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The Imperfectionist’s Manifesto: The Art of Taking Imperfect Action

Photo by Adina Voicu

Perfectionism. It’s like kryptonite for smart people.

Almost 80% of us smarty-pants are perfectionists.

It’s what makes us awesome… and formidable…

And what stops us DEAD in our tracks.

So lost in the details we lose perspective.

It’s one thing to have Big Hairy Audacious Goals (otherwise known as BHAGs)… it’s another thing to set those goals so high they’re impossible to achieve… and to tether our self-worth to mission impossible.

That’s a recipe for depression, stress, anxiety and other health issues.  Literally.

Research shows us high-achievers suffer more than the average bear… and we often leave in our wake a trail of broken dreams and broken relationships.

With great gifts, sometimes comes great suffering.

My name is Marisa Murgatroyd and I’m a perfectionist.

They say the first step to recovery is admitting that I can’t control my compulsion towards perfectionism.

So there it is.

I admit.

I admit I spent an hour researching perfectionism before writing this manifesto.

I admit that I notice mistakes from across the room. I can literally see a typo from 10 feet away.

I admit that the first thing I see is what’s wrong and how to make it better.

That gift makes me a damn good consultant.

But it doesn’t allow me to relish in my accomplishments and successes.

I’m always on to the next best greatest greenest… sound familiar?

Truth be told, that “I’ll rest when I’m dead” mentality has gotten me far… a 7-figure business in 3-years WTF?!?!!?

BUT (and that’s a big BUT) it’s holding me back from truly deeply enjoying this journey that I’m on.

From truly deeply allowing myself to BE, without needing to DO anything. To ACCOMPLISH anything. To PROVE anything.

To be… like a cloud. Or a tree. Or a rainstorm.

To create for the sheer pleasure of creation, whether or NOT it makes money or changes lives.

Whether or not you, my dear reader, likes it.

To create because I love to. Period. End of sentence.

This manifesto is for all you perfectionist entrepreneurs out there who martyr themselves on the stake of their business every single day.

Who lose themselves to their message, their tribe, their work.

I get it.

I live and breathe my message.

But that’s never enough.

So now I’m left with me.

And these stark — sometimes harsh, yet life-giving — realizations…

Repeat after me:

  • I don’t have to do anything.
  • My value as a person has nothing to do with what I do, create or produce.
  • There is no woulda coulda shoulda….
  • No musts or oughtas.
  • I am intrinsically worthy.
  • I deserve all the love, joy and success that I receive, regardless of what I do or where I came from.
  • There is no one right way to do things.
  • I am going to make mistakes. I have permission to make mistakes. The more successful I become, the more mistakes I’m going to make.
  • I give my friends, my family, my team permission to make mistakes.
  • Perfectionism stands in the way of my success.
  • Perfectionism steals my joy and fulfillment.
  • In my imperfection lies my beauty and my power.
  • I am doing my best, except when I choose to cut corners. And cutting corners is OK because sometimes done is better than perfect. Progress is better than perfection.

As Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed. I have found 1,000 methods that don’t work.”

That’s why:

  • I commit to taking one imperfect action this week.
  • I commit to trusting my team to take one thing off my plate this week.
  • I commit to creating for the sheer joy of creating.
  • I commit to making a fool of myself one time this week.
  • I commit to celebrating how far I’ve come.

Leave a comment below if you’re in!

Here’s to imperfect, despicable, juicy you…

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Dawn B. Dwyer Avatar
    Dawn B. Dwyer

    Another Viewpoint:
    To me perfectionism is a great thing!

    I love that about me and others. I love knowing that I can count on that person because I know that they will do a fantastic job. To me “perfectionism” is about doing the very best that you can. Taking the time to do it “right” rather than just slinging mud on the wall and hoping that it sticks.

    As a consumer I would feel much better doing business with a perfectionist than someone that just does something half assed to just get it done. How could you not offer the best that you can do for your clients?

    Marisa, it is your perfectionism that separates you from others, why do you think you grew your business so fast? So I hope you don’t lose that and perhaps it is more about scheduling in some FUN and FRIENDS that will help your health more than whether you are a perfectionist! Less quantity but keep the quality. Laughter … to me is the key to health. Perfectionism is not what is causing the stress, I think it is deeper than that, it is a FEAR of __________.

    I don’t think people get stuck in “perfection paralysis” but more in their own FEAR. And it may not even be fear of failure or not being good enough. It could be the FEAR of being an imposter, FEAR of success, FEAR of being wrong and then they use perfectionism as an excuse to just not take action. “Perfectionism” gets the bad rap because it is easier to say you are a just a “Perfectionist” than to say you are “afraid”.

    My dogs have taught me that PERFECTION is not always PERFECT. So I don’t believe it is really about perfection.

    Marisa, I think what you really are talking about is being a WORKAHOLIC (health issues) and deep rooted FEAR (prevents people from moving forward and health issues).

    As I see it, being a PERFECTIONIST is not a flaw, it is your sparkle and special super power. It is what makes you better, different and why I would want to work with you. Don’t buy into to that “just get it done” slacker attitude. Embrace who you are and just work a little less. Schedule more play into your week.

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Dawn – there are lots of upsides to perfectionism for sure, especially for the customer.

      I want to differentiate here between perfectionism and having high standards and goals, because the two are not the same.

      Perfectionism is often the relentless pursuit of impossible standards at the expense of everything else — at the expense of health, relationships and personal fulfillment. If you look at the real psychological studies of perfectionism (not just the colloquial use of the word), you’ll see that perfectionisms are prone to all kinds of health and relationship challenges since they’ve left everything in the wake of the drive to be perfect.

