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Perfect Action Yuck

It is truly amazing how much the little things matter; a smile, a kindness, a small step, or a bit of bravery. The other day, I was so excited that it was finally warm enough to eat outside that I actually squealed!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve intended to write my next newsletter and this blog post. I thought about writing, and then I put it off. I got hijacked by, “I should be writing,” all the while doing something else. Even if that something else was necessary! When I paused to notice the icky feeling I realized that I was suffering from “Perfect Action Yuck."

Perfect Action Yuck (PAY) is the result of “all or nothing thinking.” It’s related to telling yourself that all conditions need to be perfect in order to get started. And then, “I can’t get started until I know everything about what I’m doing,” And then, certainty that your efforts will be successful. Impatience with process (“I just want it to be done”) plus anxiety about the outcome (like that's predictable!) equals PAY.

When you get sucked into this trap, you pay (PAY!) by losing access to energy that’s lost in the pattern. Your lack of action and your feelings about the lack of action are immobilizing. This can happen even if the thing you’re not doing is something you want to do and actually like doing! Case in point, writing this blog :)

Perfect Action Yuck can derail many aspects of your life. The other day a client told me that he can’t start his job search until everything “is ready.” When we explored what “ready” meant, it turned out that he was waiting until his all of his career documents (resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile) were perfect. Ah. He’d been tweaking them for months, he’d begun reaching out to allies for feedback and was telling them his new career objective which, by the way, was clear and attainable. What was really going on? Fear. He's making a transition, he's scared, so beginning the official job search would put it all in motion. What if it didn’t work out?

Another client had been putting off organizing her closets. She kept delaying because there wasn’t enough time. She was sure that the only way to get it done was to have two uninterrupted days in which to do it. A full-time job, two young children and a husband pretty much guaranteed that that was never going to happen. And if it did, she’d be more likely to spend the time doing something more enjoyable (and feeling guilty about it).

Turns out, she needed to chunk the project into smaller tasks. She resisted that at first. There was no guarantee her closets would be gorgeous all at once. However, she was willing to see what happened if she merely organized her shoes. Relief, that's what happened… turns out doing something, even a small thing, cleared the yuck. One organized closet felt much better than none.

You’re reading a finished blog post and as of yesterday, my newsletter is in subscribers' email inboxes, so how did that happen? I was in PAY, I looked around me. The day was grey, the rain hammered my window at a 45 degree angle. The nasty weather made me want to hide inside, yet my plants weren’t waiting for perfect conditions to do their thing. There they were, poking above the ground, determined to bloom.

I didn’t have the perfect idea for a newsletter. It seemed like I had too many ideas or none at all, so I asked myself, “What if you just started?" I remembered the spirit of experimentation; imperfect action is likely better than no action at all.

New starts of any kind require imperfect actions. If you’re “perfecting a plan,” it’s possible that ready enough is all you really need to put the first step into action. I stand by this for 90% of all endeavors.

My May wish is that you find fresh starts. I hope you chose to start with imperfect actions, the only kind that see the light of day. Can't wait to hear how it's going for you.

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