If you’re waiting for perfection, you’ll fail

Grace doesn't mind settling in with the tall, itchy grass and low-hanging branches. Shade was the primary requirement, beyond that she was not picky about environment.

Grace didn’t mind settling in with the tall, itchy grass and low-hanging branches. Shade was the primary requirement; since she was clear about that, she could overlook the imperfections in the environment without allowing them to prevent her from getting what she wanted.

There is never a lack of things to do for busy managers and employees. We will always face a constant push to stay ahead, to do more, to do better, to improve our outcomes despite the heavy work load we already face.

It can be paralyzing and it often is. Very frequently, I hear people in the workplace remark about “waiting for a better time” or “moving forward when things settle down” or taking action “when we get through this rough spot.” I’m all in favor of making sure that you aren’t piling too many things on the plate at one time, but usually those types of comments are just an excuse to delay something because you can’t imagine how you’ll fit it in.

If we wait until we arrive at that perfect moment, well, it may just never come. And the important things that we want to accomplish will be sitting idle while time passes us by.

A few weeks ago, Grace and I hiked up a small mountain trail. At the top, she was at first restless, checking out all the scents and views as I stood catching my breath. Once she realized I wasn’t going anywhere fast, she plopped herself down on a rocky, bumpy ledge in the midst of tall, itchy grass, directly under some low-lying brush. Her resting spot of choice did not look at all comfortable to my eye, but she had one priority: shade. Once she found the one tiny sliver that existed atop this summit, nothing else mattered. She was very content to put up with the lack of perfection that surrounded her, in order to get what she wanted the most.

It was a gentle reminder of how we humans often forgo the thing we say we want the most, because we allow excuses to get in the way. We are often unwilling to sacrifice some inconveniences or experience some bumpy spots to get there. In order to pursue our dreams, we might have to let go of something we’ve been holding on to that hasn’t been serving us well. Or we might need to move outside of our comfort zone to expand our perspective.

When managing a project or an employee, we can get caught up in making (or accepting) excuses for the missed deadline or the lackluster results. We often let things ride because it is easier or seems the most feasible. We miss the opportunity to achieve more or better things because we become complacent with the status quo, especially if things are working ok (but could be better).

Here are my suggestions for getting out of a slump:

  • Be clear on your priorities. Identify the urgent projects and the important ones. They are different. You’ll want to keep a focus on what’s important (like the shade to Grace).
  • Set aside time each day to devote to your most important objective. Do at least one thing to move it forward.
  • Establish realistic timelines and celebrate the milestones when you reach them. It is very easy to lose track of all you have done, especially if you keep thinking about how much you still have to do!
  • Visualize the outcome. When you can see and feel what you’re working for, it will make the journey exciting instead of fearful. That itchy grass won’t even be a bother when you know you’re making headway towards what you have established as important to accomplish.

These sound simple, but I know it’s not always easy to follow (speaking from personal experience!). There will always be a million things to distract us. Once you have a clear idea — and commitment — to what you want, you will get there. It is that simple. We can all benefit from a nudge to help us stay on track and Grace is setting a good example for us to follow.

Get out there and move towards what you want. What are you waiting on?

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