I like to get things right the first time. It’s a real problem.
It’s a problem because, well, it’s generally impossible to do.
To learn, you must “fail” a bit
The majority of life’s tasks – from walking, to talking, to making an omelette, to writing a symphony – involve an unavoidable learning curve. You are born with the potential to do these things, but not the ability.
In order to do them, you must shift from ignorance to knowledge – you must learn. And in order to learn, you must try. And if you try, there’s a pretty big chance that you’ll fail – at least the first few times.
But if failure doesn’t kill you – and it almost never does – and you keep trying, then before long, you will be a person who can now do the thing you set out to do.
For most things in life, the specific outcome of each try doesn’t matter.
It’s the big picture that matters.
My mistake is forgetting that. I make getting it right this time far too important – so important, in fact, that it scares me away before even make my first attempt.
And yet… no matter how hard I rack my brains, I can’t recall a single time in my life where this time genuinely mattered – where straining to get this moment right, or else… got me a better result than just trying my best and if it didn’t work out trying again later.
Maybe it’s me, but putting pressure on myself to get it right this time actually takes me in the wrong direction – it seems to ensure that I not only get it wrong this time, but I continue to get it wrong, and worst of all, I have an incredibly stressful experience.
But doing my best over time? Trial and error based on the best information I currently have? Well that seems to get me where I want to go much quicker.
What to do
If you are living a life – as I have far too often – where every throw of the dice feels like life and death, relax. It’s not. It’s not even close.
Your life might contain a billion throws of the dice – the outcome of this one throw doesn’t matter at all. All that matters is the overall pattern.
Are you consistently trying to do what you think is right for you? If you are, then you’re sorted – you’re learning. Over time – even accounting for all your mistakes, failures, and fuck-ups – you’re going to be in a vastly superior position than if you avoid trying because you’re trying to avoid failing.
A perfectionist is not someone with high standards. A perfectionist is somebody so afraid to make one little mistake that they won’t even try, wearing the mask of someone with high standards.