Still Life

A Series of Mental Snapshots

The Search for Perfection and the Fear That Motivates it.

Posted by Steve on February 19, 2008

It has been a while since my last post. This was a combination of two things, firstly I had a busy few weeks in my personal life, but secondly because of the recent increase in traffic I have been feeling like I want to make a really good post, something really insightful, therefore when I would get ideas for posts, I would question them… ‘is this really good enough to put up’, and I would often answer no. In this situation the search for perfection, was holding me back; so I began to consider where else this may apply to life, and realized it occurs in many areas.

I began to look at the reasons behind why I wanted a perfect post and came to the realization that the real root motivation was fear; fear of posting something that would have people say ‘wow that was a waste of my time, why did I read that?’, or that it would be ‘worse’ then my other posts; thus I was somewhat unable to act because of these feelings of fear. I began to think how the fear was a fear of not being good enough, that the next post I made would be inadequate. This lead me to think of where specific examples when fear has held me back in the past and the present. Here are a few quick examples:

In the fall I played a few indoor soccer games with my two friends, I wasnt officially on the team, but I filled in whenever they knew they were going to be shorthanded. It was a fairly skilled team, so I felt nervous about my own skill level because I didnt want to disappoint my friends or let down the team. This nervousness lead to fear of making mistakes and being inadequate. Once this fear was in place I never made any risky plays, over thought my moves, and was generally nervous. All these things led to me playing worse then I usually would, I was acting reserved, holding back, which when playing a quick game like indoor soccer is detrimental to over all play. So it was the fear of inadequacy that held me back, if I had been confident in my abilities and not worried I would have played much better.

Another example is from my classroom experiences at University. There are many times when I will know the answer to questions, or at least be 90% sure of the answer, and yet not answer it, because of the fear of being wrong.

I got a little off topic, but its an interesting area to explore, all of the things that we are missing out on because we fear doing them. Maybe its that project at work that you are not sure you can tackle, or that girl in your book club that you’ve had your eye on for a while, it could really be anything. The longer we let fear hold us back, the longer we will be thinking of what could be, instead of living in that reality. I am getting a little philosophical here, but my point is that if something is really worth pursuing, there is most likely a chance that failure will ensue. These chances have to be taken, its the life experience (whether it is a success or a failure) that we get out of these events that really make a difference, and help to shape our futures.

If it is worth doing, it most certainly is worth failing at. I try not to think of the failures that might happen, but instead think of the lessons taht I’ll learn (even in failure), I also think of the the rewards I’ll receive in success.

–Steve

Failure is but another vessel where knowledge can flow.

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3 Responses to “The Search for Perfection and the Fear That Motivates it.”

  1. Adam White said

    If you can conquer that “fear” you will be lightyears ahead of others. Learning that you can’t control the reactions of others and accepting that – really accepting that – will allow you to expand to places others will never get to.

    Most of the time “fear” of the unknown is what holds people back. They pre-judge the outcome and then don’t/won’t and sometimes physically can’t take action because of it. Use a start up as an example. Some people see that as the worst risk possible (unstable,unkown, X% fail)….and some see it as the best opportunity possible (great growth oppportunity, able to learn about business, and a great upside if it works out)

    Related specifically to blog posting – maybe you could prefece your post with “This is a half finished thought – but I wanted to get it out there anyway.” That way you’ve at least warned me and I can make the decision to go on reading – maybe even help you expand your idea.

    Even if someone says “Man – that was a waste of my time”….So what! What about the person that reads it and says “Hey – he’s onto something.” or “That reminds me of when…..” or “Wow – that Steve guy really knows what he’s talking about” 🙂

    One of the number one things to remember is – “You can’t control how other people react”

  2. This post reminds me of a quote that is good to live by:

    “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” – Voltaire

    Particularly with working out and dieting that most people try to do. If you eat something bad, or miss a workout, that’s when people usually quit because of the twisted logic that now that I’m not perfect, might as well quit.

  3. Stuart Murray said

    The general point I would like to add here, is that even if you do fail, its another possible future thats open to you which would otherwise be closed off, dead, not existing etc.

    It is a constant wonder to me why people fear the act of failing, I quote to my junior testers when they ask a “Silly” question that there is no such thing as silly question unless you already know the answer! thus they see fear in asking the silly question not knowing that they don’t know the answer

    Its from our failings that we can learn the most about the world and ourselves.

    Its from failed tests that we find defects not passed tests.

    My answer to the “what do I post” is a simple one – post every thought, add the caveat that it is a thought, roll the bones, shape your future.

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