How to Be an Imperfectionist is now available!
Imagine that there is a 10,000 pound elephant in the road blocking traffic and you’re tasked to clear the road. The driver behind you yells out the solution: “Push the elephant out of the way!”
Pushing the elephant away would certainly clear the road; the solution makes sense. But can you actually push a 10,000 pound elephant out of the way? Probably not, and you might get stomped. That leads us to an important insight.
Solutions are worthless unless you’re able to successfully implement them.
How to Be an Imperfectionist is here. It is my second book. As the title indicates, it is a “how to” book, but unlike most how-to books or articles you’ll read, this book smartly incorporates the science of change into its perfectionism-reversing solutions.
The elephant in the road example is an obvious case of the importance of doable solutions. It’s far more difficult to recognize doable solutions in personal growth, because our greatest limitations are neither physical or visible—they’re mental and buried deep within our subconscious.
How to Be an Imperfectionist goes beyond surface-level “just push the elephant away” solutions. It goes deep into the psyche of a perfectionist and examines the motives and mechanisms that make us think and behave this way. Then it finds clever ways to reverse these processes and minifies them to make them accessible even to busy or unmotivated people.
Not only are the solutions doable and effective, but they’re put in the context of customizable plans to incorporate into your busy life. The mini size of the solutions overcome the “but I’m too busy/overwhelmed” problem, which is a common reason people fail to change.
Why Overcome Perfectionism?
To answer that question, I’ll show you the first part of the introduction from the book:
“In the most accurate, technical, and literal sense of the word, a pure perfectionist is someone who is completely dysfunctional in the real world. If you’re raising your hand and nodding right now, you’re likely to be exaggerating, as most of us are functional as perfectionists but don’t live optimally because of it.
- Do you ever struggle to make decisions? Perfectionism.
- Do you ever get intimidated by social situations? Perfectionism.
- Do you ever procrastinate? Perfectionism.
- Do you get depressed easily? (Likely) perfectionism.
- Do you have low self-esteem? Perfectionism.
Perfectionism causes some of life’s worst mental problems because it makes life’s imperfections into bothersome, intimidating, and unsurpassable roadblocks. Perfectionists are driven mad or frozen in place by the chasm between desire and reality, which impairs their ability to progress and enjoy life. Only imperfectionists can tolerate imperfection, which is the defining attribute of our world.
Thankfully, perfectionism isn’t a permanent characteristic. We are capable of changing ourselves, but only with the right strategies. In order to find the right strategies for perfectionism, we must explore the roots of the problem.”
What If I’m Not a Perfectionist?
It’d be hard to find one person without some kind of perfectionism holding them back. When I say I used to be a perfectionist, I don’t mean I’m 100% changed, I mean my general perspective and behavior have changed. It would be ironic if anyone managed to perfectly drop perfectionism. We’ve all got it to some degree, and we’d all benefit from having less of it.
How to Be an Imperfectionist contains 22 solutions. Most of them are for specific subsets of perfectionism, like needing approval or being concerned over mistakes. There are a couple general perfectionism solutions that can help with all of the subsets. Here’s one of them from the book:
General Perfectionism Solution
“A lever is “a rigid bar resting on a pivot, used to help move a heavy or firmly fixed load with one end when pressure is applied to the other.” It enables you to move something with much less force than if you tried to move the object unassisted. The upcoming insight is like a lever for imperfectionism in that it’s easier than a “blunt force” strategy of straight up trying to have more realistic standards. It is the “pivot point” of the imperfectionist mindset.
Pivot point: perfectionism and imperfectionism are determined by what you care about. The following list shows what cares to have (or not) in order to be an imperfectionist. If you follow this advice, I guarantee you’ll be happier with your life:
- Care less about results. Care more about putting in the work.
- Care less about problems. Care more about making progress despite them. Or if you must fix something, focus on the solution.
- Care less about what other people think. Care more about who you want to be and what you want to do.
- Care less about doing it right. Care more about doing it at all.
- Care less about failure. Care more about success.
- Care less about timing. Care more about the task.
In general, the idea behind imperfectionism is to not care so much about conditions or results, and care more about what you can do right now to move forward with your identity and your life. Think about this:
People with social anxiety care more about social interactions than anyone else does. They care so much about a social interaction going smoothly that they often avoid those situations altogether. And when they’re in social situations, they can’t act naturally because they’re so concerned about how they’re coming across, how smoothly and pleasantly the exchange is going, and how something might go wrong.
Depressed people care more about shutting down negative thoughts than anyone else does. One day, novelist Leo Tolstoy’s brother told him to sit in a corner until he stopped thinking about a white bear. Much later that day, Tolstoy remained in the corner, his mind fixated on the white bear he needed to stop thinking about. This experiment has been replicated in more studies, and the result is always the same: when people forbid themselves or attempt to rid their mind of something, it boomerangs back to them with alarming consistency and persistency. The solution, then, is to allow negative thoughts but not care about them. In her book, The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal, PhD, says, “Studies show that the more you try to suppress negative thoughts, the more likely you are to become depressed.”
Nervous test takers care more about their test results than I ever did, and their nervousness may interfere with their ability to recall what they studied.
Speaking of nervousness, after being healthy and calm my whole life, a spider bit me one morning, and a crazy chain of events transpired that sent me to the ER three times and, worse than that, made me begin to unravel mentally. After the spider bite, I overthought every sensation I felt. I started looking for major health problems; from this, I developed a sudden and severe case of general and health anxiety. It got to the point where I’d be visibly shaking in the corner of my bed, worried beyond reason and nervous about my nervousness.
Now I feel as calm as a jellyfish looks, and it’s because I finally learned to not care about feeling butterflies in my stomach for no reason. I learned to not care that I was nervous all the time. I acknowledged what was going on, and I didn’t care. Apathy saved my skin!
Telling people to stop caring in general is dangerous advice, but if that apathy is in the right place, it can be life-changing in the best way.”
One critical question this book answers is how to make a mindset change (such as changing your cares) into something actionable that you can practice. This technique alone is worth the price of admission!
How to Be an Imperfectionist by the Numbers
- Time to write: 11 months
- Cost to produce: ~$2,500 (not counting my time)
- Chapters: 10 chapters (plus the preface)
- Word count: 51,149 words (Mini Habits was about 33,000 words)
- Action-based solutions: 22 solutions across six categories of perfectionism
- Special features: 10 humorous illustrations demonstrate each chapter’s concept
- Research: 48 studies and sources cited
Mini Habits has been highly successful and is changing lives worldwide. And while the impact of How to Be an Imperfectionist is yet to be seen, I think it is an even better book than Mini Habits. It is fun to read, and it has some ideas I doubt you’ve heard elsewhere. For less than the price of a sandwich, you won’t find a better value than this.
I’m confident of this book can help you overcome perfectionistic tendencies better than any other book available because it marries smart strategies with realistic application. I’ve personally had success with these methods as well, and throughout the book, I’ll tell you stories of how I implemented them.
Imperfectionism is true mental freedom!