When I first saw this poster in a friend’s house, I laughed out loud at its brilliant obviousness. I am often so caught up in the planning and plotting of good intentions that they become nothing more than intentions—a whole world of great ideas that never become reality.
It took me years to identify this tendency toward thought-over-action as a form of perfectionism, but once I saw the connection, I realized I was over-thinking many endeavors as a way to protect myself from failing at them. If I didn’t try, I couldn’t do it badly, and the safety of over-planning was a great way to justify inaction. My desire to get certain things right…okay, perfect…actually resulted in the sort of pressure that kept me from taking any action at all.
Years ago my husband read some parenting advice that suggested putting failure and mistakes in perspective by talking with kids about who’d made the biggest mistakes that day and what they’d learned from those mistakes. I love this as an antidote to perfectionism, and it seems a perfect companion to Herb Kelleher’s advice. As I’ve tried to get ideas and plans out of my head and into my life, I’ve found great freedom in doing things, instead of just thinking about doing things.
Judging by the number of platitudes we have on the subject—just put one foot in front of the other. Start with baby steps. Eat that elephant one bite at a time.—it might be a universal feeling. I’m curious, has the desire to get something just right ever kept you from taking action? Have you learned to embrace mistakes as a natural part of learning? And how has just doing things liberated you?