How procrastination stops your progress.

Are you perfect yet?

One of my favorite excuses for not moving on is thinking that I don’t know enough to do something right. It is such an advantage to be a novice or a newbie because you are blissfully ignorant about just how complicated more things are and you just do something. Once started, you get pulled in deeper and deeper and over time realize what deep waters you dived into. But starting is always the hardest step.


Image by -= Bruce Berrien =- via Flickr

Once I get started each bit of information I learn raises my expectations and anxiety. I don’t want to look like an amateur. I want to seem cool, calm, collected and professional and until I learn just a little bit more, I run the risk of exposing to the world my ignorance and incompetence. So I delay a bit, study some more and build my skills only to discover that this new knowledge only reveals more limitations in my knowledge and competence.

It is the cures of a perfectionist personality to want to fully understand every subject and the insecurity that goes along with perfectionism that keeps me from moving gloriously forward with projects. Lately I better understand the dynamic of my mindset which helps me fight it and I have engaged a coach to help me be more objective about myself. I do manage to move myself along in spite of my limiting beliefs but as they say, understanding is the basis for overcoming obstacles.

There are tremendous flaws in the reasoning underlying my view of the world but at the heart it is pure ego that tells me that I am the center of the universe. Logic alone would tell me that this is demonstrably false and yet it is important to me that I ignore reality. Just like rest astronomy was impossible until everyone was convinced that the universe was not Earth centered, making my way in the world requires that I teach myself to act as if I am not the most important person in my world. Down deep I may not really believe it but I can ignore those frantic signals from my ego that keep me huddled in the storm cellar.

It always seems to me that people are watching everything I do with great expectations. Typing that sentence out exposes, even to me, the incredible ego trip. Turning the issue around exposes the depth of the problem. All I need to do is ask myself, how many people get my full critical attention and how I feel when they expose that they do not have complete mastery of every activity they engage. The answer is pretty damned few. If any.

First, I’m too hung up with myself to look around and second, there aren’t many topics where my mastery is so complete that I can’t learn something new from anybody’s efforts. And if I can’t be bothered to be critical of everybody else, what makes me think that anybody else is any different. I might be important to friends and family but they don’t demand perfection or I wouldn’t have any.

Second, no one every masters anything completely. Mastery is a process. Nobody would every do anything if mastery were a requirement for getting started. Mothers are not critical of their babies just because they crawl and then walk awkwardly instead of running a marathon at six months. Doing something badly is the first step of mastery and no one who respects knowledge and mastery is critical of serious effort.

So I fight my ego each day pushing myself to do something that pushes me where I am uncomfortable going. And I applaud myself for the accomplishment even when I know how much more there is to do because once I start something my ego starts working for me because when I see that it needs improvement I have to make it better.

Anybody else have an ego problem like mine? How do you cope and make things happen?

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Bill Murney November 9, 2011, 6:22 am

    Ralph, I can see where you are coming from on perfection. In my old job I was known as a perfectionist, and proud of it, even though at times it cost me money.

    Even then I acknowledged that it was impossible to be 100% perfect, anything can be improved.

    The best piece of advice I have heard was to ‘just do it and perfect it later’ but as we know that is easier said than done.

    Bill Murney’s last Blog Post ..Falling Behind

    • Ralph November 9, 2011, 8:17 am

      There is always a but. I do believe that once you are in motion, you should strive for perfection even though you never meet it. This is the secret of Japanese manufacturing success and is what customers yearn for. Where perfectionism is destructive is when it keeps you from starting something or moving in a new direction because you know that you don’t have all the answers.
      Ralph’s last Blog Post ..Down with…Fall Back!

  • hansi November 9, 2011, 6:33 am

    I’m as close to perfection as I can stand, and you are not the center of the universe; I AM! Seriously, Ego is the source of most of our problems I think.
    hansi’s last Blog Post ..Bad Dreams

  • Steve Skinner November 10, 2011, 4:13 pm

    When faced with doubt, I remember the words of Henry Van Dyke, “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”
    Steve Skinner’s last Blog Post ..Standing Out

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