How to ditch the Go Big or Go Home mindset and get sh*t done in 3 easy steps
Have you ever found yourself with big plans that never come to fruition? Or maybe it’s even the smaller things. You want to clean your house, but you find yourself making a Target run because natural cleaning products are the thing now and you need a Mr. Clean eraser to scrub the baseboards. And now a simple thing like cleaning your house has turned into a month-long project that will end up unfinished. Sound familiar?
How the Go Big or Go Home mindset hurts
A while back I had an idea to start a podcast tackling many of the same things we discuss in this very blog. It’s a perfect match because I love listening to podcasts and it’s a great way to do one of the things I love most in life…help people. You can start a podcast relatively easily. All you need is a laptop and an internet connection. You can make your own basic cover art, record on some free software and hit publish. Later on, you can level up. That’s how most people start a podcast.
But I spent months researching the best microphones, the best server to host, paid someone to design my cover art, and listened to countless podcasts about podcasting. And as I listened to broadcasting pros telling me all the things I could mess up and do wrong it made me want to just give up. And if you listen to the broadcasting pros tell you all the things you can do wrong, you’ll never start. I had to step back and say, Erika, why do you want to start a podcast? The answer was to share my knowledge about managing anxiety (and perfectionism, ironically) and help people grow personally. I don’t need a perfect, professionally engineered podcast to do that. I can just start.
The perfectionist trap
Inside the mind of a perfectionist, there is so much pressure to do even the most mundane tasks in a way that wows. Ultimately, I had to step back and ask, Erika, why do you want to start a podcast? The answer was to share my knowledge about managing anxiety (and perfectionism, ironically) and help people grow personally. I don’t need a perfect, professionally engineered podcast to do that. I can just start.
It’s not that we shouldn’t strive for excellence or want to put our best foot forward. But if we’re constantly telling ourselves, that’s not good enough to share with the world, the world never gets to witness our gifts. That immense pressure you feel to only show your A+ work leaves you missing opportunities to see the good that could come from your B- work. Whether it’s cleaning out your car or starting a new business, it’s completely possible to quiet that negative voice inside, get shit done, and still feel proud. Keep reading to find out how.
What happens when it’s all or nothing
It starts with an idea. It might be something simple like cleaning your room or it might be something big like hosting a 500 guest event. You feel inspired and you start patrolling Pinterest for inspiration. You’re not just going to clean your room by picking up the things that are out of place, making the bed, vacuuming the floors, and calling it a day. You’re going to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, watch a bunch of YouTube videos on how to clean most efficiently, and realize, you don’t have the proper storage bins. So you make a list and head to the Container Store.
You get home and now, you’re exhausted. 6 hours have passed and now it’s time to figure out something to eat. All that inspiration you were feeling at the start of the day has turned to resentment because your room is still in the same state it was in at the start of the day (plus a few Container Store bags), your wallet is a little lighter, and you feel like a failure.
If it’s always Go Big or Go Home, if we’re always chasing perfection, we occasionally end up with a Pinterest-worthy project, but that’s the exception. We usually end up with a whole lot of nothing except for feelings of failure and inadequacy. We’ll have messy desks and messy cars. We will watch other people run with ideas we had months ago, but never completed because we didn’t have pretty business cards. We’ll see our coworkers getting credit at meetings for the great ideas we had, but didn’t share because we busy dreaming up a 20 slide PowerPoint presentation. If we don’t fix this mindset, we’ll spend our lives mostly just going home because we couldn’t go big.
Embracing the Done is Better than Perfect Mantra
I’ll admit, Go Big or just do a C+ job isn’t a sexy thing to say. But here’s the thing. People put out their mediocre work all the time and other people who see it think it’s great. Of course, there are times when you really want to do a bang-up job. And in a culture of driving to questionable areas of town to snap a photo in front of that Instagrammable wall, where only the best is posted for consumption, it can be hard to convince yourself that sometimes..hell, a lot of the time, even, okay is good enough.
But it’s true. You’re educated, you’re good at your job, you’re sensitive to the people around you. You are better than average. So if it’s just ok to you, it’s still good. And once you’ve let go of that constant need to do more, be better, be perfect, things will start to change in your life. Here’s how.
