Perfection, Procrastination and Killing Yourself Softly

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Last updated on February 18th, 2024 at 12:54 pm

If you constantly strive for perfection, nothing will ever get done.

This is a HUGE social problem in North America—we hold ourselves back from progressing in life not because we don’t want to do things, but because we want to do TOO MUCH.

Li linked me to a Lifehacker article about perfection and procrastination that discusses unrealistic expectations; learned social behaviours and viewpoints where we obsess over a succeed/fail model with no grey area; and the changes in our thought processes we might need to make in order to save ourselves.

To quote that article’s source material, there are, at a minimum, seven operations involved in the perfectionism-procrastination process:

  1. You hold to lofty standards.
  2. You have no guarantee you’ll do well enough to suit you.
  3. Less than the best is not an option.
  4. Following the thought of not doing well enough, you feel uncomfortable.
  5. You fear the feelings of discomfort.
  6. You hide your imperfections from yourself and dodge discomfort by doing something “safer,” such as playing computer games.
  7. You repeat this exasperating process until you get off this contigent-worth merry-go-round, accept yourself as a fallible person, and do the best you can without demanding perfection from yourself.

I can only speak for myself, but I know at times I feel that I’ve failed in pursuing my ambitions and goals, and it’s mostly because I want to make everything perfect from the first try.

My desk at work is evidence enough of this—unfinished projects, ideas on how to make things better… but none of it truly going anywhere.

It leaves me to ask myself a question—what good is an idea if no one ever acts on it?

So many of the household names that we see today are the evolved forms of ideas. And for the most part—they still aren’t perfect. I love my MacBook Pro, but you could boil water on it when I start working on anything that’s memory-intensive. All my electronics are constantly overshadowed by their newer and faster descendants, only months after buying them. The woman who hands me my Metro paper in the morning and offers me a Metro Play in the evening smiles and says “hi” when she recognizes me, but this is only after months of seeing me at two separate subway stations day in and day out.

Things can be good, but nothing starts out as perfect the way the world is right now.

So as usual, hidden in this post is a lesson that I’m trying to teach (I’m still working on figuring out how to do it with less words, but I’m only going to learn one lesson at a time!) —

You won’t get it right the first time, and that’s okay.

A question I often hear from my friends who’re involved in tech startups goes like this: “Is it more important to get the perfect product out the first time, or to get something out and make it better with time?” The answer, in my opinion, is somewhere in the middle.

If there’s something you want to do—for yourself, for someone else, for the Internet, whatever—by no means am I telling you to half-ass your efforts. Always try your best to do well at the things you do. I think Rolling Rock would be inclined to agree, judging from what I saw at a bar the other night:

HOWEVER, you WILL make missteps. You WILL forget things. But never fail to try—that’s the biggest disservice you can do to yourself. Practice makes perfect. Perfect… doesn’t really make much of anything.

The second logo for Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad



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