5 Ways To Overcome Perfectionism

5 Ways To Overcome Perfectionism

What you’re about to read isn’t perfect. 

And when you see the fifth item below, you’ll know why.

Here are a few simple things you can do to overcome your perfectionist tendencies…

1. Define “perfect” without a reference to results.

What does it mean to make something “perfect?”

Most perfectionists struggle to define the term or define it based on outcomes and metrics that will never be in their control.

For example, what does it mean to write a “perfect” blog post?

Does it mean it gets read by lots of people? 

That it attracts lots of newsletter subscribers or sales? 

That someone tells you they like it?

Those may be legitimate success metrics, but they’re not indicators of “perfection” in the creative process.

Take a moment to define what perfect means to you in the context of what’s in your control and you’ll discover your “imperfect” work is closer to perfect than you think.

(This has been one of the big lessons I’ve learned from sharing the secrets of successful creators each week.)

2. Share a work in progress.

Practice makes imperfect.

A great way to break your perfectionist instincts is to publish and share things that are clearly not perfect.

Whether on social media, with friends, or colleagues, force yourself to share a work in progress.

Calling it a work in progress may help you get over the hump of showing people something you believe isn’t perfect, and in the process you’ll realize others don’t think it’s nearly as rough as you do.

This exercise will reveal your standards are likely higher than those of your audience and that your quest for perfection is as much about insecurity as it is the quality of your work.

The Foo Fighters have a mantra to prevent themselves from the dangers of perfectionism when recording new music:

“If it gets any better, it’s going to get worse.”

3. Set a failure or rejection goal.

The root of perfectionism is often a fear of failure and rejection.

That’s understandable because everyone has those fears on some level.

Here’s a “fun” way to stare down those fears.

Challenge yourself to fail or get rejected a certain number of times in a given day or week and watch what happens.

Once you shift your mindset from trying to avoid failure to actively pursuing it, your perfectionism will start to recede.

A good place to start is by trying Noah Kagan’s coffee challenge, which involves asking for a 10% discount when you order your coffee just to see what happens and get more comfortable with rejection.

Or, go a step further and try 100 days of rejection.

4. Check out the early work of someone you admire.

You know that super talented person you think does everything perfect?

They weren’t always that way.

Look up the early work of someone you admire and you’ll see how far they’ve come from where they started. 

In the process, you’ll feel a lot less pressure for everything you make to be perfect.

To get you started, here are the first creations of some famous creators.

(You can also learn from how my work has evolved in This Is How I Do It.)

5. Make something in a set time limit.

One of the easiest ways to overcome perfectionism is to give yourself a deadline by which you have to release your work to the world…and stick to it.

For example, I gave myself one hour to write this post.

Would it be more “perfect” if I had no time limit? Maybe.

But that’s not the point.

The point is to get in the habit of shipping your work and not forever tinker with it — a time limit helps you develop that habit.

As Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels famously said, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready — it goes on because it’s 11:30.”

Discover the secrets of successful creators.