You know those amazing business and thought leaders we all admire? The ones we place high up on a pedestal, touting their business acumen and wisdom, like Sara Blakely, Richard Branson, and Gary Vaynerchuk?
Spoiler alert: they’re not perfect, nor do they try to be. In fact, eschewing perfection in favor of progress might be the secret to their success.
Here are three ways you can stop trying to be “perfect” in your career, and instead, make progress.
1. Acknowledge that being a perfectionist is all about fear
So many of us strive to be perfect in our careers, but perfection is a lie. The hard truth: It will never be the “perfect” time. When you tell yourself circumstances need to be perfect before you take action, or when you say you’ll do X when Y happens, you give up your power to external forces you can’t control.
This behavior is rooted in fear, a powerful emotion that often masquerades as a cloak of protection, keeping us from doing things that may cause us harm. But sometimes, the real damage comes from the inaction that fear enables.
How many times have you stressed about making a change, allowing fear and uncertainty to halt your progress? Chances are, you allowed doubt to creep in, polluting your perspective. When we focus on the negative what-ifs—What if I fail? and What if I embarrass myself?—we remain in a vicious cycle of inertia and perceived inadequacy.
But when we shift our mindset and turn those what-ifs into positive questions—What if I succeed? and What if I inspire someone?—we envision the possibilities and more easily welcome new outcomes.
2. Reframe failure as an opportunity to learn
Spanx founder Sara Blakely famously grew up with a father who asked her and her brother at dinner, “How did you fail today?” And Virgin founder Richard Branson failed in the business numerous times, yet managed to prevail. These entrepreneurs understood that their ability to adapt to failures was vital and that failure was only a mistake if you failed to learn.
There is no growth in your comfort zone. To achieve personal and professional development, you must take risks—even if that means you might fail. By adopting a growth mindset, you view every interaction, every project, and yes, every failure as a chance to get better.
And by reframing failure as an opportunity to learn and an ingredient of success—rather than a negative alternative—you’ll adjust your mindset to a more positive one where you see failure as a necessity.
3. Just do it
One surefire way to combat perfectionism—and grow your career—is to take action.
Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion. The same is true for your career. When you use awareness to make action an intentional habit, you train yourself to continue to take action.
Over time, those small changes in behavior creatively shake things up and breathe new life into old methods and routines. You’re forced to get out of ruts you may not know you’ve been in, to view things differently with a fresh perspective. And combined with focused action, that newfound clarity will bring you something even better: success.
If you want something you’ve never had, you have to say no to stagnation and say yes to doing something you’ve never done. As VaynerX Chairman Gary Vaynerchuk says, “When it comes down to it, nothing trumps execution.”
Because if you want to grow your career, aim for progress, not perfection.
This article has been reprinted with permission from Amy Blaschka’s Forbes page.