You’ll be more productive.
If you start doing things in a way that’s satisfactory, but not outstanding, you’ll find things get done a lot faster and you’ll have time to move on to the next.
You won’t procrastinate as much.
Why do perfectionists procrastinate, you ask? Because of the fear that what they produce won’t be good enough. You dread starting because whatever the thing you’re trying to accomplish has become a monstrous task. But if your standard becomes good rather than perfect, tasks are more manageable and even have the potential to be fun. Or maybe it’s not the procrastination. You love to start, but after you do you find yourself down a rabbit hole, off on tangents and the work never actually gets completed.
You won’t feel as anxious all the time.
This might not happen right away. In fact, you might feel more anxious to start because you’ll worry about the reaction you’ll get from not being perfect. You might miss that at first because producing things that are perfect is a defense mechanism. If you know it’s as good as it could possibly be, you don’t have fear failure or rejection as much.
But let’s face it. You’re already feeling bad; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. So keep reading to learn my 3 easy steps to ditch the Go Big or Go Home mindset and start getting shit done.
How to ditch the Go Big or Go Home mindset and get shit done
Here’s the tricky thing. You can probably think of times when the go big mindset paid off and you really nailed something you’re really proud of. Or you see others that seem to create overnight success (Spoiler alert: it probably happened incrementally). But when you allow yourself to go small or medium instead of big; when it’s ok for it to be some instead of all or nothing, you’ll find yourself feeling less anxious, more balanced, and finally you’ll start getting shit done. Read on to find out how to make the shift.
Define who you are
Take some time to reflect on your values and who you strive to be in all situations. You want to get a what’s most important to you at your very core. I spend a lot of time getting at this with my clients. Who are you? It seems like a simple enough question, but the most common response I get is a job title. I’m guilty of this as well. But who are you if you don’t have your job? I’ll give you the answer. You’re a person.
And from there, you can define what kind of person you are. Are you a kind, crude, funny, perceptive, social person? The descriptors should be things that are always true. Whether you get fired or get married or divorced. These are who you are NOT what you do or have. Got it? There should be a few. Maybe you’re a god fearing, swear word-loving, inclusive human being. That’s awesome because it brings us to step number 2.
There’s room for the complexity and contradiction of and
When my clients get stuck in black or white thinking, I ask them to embrace the and. It’s not black or white, it’s black and white. For example, I’ll hear something like “I screwed up and I’m a bad person.” But do you know anyone who is an entirely good or entirely bad person? We’re all good and bad people.
I know everything about how to optimize the perfect Starbucks drink and order in perfect Starbuckese AND I know nothing about making it at home so I don’t have to spend $6 on my drink. So I’ve got choices to evaluate. If I’m in all or nothing mode, my choice is to spend $42 a week for the rest of my life on Starbucks or never have the morning beverage.
But those aren’t the choices. Maybe I hate Mondays and I celebrate Fridays, so I spend $12 a week at Starbucks and I make an ok drink at home the rest of the days. The possibilities are endless, but if I’m thinking on or the other, I end up either parched and miserable or broke. Leaving room for and opens up opportunities all over the place and helps you get comfortable living in the middle sometimes. And that can mean C+/B- work every now and then.
Separate your value as a human from the things you do and create
You might worry that if you don’t get that promotion, you’ve failed. Maybe you feel worthless or dumb. It’s either one or the other, that black or white thinking creeping in again.
But you are not what you accomplish, what you create, how clean your house is, how fancy your car is. You are that god fearing, swear-word loving, inclusive human-being worthy of respect, love, and happiness regardless of your test score, your job level, your relationship status.
Ditching the go big or go home mindset can be freeing, but it might not happen right away. It can take some time to discover who you are at your core and embrace the complexity of being human. When you have a little support from Tailwinds Counseling, you can learn to separate your value from your failures and live a life getting shit done with less anxiety and fear holding you back.
Erika Ames is a Licenced Clinical Social Worker and owner of Texas online therapy practice, Tailwinds Counseling. Her specialties include anxiety, young adult issues, and coping with cancer as a patient or caregiver. To schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with her, click here or call (713) 936-4909.