There’s something you want to do. Really want to do. Maybe it’s writing a book. Maybe it’s switching careers. Maybe it’s going back to school. Maybe it’s taking voice or dance lessons. Maybe it’s starting your own business. Maybe it’s taking on some other meaningful project or making some other meaningful change.
Either way, you have a dream you’d like to realize.
But you’re also a perfectionist and you fear your first attempt will be a big, hideous mess. Or you know you’re going to fail. Or you know you’re not particularly talented. Or you’re positive you don’t have what it takes because _____________. Or you’re positive that _____________.
Here’s how to start anyway. These tips come from Marie Forleo’s empowering, inspiring book Everything Is Figureoutable.
- Explore the possibilities. Forleo, a coach who works with entrepreneurs and artists, suggests asking ourselves these questions: Who might I become and what might I accomplish if I focus on progress versus perfection? What might I learn? What strengths and skills could I develop?
- Anticipate problems and solutions. Be strategic about your new venture. Identify common challenges, obstacles, and distractions that might come up—and create specific, effective solutions, according to Forleo. This might be anything from dealing with the distractions of the Internet to figuring out childcare to encouraging yourself when your motivation wanes.
- Tackle your self-talk. When your self-talk becomes especially perfectionistic, pessimistic, and doom and gloom, Forleo recommends adding the words “yet.” For example: I’m not good with money yet. I don’t know the first thing about writing fiction yet. I don’t have any good ideas yet. List all the negative things you say to yourself, and then add “yet.” And keep reminding yourself of this truth.
- Do one tiny thing. Forleo suggests jotting down five small things you can do to make progress on your project or dream. Then pick one small action to take right now. Call a friend for support. Research business plans. Sign up for a painting class. Buy a notebook. Brainstorm business names. Register your domain. Email a potential mentor.
- Practice patience. There are no shortcuts to realizing our dreams. It took Forleo 7 years of doing all kinds of side jobs—cleaning toilets, bartending, waitressing—before she relied completely on her business for full-time income. She notes that having everything at our fingertips, thanks to technology, has distorted our perception of how long achieving a goal really takes. “To build skills, earn trust, develop a body of work, forge relationships, gain mastery, or solve complicated problems, it takes sustained, relentless effort.”
Starting something new is hard. It’s especially hard if your inner critic is screaming for you to stop. But your inner critic is just trying to protect you. Acknowledge and accept her concern, and give yourself the chance to move forward anyway.
And remember that you can move forward even when you feel unsteady, unsure, and incredibly overwhelmed.
As Forleo writes, “Life doesn’t demand perfection. Life doesn’t require you to be constantly fearless, confident, or self-assured. Life simply requires that you keep showing up.”