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Here’s a Formula That Will Bust Your Perfectionism Forever!

photo: danny on flickr

photo: danny on flickr

For those of you who are thinking that there is no way a formula could bust your perfectionism forever, I have this to say:

You’re right.

If you don’t think a simple formula can bust your perfectionism forever, then it won’t.

But if you’re willing to believe that maybe it could, then check it out:

Years ago I read a book by a guy named David Burns. The book is called Feeling Good, and it outlines a cognitive approach to depression.

While it’s a great book for anyone struggling with depression, it’s also a great book for anyone. (Here’s a blog post I wrote about David Burns on the 10 ways our minds distort reality.)

In the book Feeling Good, Dr. Burns tells a story about his colleagues and publication.

He noticed that his peers who had success in publishing didn’t tear their hair out making their papers perfect. They just got them to the point where they were good enough, and then sent them out.

Consequently, these were the people who had had a lot of success with publication.

Meanwhile, Dr. Burns agonized over every comma and semicolon, and his path to publication was much more laborious.

Until he changed his ways using a special formula. At least, that’s how I remembered it. Turns out I made the formula up, because when I went back to the book to find it, it wasn’t there.

That said, here’s the formula my mind came up with:

photo: z egloff

photo: z egloff

This circle represents the total amount of time a perfectionist spends on a project.

The left side represents the first 50% of the time, in which 98% of the task is accomplished. The right side represents the second 50% of the time, in which the perfectionist labors over every comma and second-guesses every semicolon, thus getting the project to 100%.

But if this same person let the project go at 98% and moved on to another project, they’d have two 98% projects done in the same amount of time.

But that’s not all!

Here’s another formula, also generated from my brain, that busts the perfectionist tendencies even further:

photo: z egloff

photo: z egloff

That’s right! You heard me.

There’s no such thing as perfect! Even what you think of as 100% perfect is really just 98%. There’s always going to be something more to work on. There will always be areas to improve.

Moving forward and not getting tripped up by the minutia is the best way to tap into true perfection.

And what is true perfection?

True perfection is allowing the creative spirit to flow through you.

Perfectionism blocks that flow! So it’s not really perfectionism at all!

Back when I was writing fiction, I remember hearing a writer say that too many people agonize over their first novel, trying to get it perfect. This writer said that it’s actually way more helpful for your development as a writer to just move on and write another book. You learn tons more about yourself as a writer that way. Plus you keep the creative juices flowing.

photo: jason rogers on flickr

photo: jason rogers on flickr

A while ago, Melissa and I recorded the monthly video that goes out with our newsletter. We did a few takes until we had something that was good enough – something in the 98% range. There were a few things we could have changed, but they didn’t matter that much, and the time it would have taken to reshoot to fix those things would have seriously cramped our creative flow.

So we left it as it was.

I have to say, I had my knickers in a twist about the few things that could have been changed, until I remembered the formula. Then I realized I’d gotten caught up in perfectionism’s snare.

I also realized that those things my perfectionist said needed fixing were actually just areas of improvement for next time.

These things that need fixing areas of improvement give me the momentum to move forward and create the next video. And the next. And the next.

So here’s the finished product, a 98% perfect video that reminded me of an important formula, one that helps keep me sane and allows me to move forward as a creative person.

How do you bust perfectionism? Share your comments below!

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14 Responses to Here’s a Formula That Will Bust Your Perfectionism Forever!

  1. Karen April 28, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    You guys are so cute and funny in that video!!! Love the humor as well as the message!

    And the “formula” is terrific. I’ve learned to direct my perfectionism more toward the things that matter and let lesser things slide — at least sometimes. (Still no dirty dishes left in the sink around here!) :)

    And as far as the thing that matters most to me — thinking and feeling good — I can unleash my perfectionism on that without there being a down-side. When I’m perfectionistic about what thoughts get “air time” in my cranium, it serves me well.

    Life is an ongoing, sometimes chaotic process, and as we relax and enjoy the journey, we’ve got the most “perfect” approach of all.

