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How Perfectionism Keeps Us Small

I’ve been watching this tv show called, Alone, and I am totally hooked.

Alone is a competition where individuals are dropped off in the wilderness and must survive for as long as they can, alone, with just a few tools and their skills.  The last person remaining who does not “tap out” wins a cash prize.

Each week, individuals try their luck at hunting, fishing, creating shelter, and building fire.  They are challenged to find food and fend off predators. 

One take-away that struck me is the benefit of trial and error.

It seems like a simple enough concept, but as I look back on my life, I realize that I have not practiced trial and error.  I have let perfectionism and fear of failure stunt my growth.

School taught me to memorize and regurgitate facts.  I loved spelling tests.  I aced the NYS Regents math exams.  Tell me what to do, how to do it, and I will repeat it perfectly.

The real world is not like school.  At all.

The real world is constantly in flux.  It is gray, not black and white.  Surviving in the real world requires creativity, ingenuity, and courage.  To thrive in the real world, we need resilience and perseverance.

I was talking to a client last week about how she can say no to extra requests that come in from her supervisor.  She puts pressure on herself to always say yes, even though she is already overwhelmed with tasks. 

My client wanted a ready phrase or response she can use for random email requests she just doesn’t have time to fulfill. 

Coming up with a phrase was hard for her.  She was looking for the perfect wording, the perfect way to say no.  She was looking for the right answer to relieve the pressure.

Unfortunately, there is no right answer, and the wording will never be perfect.  All she can do is use trial and error.

We came up with some general phrases that she can tweak in the moment.  And we came up with an idea to implement when she wants to say no. 

Now, the hard part is trying out these new ideas and seeing how it goes.  We don’t know how her supervisor will respond.  We don’t know if her strategy will work.  All we can do is put it out there and see what happens.

Real life is a cycle.  Plan.  Implement.  Learn.  Try again.  Plan.  Implement.  Learn.  Try again.

          “Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do
           doesn't mean it's useless.” 
  -Thomas A. Edison

As I watch the contestants on Alone, I see how they survive using trial and error.  To catch fish, they start using a rod, then weave a basket, then make a net.  They keep learning and trying.  It’s inspiring to watch.

Don’t give up after your first try.  Embrace the learning experience.

What can you do to employ more trial and error in your life?

For more tips and tricks to Create Healthy Boundaries and Say NO With Confidence, download my free People Pleaser's Toolkit and begin practicing today.  

If you have questions about how Thoughtfully Selfish Coaching works, visit or if you are ready to talk 1:1 click here to schedule a 30-minute discovery chat with me.