This is one of the unspoken reasons we start but don’t finish our projects
I’ve started and quit loads of projects.
No shock there, huh?
Sometimes it’s because I’ve got bored and lost the emotional connection, but other times I couldn’t quite put my finger on it…
This was my process.
- I’d have an idea
- I’d get excited
- My dopamine started firing
- I’m super ambitious so I’d fantasize about how successful the project was going to be and create unrealistic expectations
- Then I’d research the shit out of it
Sometimes I’d get so overwhelmed that I would walk away, feeling foolish after my dopamine had crashed, and never re-visit the idea again.
The Expectation Gap
The gap between the reality of the project and my unrealistic expectations was so big I thought the projects were failures.
This wasn’t true.
By any metric, both projects had gotten off to an excellent start!
But I couldn’t see that. I would start my self-sabotaging process.
“ If it’s hard to get a project off the ground then it’s clearly not meant to be”
Perfectionists have unrealistic expectations about:
the outcomes and results of their work
and the creative process in which they create the work.
We think we quit projects because they’re too hard.
But in reality, we quit projects because they are not perfect.
And if something isn’t perfect then it’s not worth doing, right?
Rule Of The Thirds
I had unrealistic expectations about the outcomes and results.
But crucially I also had unrealistic expectations about the creative process.
I had convinced myself that if the creative process wasn’t perfect it was a sign that the project wasn’t right for me.
Why was this so important?
Because I was seeking purpose and meaning. I was fearful of wasting time following a pursuit that wasn’t purposeful.
I had associated purpose and meaning with perfection. I actively looked for faults in both the processes and the outcomes.
Because I was terrified of wasting my time on the wrong project.
This triggered what I refer to as my time anxiety.
Time anxiety is the limiting belief that we are constantly running out of time.
We feel this because our deepest fear is living our whole lives with unfulfilled potential.
Nothing is perfect.
Especially in creativity.
Creativity is really fucking messy by definition
Perfection only exists in the confines of our minds…So naturally, I found faults.
This was a sign that I should quit the project and start another one.
And multipotentialites have a never-ending list of projects.
So we flip-flop from one project to the next.
Rinse and repeat.
I used to believe that I should feel 100% all the time.
I used to think everything needed to be perfect otherwise it was a sign to move on to another project.
But the reality is this, when we’re working on projects…
we should roughly feel good 1/3 of the time
okay a 1/3 of the time
and shit a 1/3 of the time
and that’s okay. It’s normal
- I enjoy finding solutions to problems
- I enjoy building websites
I learned this mental model from Alexi Pappas who is a multipotentialite. She is a former Olympian and is now an author, filmmaker, and actor.
Alexi’s coach was also a former Olympian.
Alexi often secretly felt down because each training session was notperfect.
She wanted to quit because she believed her training process should be perfect otherwise she was wasting her time.
Her coach taught her the rule of thirds. Alexi overcame her perfection mindset and competed in the Olympics.
If it’s good enough for Olympians; it’s good enough for us.
Black and white thinking:
When we start a new project, let’s say it’s a company we invest our identity into it.
If the company is successful then we will feel successful. If the company fails then we will feel a failure.
That’s far too much pressure. Pressure crushes our creativity.
This means we perform below our potential and quit the project.
This removes the pressure. Some experiments work, and some don’t. That’s what experiments do.
We don’t invest our identities into experiments. Experiments are simply testing whether we enjoy the creative process or not.
Not in the creative process
Not in the results
Not is the external gratification
Perfection is creating a challenge. Taking action and launching a product knowing that it’s NOT perfect.
Perfection is accepting imperfection.
And that is okay.
Because once you go into a project knowing that it’s not going to be perfect it removes the expectation gap.
And it’s the expectation gaps that kill our startups.
Remove the gap. Complete the challenge. And launch.
Rinse and repeat this and two things happen
- Your work will get exponentially better
- Your courage will grow