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Stuck In Perfectionism? – Nerdful Mind #121

May 8, 2022 by Simon Mannes

You don’t need to be perfect.

That sentence is pretty obvious. Nobody and nothing can be perfect. (Depending on your definition of perfect.)

But what's not so obvious is that your opinions don't need to be perfect, either.

I argue you should not even pursue perfect opinions. There are two main reasons for this:

  • If you believe your opinions are already perfect, you won't see any reason to challenge or change them.
  • Great discussions and insights come from having a reasoned opinion, without being 100% sure of it.

Imagine you're giving two groups of people an assignment to research a topic and form their own opinion with the goal of a discussion inside their group. Both get the same topic, and the same time to prepare.

But you tell the first group that you expect them to form their opinion beforehand and defend it in the discussion. And you tell the second group they should research until they have 80% of the information and form their opinion in the discussion.

I believe the second group would be (1) a lot less stressed during preparation, and (2) have a much more interesting and meaningful discussion.

This can be tricky for perfectionists. I've found working in smaller cycles to help with this. Start with some research, then go back to the task definition to write the bare minimum needed to pass. Then iterate on this until time is up.That way I always have something I could turn in. This makes me feel much less stressed than trying to create something perfect right from the beginning.

More things that can help if you are stuck in perfectionism:

  • Talk to someone who knows very little about the topic, but is curious and experienced in getting to the heart of things.
  • Go back to the assignment and find the obvious next step that gets you the most towards the result. Practicing this helps a lot.
  • Ask yourself what you would recommend to a friend.
“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” ― Elbert Hubbard

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Why Is Kubernetes So Hard - 4 Reasons Why And What to do About it

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Weekly Mindfulness Practice

Try out a three-step self-compassion break. Think of a situation in your life that is causing you stress or pain. How does thinking of this situation make you feel? Then say to yourself:

  1. “This is a moment of suffering” – Or “This hurts.”
  2. “Suffering is part of life. I'm not alone.” – Put your hands over your heart, feel your breath and the warmth of your hands.
  3. “May I be kind to myself” – Which kind words can you say to yourself right now? Say what you need to hear, e.g. “may I be kind to myself” or “may I be patient”.

Thanks to

End Note

If you liked this issue, send it to someone who you think will enjoy it. You can also always send me an email by replying here. I'll definitely answer (sooner or later).

Have a wonderful week