worse, and besides isn’t being a perfectionist a good thing?” And my answer is YES, going over the minute details has its pluses, however most of us use perfection as an excuse not to share our unique gifts with the world. The need to be perfect is often what sabotages our deepest hopes and most sacred dreams. And guess what? Those dreams were put in our hearts for a reason. How do I know? I know because no two people’s dreams are ever the same. They may be similar but they are never identical.
So Where Does the Need to be Perfect Come From?
Growing up most of us looked to our parents or a parental figure for approval. At a young age we learned what was right about us and what is not so right. It wasn’t our parent’s fault, they simply wanted us to be accepted by the world.
Your parents were the same people who you drew barely recognizable stick figures of in kindergarten then you’d run home to share it with them. And of course they proudly hung that stick figure masterpiece on the fridge so friends and relatives who’d visit could ooh and ahh.
At that age no one could tell you you were the next Van Gogh because you were already Picasso. “Van who?”, you would have probably said. Your creations were prized possessions not only for your loved ones but also for yourself. However, somewhere along the way that all changed.
At some point your stick figure drawings became labeled as “lack of creative talent” and you may have started saying “I can’t draw.” Your parents no longer hung those drawings on the fridge. That was the day many of us packed up our crayons and focused on what we were told or believed we were good at. That was also the day that we started to color within the lines.
Coloring Within The Lines
So now here you are all grown up coloring within the lines of your life because that was the way you were taught. Unfortunately, unlike the child you once were that accepted all your paintings as masterpieces you now separate everything into categories – the good and the not so good. And maybe even those creations that are labeled as “good” will never be perfect in your eyes.
But the question is how much work will your creation need to be perfect? We’ve all heard countless stories of people who took their brilliant ideas and masterpieces to their grave. Masterpieces that often were worked on for a lifetime. I like to call those– Never Ending Finishing Touch Projects or NEFTPs. For a fortunate few their work was discovered after their death but many weren’t quite as lucky. But really who wants to wait until they die? Do you?
Ask yourself how many of your NEFTPs have collected dust because so much time was spent on it being perfect and it never was. So frustration probably kicked in and your neftp ended up among old composition books. And besides, what is perfect anyway? Since perfection can mean different things to different people is it even real or merely a point of view?
Our neftps are our brainchildren and like real children (the ones that must be fed healthy food) must one day be ushered out of our “safe” homes to face the real world in order to thrive and be well adjusted. Also like real children, our brainchildren must also be fed or they will decay. They must see the light of day and endure the rain and it is in the rain that they will grow the most.
So, how did I go from being a perfectionist to writing blog posts that have in fine print typos welcome? I can assure you it wasn’t an easy road but it is a much MUCH more fun one. Every now and then the perfection monster rears it imperfect head but there are ways to deal with her.
Now that’s out the way let’s get down to the nitty gritty and set your imperfect neftps free.
“Out of perfection nothing can be made. Every process involves breaking something up.” – Joseph Campbell
How To Set Your NEFTPs Free:
Step 1: Pick Your Brainchild.
You know what it is for you. If you have multiple projects, scripts or the like that have been decaying pick one of them. Your immediate thought may be “I can’t.” or “Which one?” Realize that these are simply more delay tactics set up by your ego whose sole intent is to protect you from rejection and keep you safe. So let’s ignore those thoughts and keep going.
So what was the first project that came to mind? Pick that one. Simply trust that’s what you are supposed to work on. Now move on to Step 2.
For those of you who still can’t pick a project. Do the following exercise:
1. Take out a sheet of paper and cut it into pieces. If you are stuck between 2 projects cut the piece of paper in 2 pieces, 5 projects = 5 pieces, 10 projects = 10 pieces and so on.
2. Write down each project on a piece of paper. Then fold each of the individual squares and put them in a cup, shoebox, or whatever you have handy that can hold scraps of paper. Shake it up.
3. Say this to yourself: “I trust that the first piece of paper that I choose is the project that I am to put my focus on at this time for my highest good.” Repeat three times. Why three? I love the number three and believe that signs (at least in my life) comes to me in threes.
4. Close your eyes reach your hand in and pick one. Open it. Yes, you have the right now. Don’t doubt it. Time to move to step 2.
Step 2: Set a Deadline.
Now that you’ve picked your perfect imperfect project. Pick a date where you will launch this project. If it’s a book that you have that’s half finished, how many pages do you have left? If it’s 50, can you commit to writing two pages over the next twenty-five days to complete it? If not, what are you able to commit to? Maybe it’s one page or even 10 pages. Regardless, make a commitment.
If your project is ready to be launched or needs minor tweaking write down the next steps you need to take. The key is to write down the immediate step(s) you must take.
Since this is something that you may have been hiding for a while I say pick a date as soon as possible. How do you know you’ve picked the perfect date? If you feel slightly uncomfortable and your sweat pockets are saying hello world, you’ve got the right date. The key is that the date close enough that you feel you’ve got to get to work but not far enough away that you’re considering a beach vacation.
Step 3: Partner with a Friend.
This is one of the best and most effective tools. You and your friend will hold one another accountable for meeting your deadline. Set up a time to speak to one another for a brief check in, in other words not longer than 5 minutes. And note this is not a complaining or griping session, but one that ensures you are completing your daily task. I’ve done this with friends of mine for years and I can tell you it’s hard to tell someone day after day you haven’t done what you said you were going to. If your friend has a project they are working on even better. Either way get a partner and get on with it. Get it?
Step 4: Share it with the World.
So soon? Technically, if you have been sitting on this baby for a long time there is no such thing as too soon. Your brainchild is gasping for air. Don’t let thoughts of it being too soon or not having enough money stop you. Those are simply excuses. If you don’t have money to rent a space try doing it at home or a friend’s house. If it’s a business idea begin with your family and friends. Set up a page on Facebook. Barter, exchange your services do whatever you need to do so that your baby gets oxygen it desperately needs.
Step 5: Celebrate.
This is something you will actually be doing along the way. You launched your Twitter page? Celebrate! You wrote or edited two pages. Celebrate! You sold to your first customer. Celebrate! Yes, you deserve it. Just like when your parents proudly displayed your stick figure drawings. Celebrate because you are finally allowing your neftps to shine as the masterpieces they are.
There are no limits or boundaries to what we can be or achieve, except the ones we place on ourselves.
“Were I to await perfection, my book (in my case this blog post) would never be finished.” – Chinese Proverb
Please take a moment to let me know what neftps you are setting free. What is the immediate step you will take today?
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