6 Ways to Get Rid of Perfectionism Even When Excuses Abound

“How did you start to get rid of perfectionism and make the steps to become an author? How did you transition from living your “past life” to the life you have now?”

Here’s what I know: Perfectionism is fancied-up fear. To paraphrase Liz Gilbert in Big Magic, it’s fear in a fur coat. Perfectionism may seem classy and high-functioning, but deep down it’s just you being afraid.

How to overcome fear in four words? Ground yourself in love.

That’s the larger principle, but what does it look like to LIVE that truth, day in and day out? Here are a few helpful ideas for your journey.

1. Get clear on what matters most.

So you want to be an author or start a business or just get up off the couch. Fantastic! But answer me this: What’s your compelling reason? What difference will it make if you do this thing?

If you’re not clear on that question, all the productivity tips in the world won’t help.

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was six years old. I’ve done thousands of hours of writing because of intrinsic motivation.

Here’s my why: I write to co-create heaven as a place without barriers. I write because sharing true stories and connecting from the heart is my way of participating in what Philip Pullman brilliantly termed, “the Republic of Heaven”.

We need our reason front and center because we all face resistance. We are all tempted to throw in the towel.

If we don’t have a deep-down, resonant conviction about what’s worth fighting for, then we’ll just surrender to what’s easier. (Hello, mindless social media scrolling!)

As Greg McKeown notes in Essentialism:

“When we have strong internal clarity it is almost as if we have a force field protecting us from the nonessentials coming at us from all directions …. Clarity about what is essential fuels us with the strength to say no to the nonessentials.”

2. Harness the power of quiet, routine defiance.

Each day, I devote the first 1-2 work hours to creating meaningful work: my forthcoming book, this blog, and offerings such as The Confidence Course Series.

This is the decision I make to serve something greater than myself. Yet most days, it’s very ho-hum.

This is what it’s like for me to serve my sacred calling: I coax myself out of pajamas and get dressed. Invariably, my mind drifts to household tasks I have neglected.

I try not to feel guilty about the grimy bathroom floor and the floating tumbleweeds of cat fur. I close my ears to the siren song of tasks left undone, ignoring everything that prevents me from turning on my laptop and doing the work.

It’s easier because I’ve trained myself to show up at the same time, but there’s a little struggle each day. That’s all right.

3. Think small moves, not major overhauls.

When we want to make a change, it’s tempting to think that we need a whole new life, or at least a whole new wardrobe.

For example, I used to think that I needed a cottage by the shores of Loch Lomond in order to write consistently. What I actually need is much humbler.

Here’s what keeps my creative projects going:

  • Putting my phone in airplane mode
  • Turning the lights off by 10:30pm
  • Changing the settings on my browsers so they don’t suggest stories
  • Not scheduling meetings during creative time
  • Keeping healthy snacks on hand
  • Taking reliable time away weekly and monthly so I can rest and recharge (for example, spending every Saturday away from all email)
  • Quitting my personal Facebook page and only using the social network to manage business pages

4. On hard days, do just a little bit. Also, plan regular rest.

One morning my friend and fellow writer Brooke texted, “Today I am really tired, so I might do 45 minutes of writing instead of 90.”

I was also tired and tempted to skip writing, but hearing from Brooke galvanized me. I texted, “Good call – I may do the same. Sometimes I forget that there are options other than ‘all’ or ‘nothing’.”

Both of us ended up writing for the full 90 minutes that day. Sometimes, just getting started is half the battle.

That said, it’s also really important to protect your energy. I mentioned regular rest time above, but I’m saying it again because I know how hard it is for workaholics and perfectionists to get the message.

Big creative projects are marathons, not sprints. Block out more recovery time than you think you’ll need, and you’ll thank yourself later.

5. Take pause before committing.

We people-pleasers and perfectionists don’t make our best decisions when we’re put on the spot for an answer.

To make healthy choices, we need time to think. We need to say, “Let me get back to you on that”.

We need to take a moment not because we’re weak, but because we are strong. We want so much to say yes and help everyone!

Delaying the decision gives us time to count the cost and remember what matters most to us.

If another person pushes you to answer right now and it’s not a real emergency, then that is their issue with impatience, not yours.

6. To get rid of perfectionism, risk a leap of faith.

For perfectionists like us, it’s not hard to push ourselves. Rather, it’s harder to slow down, take pause, and be still.

As a wise woman once said, “It’s a leap of faith to nurture yourself if your default setting is to work harder.”

My two cents? Take the leap. Dare to believe that you’re worthy of love and tender care.

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How do you get rid of perfectionism? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Confidence Step By Step

First, I made something that I think you’ll like: Confidence Step By Step. It’s a free, 3-part video series focused on how to transform people-pleasing and perfectionism into courage and clarity, and it starts Monday, March 19th.

Next, I’m appearing as a guest on two free interview series this month: Productivity for Perfectionists and Post-Traumatic Enlightenment. Both start Monday, March 19th, and I’d love to see you there!

Productivity for Perfectionists

Do you struggle to get the important things done, or feel overwhelmed by the demands and distractions of daily life? I know how tricky that can be! That’s why I joined award-winning composer and music director Deborah Hurwitz, along with 20 other leading artists and entrepreneurs, for the free series Productivity for Perfectionists: How to Stop Procrastinating, Quiet Your Inner Critic and Love Getting It Done.

Post-Traumatic Enlightenment

Post-traumatic enlightenment is about becoming awakened to the growth that is possible after getting though a traumatic event. My friend Jennifer – a cancer survivor – is bringing this important topic to light in the Post-Traumatic Enlightenment Summit. You’ll learn strategies from me and 23 other experts, in short 30 min interviews, to help you move past trauma and change your life for the better. Get free access here.

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4 thoughts on “6 Ways to Get Rid of Perfectionism Even When Excuses Abound

  1. Bridget says:

    I like the actionable steps. I still need major work on #1 and #4, but amazingly don’t have a problem with #5. Guess it’s time to get out pen and paper and really work on #1. Thank you.

    • Bridget, I’m so glad that you liked the post! I’d had the draft sitting in my saved documents for a while, so it’s encouraging to hear that it connected with you.

      It makes total sense that some items on the list would be much easier than others – for me, #1 is a constant process of forgetting and remembering. Would love to hear your compelling reason if you want to share it!

      Also, as I reread #4 now, I’m reminded that it’s time to disconnect for the day, rather than keep pushing to get more done. Thank you for reading, and for the timely comment. 😉

  2. Bridget says:

    I think that our “why” changes with seasons that we are in and therefore needs constant evaluation. While working on it, I think I have more of a mission statement than a why.

    My desire is to provide good memories for my children to sustain them when I’m not close by. That means I work to pay the bills (maybe even get ahead) and to be all there, if possible, when I’m home. Ideally I’d even like to have some big memories, but even camping trips work.

    • Well said, Bridget! I like your point that one’s why shifts with the seasons of life. And it sounds like your children are very fortunate to have such a mindful parent who cares about creating memories that last.

      Also, I can relate to the desire to plan a big adventure – the next one I’d like to do is hiking in Scotland! – but as you say, even more accessible adventures can offer great opportunities for connection.

      Thank you again for reading and for commenting – I look forward to hearing about the memories you make.

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