Is perfection preventing progress?

Have you ever avoided doing something, because you figured you wouldn’t be good at it? Is perfection preventing progress?

For many years my mantra was “If I’m going to look bad doing it, I’m not going to do it.” That seemed to serve me well — I had a successful career, people admired my abilities and my confidence.

Unfortunately it also made me seem intimidating (people rarely saw me mess-up) and it made me uptight and it prevented me from finding joy in new things (which is one solid reason why I still have never tried downhill skiing)!

It seemed like a good mantra at the time, after all who wants to be seen doing something badly? It has only been in the last few years that I’ve come to realize the answer to that seemingly rhetorical question is — “people who accomplish great things.”

You may be familiar with Brené Brown — she was, until relatively recently, an unknown Ph.D. at the University of Houston studying shame and vulnerability. She is an engaging speaker who put herself out there, just a little bit, and gave a local TEDx talk in Houston about those two topics – vulnerability and shame.

She explained that her years of research had shown her very clearly that those who allow themselves to be vulnerable, those who don’t allow shame to hold them back are those same people who live whole heartedly.

They are the people who achieve things they didn’t know they could achieve, because they allowed themselves to try.

I’m paraphrasing here but essentially they didn’t seek perfection, they simply sought to try. They went for it. It was only after learning her own message, and coming to terms with it, that Brown shared her message in a tiny, regional, TEDx talk. That talk has become the fourth most watched Ted Talk of all time with nearly 12,000,000 views. That’s right twelve million.

If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to check it out (the link is at the bottom of this message).

The reason I’m telling you this is because I suspect I’m not alone in allowing my desire for perfection to prevent me from achieving things. Sure, I increasingly try new things.

Some things I try are pretty big things – I started a business after 20 years as a public servant and one year ago today I incorporated that business and engaged five exceptional coaches to join me on this journey.

And some things I try are relatively small things – I respond to government proposals when that little voice inside my head tells me I’m not as good as the big guys, I walk into giant rooms at conferences and networking events, alone, and start meeting people.

But, there are still days where

Perfection Prevents Progress.

It took me six months of talking about it, before I hit “send” on the first of these blog e-mails. I was frozen, thinking, “what if people don’t appreciate what I have to say?”

I’ve spent the last four months “thinking about” a webinar series I’m planning to launch – but not quite doing it – because I worry it won’t be perfect, because I balk at allowing myself to be vulnerable and try something new.

You’ve probably heard someone ask, “If you could succeed at anything, what would you try?” I think that question is a cop-out. If I knew I would succeed, I would try everything! The question should be “even if you weren’t sure of success, what would you be willing to try?”

So our coaching questions for today are: “what are you putting off that could be worth trying, even if you might not succeed? What is preventing you from trying it?” and “What would it take to let go of your vulnerability and dive into it?”

Here’s the link to Brené’s TedTalk: CLICK HERE

At Padraig we use engaging, curiosity based questions in all of our coached programs.

If some of this resonated for you, I would LOVE to hear about it. Please share a few comments below.

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