I have been closely monitoring what affects my behaviour recently. One of the aspects that I’d identified was that I was always judging myself, was always thinking, analyzing my current actions for their effect on my future. I’d decided to stop doing that. But while I wrote that, I hadn’t realized that there is deeper malady there — my subconscious quest to be a perfectionist.
As I was reading an essay about the downsides of perfectionism from Amanda Ruggeri at BBC, it made me aware that I’ve also been affected by the same trait she was warning about. I want things to be done perfectly.
At home. At work. With the activities that I do on my own. With my family. With my peers, my superiors.
It is that perfectionist voice within me that’s constantly judging me, judging others. Even now, am thinking and rethinking on the ways I could word this prose. This paragraph. Is it the best way to make my point?
Why? Why do I do that? It can’t be healthy.
Even on Google, the first autocomplete suggestion for “Perfectionism” is “Perfectionism is a disease”. I wouldn’t term this trait as that — I don’t want to flippantly use a word while representing any form of mental disorder — it ain’t a “disease” for sure. However, even an offhand read through the internet would convince you that perfectionism can lead to a laundry list of such disorders. Anxiety. Depression. And much more.
I am not sure if my habit of aiming for perfection in every task is affecting my mood and my mind in any alarming way yet. However, I think it does lead me to procrastinate at times. I don’t have time now, will do it later “perfectly,” I can hear my mind say every now and then.
Well, it’s believed and acknowledged to be a vicious cycle – perfectionism, procrastination and paralysis. Or thought another way, it is the paralysis by analysis. Analysis paralysis.
All this lead me to a post I wrote back in 2013, on exactly the same topic of over-analyzing, overthinking. And it was then that I had linked to this term of Analysis paralysis for the first time.
That was 7 years ago. I believe I haven’t managed to get rid of my trait yet. It might be time to think about getting rid of this habit. To not let my pursuit for things to be perfect to affect me, to paralyze me.
I subscribed to Pocket Premium today. Recently, I have been reading a lot of articles on the web. And most of the times, it is on Pocket. I save the recommended articles from newsletters, blogs or Twitter to be read later and catch up on them towards the end of the day. Or when I have some free time at my hand.
What’s in the Premium option that made me upgrade from the free tier, you ask? Well, first of all, I wanted to support a service that’s part of Mozilla family. I’ve been a long time Instapaper user, but since Mozilla acquired Pocket, I have been using the later as my primary read later service.
I have also been using Pocket extensively to find the right articles to be included as part of my newsletter. I read a lot, heavily curate and include just a few of them. So my Pocket list and archive are always full of some great writings from many brilliant sources. I do not want to lose any of these wonderful essays.
I wanted to make Pocket a sort of my online reading library — it’s even better if it’s permanent as Pocket promises with an upgrade to Premium. The upgrade also offers full-text search which comes handy when finding that one article that talked about some peculiar topic. The biggest draw was the unlimited highlighting. The 3 highlights that the free option offered was limiting when each long read that I saved was full of thoughts worthy of absorption and introspection.
I have paid for a year; the pricing that it offers in-app is worth my current extent of the use of the service. I will re-evaluate after a year again. For now, Pocket stays the service of my choice.
I spent the last weekend idling around; I did not do anything that I have always considered “productive”. No reading novels. Or catching up on my read later lists. Or writing. Or working on the short story in progress. Nothing. I spent the whole two days lying on my sofa, enjoying a movie marathon with my family. I did all that without judging myself, as I had recently decided.
It’s so easy to idle the whole days away. As James Clear has said, “our real motivation is to be lazy and to do what is convenient”. It’s only understandable then that it takes too much effort to break this built-up inertia of not doing anything. Time, then, is spent generously lazying around, scoring easy joys.
The thought also reminds of this exchange between Dan Buettner and James Hamblin during one of their interviews.
Buettner: In the long-term view, you’re better off buying experiences than some new gadget. Buying things does produce some spike in joy or appreciation, but that wears off over time. A good experience actually gains luster.
Hamblin: Despite knowing that, when I actually go to spend money on traveling or even just tickets to something, I think about how soon that will be over and gone. And if I buy a couch, I have it for years.
Buettner: But the joy from the couch wears out. You’ll still flop down on it, but it won’t provide that bump of joy.
With time as the most valuable currency, what is, then, the parallel in real life to the “gadget”, the thing that time can buy? Is it the worthless, hollow hours that one spends on streaming the same, old movies or TV shows? Or is that an experience?
What Buettner refers to as joy when talking about the product vs experience discourse, is satisfaction when moved over to real life. We should judge if the activity is an experience by the longevity of the satisfaction it brings.
There’s no doubt that a whole day of movie marathon can lend momentary joy. But does it do that without being a burden on your mind? If so, then it is an experience. Else you have just carelessly wasted the most valuable currency for owning a thing and it will soon stop giving you joy.
What are other examples of such experiences that time can buy?
I’m consciously slowing myself down recently while doing everything . I’ve spent too much time worrying about the small things, planning about things too far in future. I’ve realised I’m not living in the moment. That’s not healthy.
So, I’m taking time doing my regular day to day activities. Slow down. Take a pause. Be cognizant of the task am doing. Be present, doing it. Not think about 10 other things that I might have to do later in the day. That doesn’t help. Keep things simple.
I recently read this brilliant thought from Matt on Twitter.
Fed up of the western idea of self-empowerment where you have to become a better you, discover your inner billionaire, get beach bodied, work, upgrade. It fuels a resistance to the present. It’s self-loathing masquerading as empowerment. We need self-acceptance. Self-compassion.Matt Haig
I can’t agree more with Matt. I have decided to not be too harsh on myself. It’s ok to not be “efficient” every time Not every activity needs to be done effectively. Or in the most time-effective way. Putting undue pressure on myself to plan things, multiple ones, so they can be grouped together. Nope, I am not ok to put myself through that anymore. All it does is adds to the already tall list of micro-stresses. Anyway, it’s not as if I’ve too much work, too little time at hand.
Do one thing at a time. Do it slowly. Be conscious. Be present.