3 Ways to Overcome Perfection Paralysis


In early May, we hosted our second live event of the year down in sunny Cancun. 

The room was filled with over 30 entrepreneurs from all industries, many levels of business and over 10 countries!

Over the 3 days, I noticed that all of our attendees identify as high performers and base a lot of their success on external validation.

Their brains seem to always be asking…

Did I do it right?

Was that good enough?

Is that the right way?

This mindset inevitably leads to success as their brains work best when they receive external validation and praise. 

Most of them have ridden that external validation and perfectionism all the way to multiple 6 and 7-figure businesses.

However, there is a delicate balance between high levels of success and the perfectionism that handcuffs business owners. 

The dark side of the coin keeps them trapped below their potential and becomes frustrating when old methods stop producing the desired result. This can lead many down a dark path filled with anxiety, burnout and underperformance.

They become paralyzed in fear and unable to take any action, pushing them further into fear and creating a vicious spiral.

So whether you’re looking to reach 6 figures, striving to grow a multi-million dollar team or hoping to put the phone down and spend more time with family, these steps will serve you in getting out of perfection paralysis and into action. 

  1. Make the unconscious conscious and change your limiting beliefs

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it fate.” – Carl Jung

One of our attendees was asking several questions about “the right way” to do something in their business.

She had tried many different methods and they had worked to varying degrees, but she felt like none of them had worked as well as they should. 

She hadn’t found the ‘perfect’ way to do it yet, which led to her no longer taking action in the way she had in the past.

So I asked the question, “Why do you feel the need to be ‘perfect’?”

To which the entire room stopped dead in their tracks.

And I’ll ask you the same question, when it comes to something you’re putting off because it’s not perfect yet, or you know you won’t be able to create something that meets your ridiculous standard.

Many times, people are stuck in patterns that were ingrained in them as children.

They were trying to make dad proud or they didn’t want to make a mistake and get in trouble, so they began putting immense pressure on themselves to always be better.

This earned them a lot of success – in sports, in school, and even in business – when they started.

Then, the pressure became too much.

Too many things needed to be too perfect and it all came crashing down in a pile of unfinished work and undelivered potential.

Who’s voice is inside your head telling you it’s not good enough?

Is it Mom? Dad? A coach or other person of authority from your childhood?

Who are you afraid of letting down? 

And are you going to let that one person (because it’s almost always one person) dictate your life and keep you stressed and leveled off below your best?

Once you become aware of the subconscious patterns that are blocking you from taking the necessary action, then you can go to work on noticing when they come up and replacing the paralysis with action that will move you forward (more on that in #3).

  1. Clearly define success

“When there’s a gap in information, it creates an open loop, and we fill that with our own stories.” – Craig Ballantyne

All of us high performers love setting goals.

They keep us focused, help us continue driving forward and allow us to celebrate when we win.

But most people’s goals are not clear enough.

When most people come to me for coaching, they’ve been setting vague goals that are not specific and tangible enough, therefore leaving them unfulfilled and feeling like a failure.

Throw in a little dose of perfectionism, and you’ve got a deadly recipe.

It’s a slippery slope when you’re driving towards the end zone, and the goal posts keep moving further and further away from you. Or worse, the goal posts don’t exist, so the goal then just becomes more.

Without a tangible way to WIN, you’ll always be striving for more as a high performer, which will never stop no matter how much you achieve. 

So, what does success actually look like, tangibly? 

How will you know, without a doubt, that you’ve been successful?

And when you think you’ve gone granular enough, try to get even more specific.

For example, many business owners set income goals.

Just recently, one of our clients set a second quarter goal of $40,000 months.

Okay, cool.

Is that three months in a row, all earning $40,000? 

Is that one month earning $40,000 out of the three?

Is that an average of $40,000 over the quarter?

Is that $40,000 gross income or net?

If it’s net, does that include your own paycheck, or how will that be split up?

Do you see how important it is to be specific?

Because if we hadn’t gone down this rabbit hole, she would have been stuck pushing and pushing and never knowing if she actually hit her goal.

Then, as the high performing perfectionist, her brain starts to tell her she’s falling and she needs to do more.

Cue the vicious cycle again.

Get specific about what constitutes a win, then let go of control and put the pieces in place to give yourself the best chance to succeed.

  1. Take messy action

“‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ is the wrong way to look at it. You’ll actually see it once you believe it.” – Joshua Church

High performers love to have as much control as they possibly can.

When it comes to taking action, they want to know they’re taking the best action – the perfect one – that’s going to get them to their goal.

But how can you know if it’s the best action step until you take it and see what happens?

Once you know what success actually looks like, the best way to move towards it is to gather feedback that will determine the next action steps.

Experience is the only thing that will show you the rest of the path.

And you can only get experience by taking an action step and learning from your inevitable mistakes so the next action step can be more aligned with reaching your goal.

Feedback comes from taking action and often comes from messing something up. 

Contrast brings clarity, but most people are so scared to start that they never even get moving. 

One of my favorite parts of our goal-setting process is the action steps we ask people to add into their plan.

The first three action steps are 24, 48 and 72 hours after setting the goal.

This accomplishes two important things:

  • First, it allows you to gain momentum, feeling like you’re moving in the right direction and seeing wins right away
  • Second, it gets perfectionists out of their own way, forcing them into some sort of action while their motivation is still high from setting the goal, and closing that all important feedback loop.

So after 72 hours, our clients have already taken three steps towards their goal, and most likely learned something along the way.

The best part about this is that over that short period of time, and through taking action that will give you the best chance to succeed, you build belief in yourself.

For the first time, you’re actually taking the scary steps towards reaching your goals.

And belief in yourself is a powerful weapon.

So, the next time you’re feeling handcuffed and unsure what to do, ask yourself why you’re afraid to take action or unsure of what to do next (it’s never that we don’t know what to do).

Then, make sure the outcome goal is clear and tangible.

Finally, allow yourself to take messy action.

Take one step along the road to success. That step will inevitably show you the next logical step, and so on. Before you know it, you’ll look up and be well on your way to reaching your goals.

Gavin McHale

Gavin lives in sunny Winter-Peg, Manitoba, Canada with his wife, Kelly and two crazy cats, Harvey and Winnie. Gavin spent 10 years in the fitness industry, building up a 6-figure hybrid coaching business before transitioning into business mentorship. He has since built that business to the multiple 6-figure mark as well, working with over 100 trainers and clinicians looking to build their business. Gavin joined the ETR team in 2021, dedicating himself to helping our coaching clients improve their mindset, become better leaders and scale their businesses to new heights.