Does Making Simple Decisions Feel Overwhelming? Here's How to Regain Control.
Entrepreneurs often feel like they have to do it all, but saying yes to everything does more harm than good.
Anxiety about not jumping on every opportunity that comes your way is real and very normal, especially for a perfectionist. Perfectionists tend to set very high standards for themselves and tend to be very critical of themselves. When they don’t reach those standards, they experience all sorts of negative emotions like guilt, shame, anger, depression and anxiety.
Imagine you are satisfied where you are with your business, but then comes along an opportunity that can take your business to another level. You are not really enthusiastic about the opportunity, but you fear missing out or regretting it later. You are afraid of disappointing yourself and others. An overwhelming guilt takes over, and before you know it, you are losing sleep.
Why do simple decisions become so difficult?
You can use your perfectionist energy positively or negatively. It can weigh you down with feelings of guilt, shame and underachievement, or it can fuel you with feelings of passion, empowerment and ecstasy when you surpass your self-imposed limits. On one end, it can paralyze you with fear and anxiety, and on the other, it has the potential to propel you toward greatness. You are caught in the middle of this battle and can’t rest until you gain a higher perspective.
Perfectionists most often feel that they are cheating themselves and others by not fully utilizing their abilities or reaching their full potential. This is at the crux of your anxiety, the existential pain of realizing your potential yet not wanting to act upon it. Guilt comes from knowing that you are gifted with this great, unfulfilled potential. Entrepreneurs are often caught up in a vicious cycle of guilt and shame when they're not performing at 120% all the time.
When you tend to think in either black or white, it is hard to see the gray areas present in almost every situation. Another reason for your distress is that you are stuck in all-or-nothing thinking, which is very common in perfectionists. For example, with an all-or-nothing mindset, you feel you either have to get 100% on your exam or not even take the exam. The relief you feel from not even taking the exam is better than coping with the 99% you might get on the exam. You can't fail or disappoint yourself and others if you never take the first step. Right?
How do you break out of this negative cycle?
Although “good enough” may not feed your soul with satisfaction, it can save you from paralyzing fear. Sometimes, momentum is better than perfection. Sometimes 96% is better than a zero. Striving for excellence is much better than striving for perfection. However, it is much easier said than done for a perfectionist. You can consider the opportunity, and if you get it, you can then make the decision whether or not to pursue. But a decision at this point in the journey would less likely be taken out of fear. This step will help you cope with regret, which you might feel if you didn’t carefully consider the opportunity and declined it solely based on fear.
Guilt means you are doing something wrong. First of all, recognize the language of this inner voice. You are not doing anything wrong by not applying for this opportunity. You are just not sure yet if this is exactly what you want. Who is expecting you to do this? Who says you should consider? Recognize whose voice it is. Know exactly who will be disappointed if you pass up on this opportunity. Journal your feelings. Once you are in touch with what you really want, the next step is to take some action. Again, value excellence over perfection. Keep moving forward a bit at a time.
Get in touch with your feelings and decide what is right for you. If you are sure that an opportunity isn't for you, don't pursue it. End the decision-making process; you are done.
However, if you are strongly considering an opportunity, then start pursuing it and monitor how you feel about it. Remember, you don’t have to make all the decisions right now. Excellence over perfection. Keep moving instead of succumbing to fear and anxirty. Often, you think you have to follow through if you take the first step. That pressure is counter-productive. Drop the black-and-white thinking and embrace the gray area. You don’t need everything measured out and planned for from beginning to end. When in doubt, go back to journaling your feelings so you can explore what you want. And keep exploring that.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor