Counterintuitive Advice: Lower Your Standards

Because I’m a recovering perfectionist, I have this big problem with getting started. Whether it’s starting to write my articles or starting a project. According to studies cited in How to get more done—and in less time“our brain fears big projects” and “the biggest ‘wall’ to success” is “just getting started”.

Basically, this means that because we have such high standards on how our output or plan should look like, we get scared, and so we don’t even attempt to take the first step. For writers, this is experienced as writer’s block. For others, this manifests as procrastination.

To solve this problem, I just lower my standards. For my blog, I say, I’m just going to write one paragraph. For my articles for work, I tell myself, I’m just going to type random sentences or ugly sentences. For my projects, I set a really small goal like just take photos for that new blog you want to start.

The magical thing about these small goals is that it gets you addicted. Suddenly, I’m writing more than one paragraph. Suddenly, I’m writing nicer sentences for my article. Suddenly, I am brimming with ideas for that new blog.

The explanation for this is the The Zeigarnik Effect, which is the natural human need to finish something that one started. As they say, done is better than perfect. But more than that, if you get things done, it snowballs into wanting to get more things done. When you get more things done, you gain experience, and lessons, and you begin to get better at what you are doing.

So just do it.

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6 thoughts on “Counterintuitive Advice: Lower Your Standards

  1. You’re right, Jewey. High standards can be a good thing and a bad thing. That’s why we really have to support each other so that we can tell each other, hey, this is too much, you got to chill. I hope to continue to write stuff that will help other writers be kinder to themselves, and I hope I can also continue to live out the advice that I have shared. 🙂

  2. funny, my husband and i just had a conversation tonight about how i set too high a standard for myself that in the end, i end up not doing stuff because i’m scared of failing.

    your point about lowering one’s standards makes sense to me. i should try that.

    thanks for sharing. =)

    1. I’m so glad this post helped you! Yes, that’s right, sometimes having overly high standards is a bad thing. For me, it’s a constant struggle to motivate myself to take the first step, to not be afraid of failing. Here’s to us! We should just go for it and learn along the way! 🙂

      1. i wish it’s as easy as it sounds. lol. but i’m trying, though. as a matter of fact, right after reading your post, i made up my mind to write a blog post after days of not having the zest to do it. it wasn’t really that good (based on my standards) but at least i put something out there, you know what i mean? one bad writing after another and i might just hit the jackpot once i get my momentum going.

        so, yeah, thank you for inspiring me that night. =)

        1. You’re right, the hardest thing is actually doing it. But you did it! I’m so proud of you! Just keep pushing yourself to let go. I can’t believe my post inspired you to do this! I’m so happy for you. What you did was right, and it made me remember how when I was starting this blog, I just kept writing whatever, and I felt insecure about the quality of the content here. Then I showed my blog to my friend, and his first reaction was “Wow, you have so many blog posts!” I didn’t realize that in itself was impressive, but now I realized that by just writing and writing, I created a body of work, and whatever the quality of it, I’m proud that I have created all of this. Sometimes we underestimate what we do and we have to learn to be impressed with our own efforts. So I’m glad that you are making that effort. Cheers to you and I hope you keep on going!

        2. thanks, jasmine. it’s nice hearing (well, reading) those words coming from somebody who understands exactly what i’m talking about. you know, from somebody who writes as well. but i think that’s just the problem with people of our kind. we’re too hard on ourselves. in a sense, it’s a good thing too, i guess. because we know we’re capable of producing something more. but on the flip side, such high standard can be paralyzing.

          cheers to writing whatever! =)

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