It was Fall of 2016; I was staring at my computer screen for at least a half hour for the fourth day in a row. I was stuck trying to come up with the perfect article to add to my new blog on my website. I had never created a blog before, nor had I written an article that would be shared with a large audience. It was only logical to think that the article had to be perfect.
It took me four months to post that first article, and it was far from perfect.
I continued to struggle to put “pen to paper” for several months until I heard consultant, Alan Weiss, utter three simple words at one of his workshops I attended - “Perfection. Kills. Excellence.” The timing of his words couldn't have been more perfect for me. He cited several examples of how talented professionals get stuck in striving for perfection without moving forward in their businesses.
Essentially what I heard Alan say was “Get over yourself! Do the best you can at that moment and keep moving forward. You will improve over time, yet it is hard to get better at anything if you never start.”
I come across this challenge with many of my clients in our 1-on-1 coaching sessions. Whether it is writing an article, preparing for a pitch, or writing an email, many talented and smart professionals get bogged down by self-sabotaging thoughts. The “what if…” questions start to cloud their minds.
What if my article will be perceived as too basic and boring?
What if we are not able to answer a question in the pitch?
What if they find my email to be annoying and they won’t respond?
It is human nature to come up with a myriad of excuses as to why we cannot or should not do something. It is often safer to do nothing at all than to stick our necks out and risk a negative outcome or rejection. The problem with this thought process is that we stall growth and forward progress. Even worse, we can get stuck in the land of mediocrity.
So how do we overcome this state of mind?
Acknowledging it is the first step. Knowing that many professionals who strive for greatness can tip the scale and fall victim to perfectionism.
Acting on it is what can help you avoid inertia. Take small steps. Understand that business development is not about being perfect but being proactive. You can be 80% there yet get stuck with the last 20%. Typically, the last 20% will not make or break your article, pitch, or email. It will, however, corner you into doing nothing at all and hinder your ability to grow your business.
For me, it was getting sense knocked into me by experts like Alan Weiss. That was the spark, and then working with a writing coach, Barry Mohn, strengthened my writing skills and confidence to write on a regular basis.
While I realize that this article is far from perfect, I also know that it is important for me to get this message out otherwise I might find myself staring at my computer screen for 30 minutes without typing a word. I can’t afford to burn through precious hours in the day from analysis paralysis.
As I tell many of my clients, if you question whether you might be overthinking what you should say or do, you probably are. That is the time to get over yourself, eliminate the “what if” thoughts, and just do it.