I’m a perfectionist. No, I’m not saying that in the humble brag way we do during interviews when we’re asked what our weaknesses are. I’ve always been that person that has to get every detail right. This past year in grad school, I was that person that stayed up all night to essentially re-write a group assignment the day before it was due. I’m that person who mulls over everything, analysing it from every angle possible before making a decision. You guessed it, I’m an over thinker as well. It almost seems like there’s an implicit question I’m trying to answer all the time, “If it doesn’t come out perfect, with perfect being judged by the response it receives in relation to the goal it was meant to fulfil, then what’s the point?” Finally finishing that thought and writing it in black and white shows how flawed it is but I had never fully had that self-reflection until a few months ago.
Looking back it’s easy to see why that was the case because these traits had mostly equalled diligence and my high work ethic which always served me well particularly in my studies. But now I also think back to all the plans and actions I’ve abandoned mid way for fear of them failing and not having enough of a guarantee, drafts that have been meticulously edited yet never making the cut not to mention steps that had never been taken at all after various over thinking sessions and I realise how crippling that has been.
Starting my new full-time job was that come to Jesus moment that I finally had to deeply self reflect and finally come to this realisation. In such an immensely fast paced environment, there was no time for such qualities to continue to thrive because things needed to just get done. Faced with producing deliverables under immense time pressures, my implicit resolve was to put in late hours to allow myself the time I felt I needed to mull things over and hover in my safe haven of “diligence”. But that is neither sustainable nor smart. Some of the initial informal feedback I received from my manager was that while I was performing very well, I also put too much pressure on myself and over thought things. Even 70% is good enough, he said. Imagine, my shock and horror when in fact, 70% worked just fine?
I’m not under the illusion that as this new year dawns, I’ll suddenly turn into this action driven person that sheds the limitations of my over thinking and perfectionist ways. But I’m walking into it fully aware that it’s okay to not have every last detail figured out before jumping into action. It’s okay to fall short of my own expectations and that of others occasionally. If mediocre is just standard, then I want to be okay with achieving that because it means I launched into action and produced that result. Because it’s not always about me. It is, but then it’s not because everything does not have to be deeply intertwined with who I am as a person and as such, a reflection of my very self-worth. Achieving that higher quality of work I always crave can be achieved over time, but first I need to let go and just do. Powered by these realisations, below are some tiny leaps I’ll be making, with the hope of spearheading some big changes.
1.Say yes-I say no often, to myself and others, because I over analyse things, “foresee” the plot holes and why things won’t work and bow out. This year, I want to come to these preliminary conclusions and still say yes. If nothing at all, I want to be able to channel my diligence into finding solutions for these plot holes instead of only diagnosing them.
2. Take that first step- A journey of a 1000 miles begins with a first step right? The 10,000 hour rule, which I’m utterly fascinated with (again, read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell if you haven’t already!), also illustrates that I won’t suddenly spring into my big end goals. What you spend your time doing now lays the necessary foundation you build on which eventually lends itself to mastery and the actualisation of that end goal. Sometimes it’s easy to look at things that people have done and say, but that looks like a total no-brainer, surely I can do that? But can you really? Think back to school when your teacher solves a problem and it looks easy enough only for you to get home and not be able to do it on your own. There’s a world between thinking and doing and this year, I want to build a bridge across that divide.
3. Stick with it and learn from it- When things don’t go exactly how I planned them in my head, I tend to lose my excitement and get bogged in the fact that it fell short. But that is life, no? Learning from these experiences and building our skills up from it matter more. So this year, I’ll go back to the drawing board, tweak what needs to be tweaked and stick with it. Better yet, I hope to use it as a launch pad for that next step.
These are the self-care tips powering my vision and resolutions for the new year. Share yours with me down below!