4 powerful tips to overcome perfectionism and be more productive

astronaut in spacewalk, overcome perfectionism

‘What’s the next thing that’s going to kill us?’

“Don’t visualize success. Have an idea of what perfection might be but then as soon as you start thinking about where you wanna end up, start visualizing what is the most probable thing to go wrong… and then start getting ready for that to happen. Because things always go wrong, that’s life”

Chris Hadfield

The above quote was a statement made by famous astronaut and amateur rock star, Col. Chris Hadfield. According to Chris, the risk involved with being an astronaut is so high there’s a need for laser precision and insane focus. He wrote in his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: “You need to be able to disregard everything that isn’t going to happen in the next mile or so. There is only one essential question: What’s the next thing that could kill me? Focusing on that thing, whatever it is, is how you stay alive.”

Astronaut, I believe, is the career that requires the highest level of precision and perfectionism. There are thousands of people checking and cross-checking each part of every piece of the machinery that is used to carry out tasks to ensure its optimal functioning and maximum precision. Any slight error may lead to devastating consequences. The best thing to do is to be highly prepared. “You need to know the boldface, the actions that are absolutely critical to survival — so called because in our training manuals, they’re written in boldfaced capital letters.” He wrote.

He then admitted luck has something to do with success. He recalled a situation when a bee was stuck inside his visor while flying a jet and in another moment he mistakenly unplugged his g-suit mid-flight and passed out for 16 seconds while practicing one-on-one fighting in a CF-18. In both cases, his life was saved out of pure luck. 

What can we learn from this? No matter how prepared you are, no matter how perfect you act, no matter how precise you execute, something will go wrong, I’m so sorry to break this to you. That’s life, we all know this. Yet, why do we regularly suffer from perfectionism as much as it brings negative effects like procrastination, inaction, anxiety, overthinking, etc.? Maybe because we don’t know how to break free from the habit of perfectionism. In this post, I’ll offer 4 tips that’ll help you break free from perfectionism and be more productive.

How to overcome perfectionism

Our lives are not as intense as astronaut’s lives and our minor errors will not lead to consequences as devastating so we have reasons to tune down our perfectionism a bit and by so doing, reduce the possible negative effects it may have on us. I’ve found the following tips useful in the fight against perfectionism when we think it’s not okay to mess up.

  1. Adopt the mindset of always learning: take every opportunity as a chance to learn.
  2. The importance of encouragement: celebrate the little wins.
  3. Effort and willingness should be prized more than results: be satisfied with the effort you put in rather than focusing on results.
  4. Focus on what works: and build on that.

The truth is, it’s not about making or avoiding mistakes, it’s about doing a bit better and progressing day after day. It’s about enjoying the process and using the little errors and mistakes you make along the way to remember how far you’ve come.