The Quest for Perfection – How to Avoid this Creativity-Killing Mindset
We all want to put out our best work. Striving for excellence is a good thing. But often this desire can quickly turn into a slippery slope. And soon we find ourselves writing and rewriting, editing and re-editing, caught in a never-ending spiral and we end up sacrificing production in the quest for perfection.
This is a trap many creative people fall into. It causes otherwise courageous people to avoid taking the risks they need to take in order to produce new and dynamic creations. It can lead to feelings of inadequacy and depression. And it can turn what was once a passion into a source of pain. In the job seeking process it is easy to fall into impostor syndrome.
In order to avoid this trap, we need to enter into our creative endeavors with the right mindset and be wary of the many pitfalls that line our creative journey.
In this short article, we’ll take a look at some of the fundamental principles of a healthy and creative mindset. We’ll explore some of the traps and pitfalls that we are sure to be confronted with and what actions we can take to keep ourselves free from their clutches.
Embrace the Process
Link to the royalty-free image by Grant Ritchie here
Creativity is the result of a process. It is not a flash of inspiration that comes to us through any magical incantation or special potion. The specificities of the process differ from one person to another. You need to find the process that works for you. Whatever it is, you must make sure that it is a process you will be able to sustain, one that is fun (to an extent), and one that you have faith in.
The process must lead to a clearly defined end. This is your goal. Your goal is to complete the process. Your goal is to reach the end. Your goal must never be based on the quality of the finished product. This is what is meant by “embrace the process”. And it’s much easier said than done.Be cognizant of workload management. Stay focused and avoid multi-tasking.
Set Goals That Are Productivity-Based Not Quality-Based
Regardless of what your career goals are and how you define them, there will inevitably be a productivity component to them. For example, if your goal is to be a best-selling author, you will need to write books (plural). Writing 1 book and having it be a best-seller is not a career goal. It is a status goal. It is a goal for the vain, not for the creative.
Rather than setting out to write the best book ever, set out to write books. Set out to complete the process from A to Z. It is the process that will determine your level of creativity. The more times you go through the process, the better the end result will be. If you only go through the process once, no matter how hard you try, how meticulous your attention to detail is, the end result will still be inferior to what the result would be if you went through the process multiple times.
Challenge Yourself to Grow
If you are as good as you can possibly be, you will not be able to get any better. Growth, by definition, implies that you have not yet reached your full potential. And this is a good thing. Growth is wonderful. It is inspiring. And the prospect of growth can be a strong motivating factor for the creative person.
What this entails is that you recognize that your current output will not be your greatest output. This means that you understand that your current creative production is more like a snapshot of who you are at this stage in your life. It is not the epithet on your tombstone.
Acknowledge that your best work is yet to come, and this should motivate you to keep producing, to keep going through the creative process with the expectation that the quality of what you produce will keep improving.
Allow Yourself to Fail
This step in the creative process might very well be the most difficult to adhere to. It might very well also be the most important.
By allowing yourself to fail, you are enabling yourself to take risks. This is of the utmost importance, as there can be no creation without risk.
In practical terms, in order to allow yourself to fail, you need to surround yourself with like-minded people – people who understand that this is a vital step in the creative process; people who are not quick to judge but are, however, quick to forgive. Its a common mistake that in job search people feel frustrated due to the high expectations they have put on themselves, however current job platforms such as Lensa allows them to test their skills to realize the skills they need to achieve their goals and subsequently grow.
Learn to Love the Warts
Imperfections – or as they’re colloquially referred to as, “warts” – possess a beauty in and of themselves. In creative production, these warts should be worn as a badge, as a proud testament to your courage, to your willingness to take risks. Regardless of how hard things are taking ownership of your life and mistakes is the first step of growth.
These imperfections are also part of the snapshot of who you are at any given point in your life. You should be able to look back on them with a certain fondness (once you get over cringing at them). In hindsight, they can also serve as a testament to your growth. They are a reminder of where you came from and the progress you have made.
But in order to love the warts, you have to produce the warts. And this can’t happen if your productivity is bogged down with an endless quest for perfection.
In the Immortal Words of Karen Carpenter
Creativity requires courage: the courage to take risks knowing that there is a chance you will fail (and fail for everyone to see). Creative people, by definition, are daring. They are not perfectionists. Perfectionism is the antidote to creativity.
I’ll show my age and close with a quote from one of my favorite singers of the 1970s:
- It doesn’t matter if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing, sing a song