Perfectionism is the top reason given as what holds designers back from working on big dreams. But consider what could be accomplished if they had a different standard?
We can all agree that perfection is unattainable.
Yet, it continues to come up as the burden that holds designers back from big dreams like starting their own organization or side initiative.
It also stops them from starting or finishing smaller projects like writing an article, launching a local initiative or publishing a website.
(The last one has been my 6-month plight; more on that later.)
In nearly every conversation I’ve had, perfectionism comes up. So I trust that you have this tendency–at the minimum, occasionally.
However, if you practice human-centered design principles, you already embrace an iterative mindset where perfection is not the standard. Instead, it’s about aiming for good enough.
So what if you used ‘good enough’ as your standard to take a step toward a big dream or stepping stone project?
Read on for how to reframe your “perfect” standards.
First, pay attention to that inner critic in your head
Six months ago I started working on the language for my new website. The site had been designed. The logo was ready. All I needed was to write the copy.
Yet for weeks on end, I noticed that pessimistic voice creep up.
“This is too big to even start.”
“No one is going to visit your site.”
“You haven’t done enough to even have a website.”
Starting with that mindset is inhibiting, discouraging and downright MEAN.
(Seriosuly, would you ever tell a friend or colleague that? I know I wouldn’t. Yet, I find myself repeating this over and over again.)
I can now recognize that underneath those negative statements was an aim to get it perfect.
After a few months of not getting anywhere with copy, I started to challenge my inner critic by crafting counter statements.
“This is too big to even start” turned into > Start one page at a time, and refer to the resources you already have.
“No one is going to visit your site” turned into > It’s my responsibility to invite people to visit my site because it’s new.
“You haven’t done enough” turned into > I have loads of language from conversations with clients and designers to start.
Those counter statements gave me the boost to begin writing. And that’s because they were framed around getting to ‘good enough.’
Use these 3 quick steps to overcome perfectionist standards
If you’re reading this, I know you have a big dream or a stepping stone project that continues to linger in your mind. It’s that one that you wish you would have started yesterday.
Before you start beating yourself up about it, take notice of what your inner critic is saying.
- Which challenging statements float through your head when you think about it?
- What unattainable standards is that inner critic asking of you?
- What unachievable questions does it prompt?
Once you recognize a few of these, move through each step below to craft new standards that will help you actually get started.
1. Write 2-3 repeating statements from your inner critic—and put quotation marks around it.
The quotation marks indicate it’s just a story that you’ve told yourself. The great thing about stories is that you can always change them…
2. Reframe each statement to aim for good enough.
Take each negative statement or question and rewrite a counter statement that is ‘good enough.’ Consdier…
- What is a ‘good enough’ milestone for that dream?
- What is a ‘good enough’ measure of success?
- What do you want to achieve to make your effort ‘good enough’?
If you’re feeling stuck, take a look at what I wrote above for my website as an example.
3. Set yourself a new milestone.
Using your new ‘good enough’ statements, set your next milestone for your big dream or stepping stone project so you can start taking action.
For instance, my initial goal to publish my website was “publish my website.” Not much in there to hold me accountable.
So I revised it to “Publish the home, about, services, praise, and contact pages on my website by June 30th, 2018.” See how much more specific that is?
Another method I love use to make sure my expectations are not veering into unrealistic, perfectionism territory is SMART:
- Is it Specific?
- Is it Measureable?
- Is it Attainable?
- Is it Relevant?
- Is it Time-bound?
Now I’m curious to hear what you think.
How did ‘good enough’ standards shift your thinking?
How did changing your standards affect your motivation on that big dream?
Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
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