How (and why) to overcome perfectionism

confidence consistency content creation getting started mindset Jul 18, 2023

What keeps us stuck?  What prevents us from getting ahead with the development of our online platforms?  In many cases, it’s perfectionism.  We’ve convinced ourselves that we need to create the perfect product before we launch it out into the world.  But that’s a waste of time because there is no perfect product.  In fact, I’m convinced that this issue is one of the major problems keeping people from gaining traction with what they’re building.

Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about.

Not long ago, I received a message from a friend of mine who has a platform dedicated to personal development.  He’s someone with a lot of wisdom and insight.  I also consider him to be a compassionate person who isn’t dismissive of other’s problems.

A while back, he started writing a book.  Truth be told, I figured that book would be finished by now, but it isn’t.  Apparently, he stopped writing it because he’s working on his book cover.  I think he’s sent me six or seven different versions of the cover and asked me my opinion on each.  They were all fine.  I liked each one, but I feel bad that he’s stuck in a cycle of perfectionism because instead of writing valuable content, he feels like he can’t move forward until he gets that cover perfected.

So while he tinkers with inconsequential details about a cover, there’s no book for anyone to read because he stopped writing it.  I’m starting to wonder if he’s ever going to be able to use that cover.  If this cycle doesn’t end, he’s going to have a cover that goes to nothing.

A better approach for him would be to finish writing the book then release it with whichever cover he likes best at the time of publishing.  Then, if he comes up with a better cover idea down the road, he can change it.  But I don’t think he’ll do that because that feels too “messy” and he can’t bear the thought of releasing anything less than perfect.

In the meantime, I have another friend who has a background in social work and counseling.  About two years ago, she decided that she wanted to open her own practice that would help her gain online clients for virtual counseling sessions.  

She has no experience developing websites.  She has three young children at home that need her attention.  She admitted to me that she didn’t really know what she was doing in the online space, but she believe if she could take her practice online, that would help her to serve more people while being more available for her children.

So she asked me to run her through the basics of building a website.  I talked her through it and I think she dedicated about two days to creating it and filling it with content.  It’s a nice enough website, but it certainly isn’t the best site I’ve ever seen.  In fact, as I scanned through it, I found a few errors that might be worth fixing if she ever gets around to it.

But then again, she may never get around to it because I don’t think she really thinks it’s necessary.  I spoke to her this week and she has more counseling clients than she knows what to do with.  Word of mouth about her practice continues to grow and people keep booking appointments through her less-than-perfect website.

So what’s the lesson for us here?

The lesson can be summed up in the old adage, “Perfect is the enemy of done.”  If we’re afraid to launch a messy product, that may mean we never launch anything at all.

Do you have a course idea that you’re convinced would sell, but you haven’t created it yet because you don’t own professional video equipment and you aren’t sure how to edit the videos?  Would you believe me if I told you that my best-selling course was created by recording a slide show via Zoom?  It has no professional editing and it sells for $229.  I get good feedback about it ALL THE TIME.

Would you like to start a YouTube channel, but you don’t think you’re flashy enough to hold an audience’s attention?  I have a friend who gets literally millions of downloads on his videos as he explains how to use Microsoft Excel.  I don’t even think he shows his face on camera.

Would you like to start a podcast, but you don’t have the best space to record?  I was just a guest on Sue Duffield’s podcast “Suebiquitous”.  She recorded her side of the interview from a clothing closet, not a fancy studio.  I just listened to how it all came out, and the audio sounds fantastic!

Don’t let perfectionism hold you back from serving people who need your help.  Let me give you a few suggestions to help you get over it if this continues to be a lingering struggle for you.


Six tips for overcoming perfectionism

1.  Begin by setting realistic goals.  Break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Focus on progress rather than flawless outcomes.

2.  Aim for consistent action, not perfect results.  Tell yourself that your goal is to remain faithful to do what you’ve committed to do.  Don’t let yourself get derailed by distractions.

3. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.  Don’t tie your sense of worth to the way you think you’ll be perceived in the eyes of others.  Understand that making mistakes and experiencing failures are normal parts of life. Embrace them as opportunities for growth and learning. See failures as valuable lessons rather than personal shortcomings.

4.  Adjust your standards and aim for excellence rather than perfection. Recognize that striving for excellence allows room for improvement while still appreciating your efforts and accomplishments.

5. Break the cycle of overthinking.  Perfectionists often get trapped in overthinking and excessive planning. Challenge this pattern by setting time limits for decision-making and taking action even when you feel uncertain.

6.  Make yourself publicly accountable for outcomes.  Let others know that you’re going to release whatever project you’re working on, in whatever state of development it’s in, on a certain date, then stick with that date.  I sometimes find it helpful to release something in a messy state because it motivates me to fix it quicker once I know people can see it and use it.

Please keep in mind, overcoming perfectionism is a process that takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself, and celebrate the progress you make along the way.

© John Stange

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