    • Z Egloff April 28, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

      Hi Karen,

      Yay – glad you liked the video. We’re having fun doing them, and it’s a new thing, so all encouragement we get is really helpful. :)

      I like that you point out that there can be places in our lives where being a perfectionist can have a huge pay off and no down-side. A very creative way to see it. And, dare I say, perfect! :)


  2. Chris April 28, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    Ha! I love this video. It’s perfect! Really. :)

    • Z Egloff April 28, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

      Hi Chris,

      And I love this perfect comment! :)


  3. Sally April 28, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    Hi Z,

    Thank you for this way of seeing perfectionism. I can TOTALLY get stuck in perfectionism, and I like this way of releasing it. I’m going to try this and see what happens. And if it doesn’t work perfectly, I’ll be okay with that too. :)

    • Z Egloff April 28, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

      Hi Sally,

      Yay! Glad that you like the formula. And, even more importantly, glad that you’re going to be easy on yourself. That’s perfect! 😉


  4. Sherry April 28, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    Wow, guys, another great post and a love the video. “I’m going to that higher place if consciousness to find that perfect job!” And, I’ll be singing that song “Surrender.”

    Thanks, and, all The Best.

    • Z Egloff April 29, 2015 at 11:40 am #

      Hi Sherry,

      Always great to see you here!

      Sending you love and support in the job process and in the Surrender. :)


  5. Theresa April 29, 2015 at 8:09 am #

    as always, just the message I needed to hear. As a recovering perfectionist, 98% = 100% is a mantra that I will hold dear. And don’t four-letter words have such power?

    Many thanks!

    • Z Egloff April 29, 2015 at 11:36 am #

      Hi Theresa,

      Yay! Glad it was helpful. :)

      Not sure the four-letter word you mean: Help?!

      Thanks for stopping by!


  6. Michael E. Frank April 30, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    Hi Meli and Z

    What a great discussion with so much time given to perfectionism. I really understand how this, “ISM” had blocked things out of my mind at times, especially when I reach that moment of clarity, which I call, “drawing a blank.”
    Not only does it prevent me from moving forward sometimes, I then am unable to give the “next” my undivided attention because I am stuck trying to figure out what was happening when I was thinking about the blank I was drawing. Then I understand exactly what you are talking about above…..it prevents me from being able to devote ANY time to my next project.

    I have heard over the years that time is equally important so now I really understand the difficulty in trying to make up for the lost time and any validity to what I want to do next because I can’t give that next moment the joy and happiness it deserves. So, as interesting as it is, I am in the middle of a math class at the JC right now and my professor has continually “harped’ on making the best use of my time. Can you believe or even understand that she wants me to take a break every 20 minutes or so and guess what? I enjoy that break and when I return I just do the best I can and have fun doing it, without any more emphasis on perfectionism.

    God bless each of you and the amazing “ONENESS” YOU SHARE TOGETHER.”

    • Z Egloff April 30, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

      Hi Michael,

      I like how you point out how perfectionism keeps us stuck in place. And thank you for the tip on getting up and taking a break – and how this makes the whole process more enjoyable and stops perfectionism. I’m going to get up and take a little break once I’m done typing this. Thank you! :)


  7. Jill Shinn April 30, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

    Hi Z and Melissa, so true. I love the 98% rule. Getting things perfect is not my issue as much as the perfectionism that says, “That woman looks perfect, so she must actually BE perfect….what’s wrong with me?”

    I just recently realized that I have lived my entire life buying into advertising and TV images of how you’re supposed to be. My house was never as clean as those houses, and I was never as happy or carefree or pretty as those actresses. I thought I must be doing something terribly wrong. How could I be so flawed??? I never realized that none of that was realistic. Crazy, huh?

    So, I guess I’m a recovering perfectaholic. They say there’s no actual cure……..oh, the imperfection of it all!

    • Z Egloff May 1, 2015 at 10:01 am #

      Hi Jill and Jill,

      This is a great area to see through the whole perfection lens. Advertising is a HUGE area that attempts to maximize our false thinking about “perfect.” How cool would it be if the advertising industry adopted a 98% approach?! But then they wouldn’t sell any products. Or maybe only 98% as many. But I digress. . . good for you for letting all that stuff go. Or, letting it go as best you can. Which, in my book, is perfect. :)


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