Friday, November 4, 2011

How To Cure The Disease Of Perfectionism

I wanted to talk about perfectionism and how it can be a roadblock to getting things done. I personally think that perfectionism is a roadblock to accomplishing greater things in my life. This is because I have set a high standard for myself throughout my life and others have come to expect it from me. What it does though is teach you that if you can't do it perfectly, you don't want to do it. It's a form of avoiding failure.

For me it started when I was in eighth grade. I had a math teacher who stated in class that it wasn't possible to get an "A+" in math. I asked him why not. He explained that the reason you couldn't do it was because you would have to get every problem correct and not miss a point. I remember specifically telling him that I thought it could be done and I backed that up with doing it in his class that specific year.

While I don't think this had much of an impact on his life, it did on mine. From that point on, I decided that I was going to get an "A+" in every math class from that point forward and managed to do it in the classes that followed. In each type of math from algebra, geometry, trigonometry to calculus, I scored an "A+".

I derived a lot of satisfaction from mastering these math classes and I guess that you could say that it was first taste of being a black belt master at something.

I think  that we should approach everything that we do with perfection in mind. Doing it perfectly should be the goal.

But in having perfection as a goal there are two problems that are created. The first is that if I don't think I can do it perfectly, I sometimes delay doing it. It's a form of procrastination. The second thing is that if I don't do it perfectly, I might beat myself up if I fail to reach perfection.

It's the first problem that affects me the most. I wasn't really aware that the second problem existed until I saw my son get mad if he failed at doing things perfectly the first time. I don't tend to be hard on myself if I fail at perfection. Failure to me is a step towards perfection in my opinion.

Mastering anything is really just about practice and study and an attention to detail. And you learn more from doing things wrong than doing them right every time. There's a benefit to reviewing mistakes and correcting them. It teaches you not to make the same mistake twice.

Perfectionism is only a problem for me if it breeds inaction. The cure for that it is to take action.

I have that problem sometimes with this site. Sometimes I avoid working on it because I want to write the perfect article. If I feel I don't have time to write the perfect article, then I won't write it pure and simple.

In particular on this site, I have set the bar high. People that have visited and signed up as a white belt have the expectation that they will achieve mastery at some point. That is the message I am delivering. That is the goal of this site.

Now I could have not set up the site until I had it perfect. With all the content and instruction all in place. I chose not to do that so that people could see an "idea" go from its conception to final product. The part in between is what you seeing now. It's me writing out my thought process on a daily basis as I fine tune it and move it to perfection.

For me, that's how I battle my issues with perfectionism. I start taking action. I get something started. I don't worry about if it's perfect the first go around.

What happens then is that I notice once I start getting things moving, my brain starts working. I starts generating ideas on how to do things better. I think it does this because action gets the brain going. And eventual perfection is a by product of that.

Start taking action today.

Member Update:

I started a private Facebook group for Black Belt Project followers. It's a private group. To join, go to, please like the page and then post on my wall that you want to be a member of the group and I'll add you. I'll use the group for informal discussions and updates. I notice that more people use Facebook than Twitter to follow stuff like that and it makes sense to do that. It will start out small but I encourage you to let me know you want to be in it.


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Michael Kuhn

Black Belt Project: Build Mental Strength


Your article is very good. It had me think of my own life. That is why things set around in clutter , because I wan it perfect. For example my walk in closet. Because my shoes are not the way I want them they just stay in a pile. Instead if just putting then neat till the day comes I can do them the way it like them.

I think it's a very common problem. Excellent comment. Shoe in for comment of the day;P. I appreciate you taking the time to say some nice things as well.