Procrastination and perfectionism go hand in hand as they are rooted in the same problem: fear. From the outside looking in, procrastination may simply look like hesitation, but a closer look will reveal that most of the time we wait to get started on something for the fear that we don’t have all the answers yet, so we hesitate to take the first step. Similarly, perfectionism can appear to be a dedication to excellence, but again, peeling back the layers will often reveal that the root of our perfectionism is actually the fear of messing up or failing altogether.

From small projects around the house, like cleaning out an overcrowded closet, to big career-long dreams, like starting a new business venture you’ve been considering for years, procrastination and perfectionism can prevent us from achieving our goals in almost any area of our life.

Recently I’ve been challenging myself to develop a strength that does not come naturally to me, but which is the antidote to perfectionism and procrastination. The research firm Gallup calls it “Activator.” If you’re familiar with the StrengthFinder assessment you may have heard of it. Activators don’t waste time getting started once a decision has been made about a goal or project. They spring into action. My husband is like this. If I so much as suggest interest in a project, he gets started! My natural inclination is to do the opposite. I think about it. Then think some more. I weigh all the options. I strategize. I analyze. And while it’s not a bad thing to carefully consider a plan of action, sometimes all my thinking, and all my strategizing takes more time than it’s worth, as I imagine the task at hand is more complicated than it actually is.

So I’ve started making it a goal to be an activator. I notice when I have the thought, “I need to think some more about that. I’ll get to it when I have more time.” I take a breath and I consciously say to myself, “It’s not that hard. Just do it now.” Even for the projects and tasks that are complicated, we don’t learn by thinking about it. We learn by doing it. We learn when we succeed and we learn when we fail. And that learning makes it easier the next time.

So how about you? What goals are you overthinking? What plan is it time to put into action? What conversation have you been putting off? Perhaps my words are crossing paths with you right now because it is time to take action. Be an activator.

Even if you don’t have all the answers, take the first step. Rarely, if ever, do any of us have all the answers before we start, but it is in the missteps, the wrong directions, and the setbacks that we figure out the way. It is in the failures, the imperfections, and the trial and error that we learn what we actually need to know to get better.

Learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Be okay with not being perfect. Start looking at your goals and projects as an adventure, a journey of growth and learning, and just get started.

Coach Yourself

What have you been hesitating on because you haven’t had all the answers?
What small actions could you take this week to move forward?
When will you take them?