“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”
- John Lennon.
How many times have you had a brilliant idea, inspiration or enthusiasm about something but didn’t take action on it? Then, the window of opportunity was lost and you regretted it?
Perfectionism is one of the reasons this happens. Especially if you have imposter syndrome. You’ll tend to stick to what you already know and do well rather than face the risk of failure trying something new and different.
One of the ways we can disguise our fear of failure is through endless planning and waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect opportunity, the perfect level of confidence, etc.
And, life passes by.
Ultimately, there’s no other way to live fully but to step towards the unknown – with its possibility of failure and loss.
[Watch the video or read on].
Last week, I watched the movie “Don’t worry. He won't get far on foot” (rated 77% on Rotten Tomatoes). It’s the story of cartoonist John Callahan, who was left paraplegic after an alcohol related car accident. He had been an alcoholic for years. The film tells of his recovery in the 12 Step Programme (Alcoholics Anonymous) and how it helped him reconnect with his creativity and eventually become a celebrated cartoonist until his death. It was moving to see how letting go of his negative thoughts about himself healed him from his addiction and made space for creativity and a more joyful life.
Compulsive perfectionism is form of addiction. It relieves existential discomfort around failure and mediocrity and the terror of lacking control. We’d rather invest endless amounts of time and energy planning for a perfect outcome than make a decision and try something messy. Sometimes, life intervenes and jolts you back to reality – you’re fired, your health suffers or you lose someone.
But if people can recover from substance abuse, taming the most troublesome aspects of their personality, why couldn’t anyone tame any compulsive aspect of their personality like perfectionism and help resolve imposter syndrome?
In fact, I wondered what it would look like to rewrite the 12 Steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous programme to help compulsive perfectionists worldwide – perhaps the seed of a “Perfectionists Anonymous” or “Imposter Syndrome Anonymous” group…I haven’t thought it through for long (no perfectionism here) but here goes:
1. We admitted we were powerless over perfectionism - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a self-awareness beyond our habitual thoughts and behaviours could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to guidance from this deeper self-awareness.
4. Made a searching and fearless trait inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to ourselves, and to another human being, that we are perfectionists and that we want to let go of this.
6. Were entirely ready to have self-awareness transform our limiting beliefs fuelling perfectionism.
7. Humbly trusted our deeper self-awareness to transform our limiting beliefs fuelling perfectionism.
8. Made a list of all persons who were negatively affected by our perfectionism and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory of our limiting beliefs and misunderstandings and when we were misaligned, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through self-reflection and meditation to improve our self-awareness, being receptive to knowledge of what’s truly best as a course of action in any situation and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a profound transformation as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other perfectionists, and to practise these principles in all our affairs.
So if you’ve got a great idea or even just a sense of the next step to take towards more meaningful work or better life, take action. Sometimes you don’t need to plan further or even to have confidence. You just need to make a decision.
Have a great week,