I love writing. It gives me a sense of joy, makes me feel good and reconnects me to my soul purpose but sometimes I forget to listen to my heart and I listen to my head. The unhelpful part that says “That’s just not good enough” and sounds a little like an old, disgruntled, school teacher.

Unfortunately, this in turn, can encourage the procrastinating student side of me to emerge – the part that dilly dallies around, makes lots of cups of tea and says, “That’s not for now – maybe later” and can find any excuse not to start a project or to put it off until tomorrow.

Does any of this sound familiar? Can you identify with the voice of the fault-finding school master or the stalling student? Or perhaps like me – both?! Do you set your standards so high, that you never quite feel like you have hit the mark or just never get around to starting the task in the first place? If so, you might be stuck in the Perfectionist, Procrastinator, Paralysis trap too!

Perhaps you have started a project, determined to execute it perfectly, but have then avoided it until you can ‘do it exactly right’ and then, paralysed by the fear that you won’t be very good at the very thing you want to accomplish, you don’t do it at all! Or perhaps, you start so many creative ideas that you never get around to completing any of them?

Either way, it can quickly become a vicious cycle that keeps us frozen and ineffective and gives us the perfect excuse to never see a project through to completion. It’s the perfect unconscious way to self-sabotage the best of intentions and believe me it’s rife out there. So, don’t beat yourself up or think you are alone if you are going through this. We have all fallen prey to the paralysis trap at some point.

In a strange way, it’s a trick our mind plays on us in an attempt to keep us safe because the fear of shining bright is often greater than the fear of staying small. As Marianne Williamson said: “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

While there is nothing wrong with pushing ourselves to attain excellence or having ambitious dreams, it can become a problem if the goals we set are impossibly high and always out of reach, or we feel overwhelmed with fear or anxiety about the task ahead. We, inadvertently, set ourselves up for a fall and no wonder it makes us feel bad. It makes us sit in judgement and turns our inner critic up super loud.

The truth is that if we keep waiting for that perfect way or the perfect time to execute our task, write our manuscript or make our dream a reality, we may stay in a state of inertia or perfectionism paralysis for a very long time and run the risk of never starting or completing our project at all. This, in turn, can lead to even more self-criticism, turning our mind into our enemy.

It’s no wonder then that perfectionism is linked to numerous negative health effects, including higher rates of anxiety, depression, unhappiness and even eating disorders.

So next time you find yourself stalling on an important task, suffering from writer’s block or avoiding asking that person you like out to dinner, remember the good-enough principle, and give yourself permission to try. Safe in the knowledge that is doesn’t have to be perfect. Good enough is just fine.

How to escpae the Paralysis Trap

 

  • First and foremost – don’t allow that nit-picking, fault-finding negative voice in your head to have the upper hand and sabotage your dreams.  Remind yourself that ‘you are good enough’ and so is your work.
  • Remember that whatever that important thing is, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Call upon the ‘good-enough’ principle to reframe your perspective and allow some space for error.
  • Turn up your kind and compassionate wise inner voice and offer yourself some reassurance and positive feedback. You’ve got this.
  • Remind yourself of similar projects that you have previously completed or times when you have shone or delivered in the past.
  • Just start. Pick up that pen or turn on your computer or make that call. Take one small step in the direction of your goal and get over that initial hurdle.
  • Create from the heart, go with the flow, set your intention and allow everything to pour out just as it should. Then make time to edit and tweak later.
  • Break it down into smaller more achievable tasks. We often avoid starting something because it feels so big that we fall into overwhelm and our unrealistic expectations stop us from functioning adequately.
  • Set yourself SMART achievable goals i.e. make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
  • Remember, we all slip up along the way. It’s a natural part of life. Making mistakes is sometimes just as important as making progress. It’s only when the pressure of perfection has been removed that we can tap into our inner genius and do our best work.
  • Observe your own productivity and progress and give yourself credit when credit is due. As soon as you start recognising small developments in the right direction, you will start feeling so much better about yourself and the task at hand.