Lesson 3.4 - Lowering the bar for taking action
Hey, friend! We’re in lesson 4 of module 3 already. Time flies!
In lesson 2 we defined imperfectionism as prioritizing doing over doing well and freeing yourself up to take positive action in more situations. This lesson is all about lowering the bar for taking positive action.
Lowering the bar
A perfectionist often chooses inaction because, with an infinite number of possible paths, finding the perfect one is difficult to figure out. Perfectionists also look for perfect scenarios to take action. But you miss out on too many opportunities when you wait for the perfect scenario to line up.
Here’s the harsh truth: whatever you want to do more of in life, whether it’s exercise, write a book, laugh, become CEO of your company, go to the moon, lower the bar for doing it.
This gives you many more opportunities for progress.
Setting a low bar for action also switches your focus to the process of lasting change. A high bar requires a great performance and this only puts more pressure on you to be perfect and perform your perfect task perfectly.
Keep in mind that setting a low bar for action is not about lowering your standards, but about shifting them: from a focus on results to a focus on action.
Imperfectionists ignore results because when you care less about the result of a process, it makes the process itself easier. Besides, you can control the process, but not the results.
Not caring about results doesn’t equate apathy or not trying as hard. It means: “I’m going to do my best and not care how it turns out.” This way you can be more relaxed in social situations by not caring so much about rejection or deliver a better speech by not caring about mistakes or not being engaging enough.
Why is action important?
Because perfectionism is a habitual way of perceiving the world, change must be approached neurologically. For a lasting change to occur, the brain must have enough repetition over time to form new neural pathways.
Motivation or willing yourself or inspiration isn’t enough. That’s why I focus so much on action and practice.
Right now, you have a lot of neural pathways that are rooted in perfectionistic thinking. But, with time, you can create new imperfectionist neural pathways. And don’t worry, an imperfectionist takes more action in a week than a perfectionist does in a month, so this process of change will go quicker than you think.
Let’s take action
So, what does lowering the bar for taking action look like? Here’s what I suggest: change the scale you use.
Most likely you’ve been using a scale of 1 to 10 so far, where the 1 stands for poorly and the 10 stands for perfectly. You’ve been using it in a way where only a 10 is perfect and only an A+ effort is good enough. You want to achieve nothing less than a perfect 10, because a solid 7 won’t be worth it and you won’t even dignify yourself with getting started.
Right? I bet this has you nodding along, thinking “yup, that’s me”.
What about using a binary scale?
A binary scale is either a 0, which means not doing anything, or a 1, which means doing anything. In this scenario a simple 1 equals success.
Let’s say you’re in a bar and you want to chat up this cute gal or cute guy. You could either not talk to him or her (which is a 0) or talk to him or her (which is a 1). Your former perfectionist self might have sat there agonizing over the perfect opening line, the perfect conversation starter and topics of conversation to keep the chat going for at least half an hour. All in all, as a perfectionist, you’re so overwhelmed that the moment has passed and you don’t go over to talk. But now that you’re an imperfectionist you go over and say hi, no deep conversation but just a simple hi, which means you’ve talked to that hottie, which means it’s a 1 on the binary scale, which means *success*.
Another example, your dream is to write a book. Your options are to not sit down to write (a 0 on the binary scale) or to sit down to write a book (a 1). An imperfectionist would sit down and write one sentence. Not THE sentence, the perfect opening sentence of all opening sentences, but just A sentence. This equals a 1 and thus… success. The next day, you sit down again for a sentence or two and before you know it you’re on your way toward a first draft of your book.
The question to ask yourself is: “What would be a tiny win?”
Cleaning one half of one shelf in your pantry over not cleaning at all? Doing one minute of meditation over doing no meditation at all? Doing one sit up over doing no exercise at all? Painting one wall over doing no home restoration at all? Checking off one item on your to-do list by answering a quick email over not doing any work at all?
It’s important to remember that tiny wins build up into being big victories.
Now, grab your worksheet. In the previous lesson you’ve identified certain tendencies and behaviors that you want to change in your transition from perfectionism into imperfectionism.
On the worksheet, write down the top 3 things you want to work on first. For each of these 3 things, what would be a tiny win? Remember to lower the bar for taking action by using the binary scale. What would give you a quick 1? Because a quick success creates momentum for the next tiny action step and the next one and the next one.
For instance, you want to ditch your control freak tendencies and you especially struggle with it in your work. What would be a tiny win here? What you could do is ask a teammate to name the project instead of fussing over it yourself. I’m just making this up as a go along here, but in the next week’s meeting you could announce that you’re only working on XYZ that week and will not butt in on that thing that your coworker is working on. That way you’ve publicly let go of that thing your coworker is working on AND you’ve created accountability for yourself.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but this part of the Perfectionist Bootcamp process is where you truly can start leveraging your talents that you’ve been abusing through perfectionism for so long and start using your talents for good.
How does this work?
Your detail-orientedness in perfectionism looked like this: quadruple-checking each and every single email before sending it out. Being detail-oriented in imperfectionism looks like this: being exceptionally capable in figuring out your next action to take, the next small detail, the next tiny win.
You being meticulous as a perfectionist meant you worked late every night to make sure everything was done perfectly. But now, you can use that talent just as much in your pursuit of imperfectionism.
Before, as a perfectionist, your preference for structure and organization resulted in you being very rigid and inflexible and not being able to work on a project that didn’t have a clear end goal yet. But now, as an imperfectionist, you can use your organizational skills to keep track of where in your journey you’re falling behind or in what area of your life you’re ready to take action again.
The gist? Take stock of your talents and see how you can use them in taking action.
Okay, superstar, you’re doing great! This was it for this lesson, so I’ll see you over in the next video.