      While I believe in always giving my best, I also believe in letting go and taking action even when I’m not sure, even when I don’t know if it’s going to be successful.

      Fear and perfectionism are two sides of the same coin for sure… I see this ALL the time with my students. They don’t take action or they spin for weeks on another unimportant decision to delay the inevitable… because they want it to be perfect or they’re afraid of what might happen when they take their message to the world.

      When the only way to find out is to take that action, even if there’s a typo or it’s not perfect.

      As for me, I’m not willing to live the next 3 years of my life the same way as I lived the last 3 years. It’s not sustainable. Regardless of how much love, money or success that it brings me.

      I would like to be valued for my inherent worth as a human and the qualities of who I am, not just my productive output.

  2. Rhonda Abrons Avatar
    Rhonda Abrons

    Ok, Marisa. That was awesome!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd


  3. Jim Colthart Avatar
    Jim Colthart

    I don’t know whether to say “Welcome to the Club!” or “Thanks for letting me join!” – I’ve been in your shoes for more years than I can count or remember, and I have to constantly kick myself to do something, anything, rather than wait for the last piece of the perfect puzzle to fall into place. Thanks for your insights.

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Here’s to taking action, even if it’s not perfect or 100% thought through. Because it’s the action that brings the clarity…

  4. Steph Ritz Avatar
    Steph Ritz

    It’s so true that taking action is much more important than being perfect. Great reminder that part of perfectionism is saying no to our dreams. I am grateful for all that was and all that is, as I let it guide me to what will be – to what’s around the corner waiting to greet me. And I look forward to stumbling on the cobblestones along the journey!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Definitely! Stumbling and mistakes are amazing ways to learn, grow and improve! Thanks for inspiring this post…

  5. randy berg Avatar
    randy berg

    This post of yours is extraordinarily timely. I have been procrastinating publishing my website for six months now. And I have known all along that I need to just DO rather than be perfect. But It Continues.
    Today I finished the umpteenth draft and I have made a commitment … because of your column… to publish this draft NO MATTER WHAT… imperfect or not.
    * of course, it is always “imperfect.”
    Thank you for your timely post.
    And are there 12 steps too? I would assume so… but remember, NO LAST NAMES!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Yes, Randy! Just get it up and out… waiting 6 months to go live is damaging your business more than a few details or wrong words that probably no one will notice but you! You go…

  6. Hinda Bartoli Avatar
    Hinda Bartoli

    I think that perfectionism is good if not carrier to an extreme. We all need and want our downtime. Some people need downtime more than others. There is a balance. It is just a matter of organization of your priorities. I always have a list of “must do’s” and “should do’s.” That was when I reasonably get finish with my “must do’s” I will start on my “should do’s.” Does that make any sense to you? I love to put on my perfectionist hat for a while and when I am called to the fun part of life I just do it! One can not be perfect all the time. I like the fact that I am a perfectionist but there are many times that I know I have to let my perfectionist guard down so I can enjoy my life in sweet surrender. If you get my drift!

    Marisa, you are one of the best people on the internet for teaching how to get one’s message out. All the writings and teaching that you share with everyone is amazing. You can only get better and then better. However the time passes by so fast. You think back as you mature that “I wish I did this and I wish I did that!” There should be or could be no regrets in life. It comes down to choices. I know when I was a teenager I would think about how big the world was. I wanted to go to lots of places to learn lots of cultures. I did do some traveling in the early 80’s. I had great adventure. I have lived in different parts of the United States. I have had four beautiful children and one wonderful granddaughter. I have a great husband and I live a full life. I am blessed in my estimation.
    I think you need to take a good look at yourself and your business life vs your personal life. Make a list of what you can do to relax and enjoy and then make the other list of what you absolutely need to do in your business life. Pick out what is most important to you. Be honest with yourself. Choices are the key. What ever choice you make will be the way your life will be. Have no regrets but don’t forget that you really need a balance in life. Your tribe will be there when you return from a small vacation or even a long vacation. Now that you have grown your business where it could be running without you for small or extended period of the time, you can relax and come back when you want to. That’s what you win when you do hard work and achieve what you set out to do.

    I am not rich now with money but I am very wealthy and enriched with family, good friends and freedom to do anything I want or go anywhere I want to go, when I want to. I make it happen because I know there is only one life for everyone. We all need to live our life to the fullest. One never knows when the end will come so we have to live and have FUN to!

    I wish for you what I wish for myself and my children. That is to have joy and be as successful as possible but to never forget to be healthy, be good with your family, have good positive friends(people who deserve your love), love your business to an extent, be sure of what you do in life is what you want to do and have good self esteem. Being rich in Family and friends is so much more rewarding than being in the rat race all the time.

    I am a perfectionist with everything I attempt to do but I am not an extremist. I know when to relax and when to work. It took me a long time to learn the discipline to work that way.

    I think you have to sit down and figure out what is most important to you, then just do it! I wish you the best! I love the way you write because your writing is from the heart!

    Blue skies,

    Hinda Bartoli

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Hinda – Thank you for your wise words that clearly come from lots of life experience… Now that we’ve achieved a certain level of success, I am reevaluating what’s important to me and where I want to go next… and how I can open to greater levels of happiness, growth and fulfillment beyond the business…

      I won’t go away too long. I love this business and all of you too much for that…

      But I am committed to taking care of myself so I can sustain this work for years to come.

  7. James Avatar

    This is an awesome writing Marisa. I think this in some way has been holding me back in reaching my goals, and I will start to use your advice on this issue. the imperfick profection now! thank you Jim

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      You are welcome… 🙂

  8. Diane Wartelle Avatar
    Diane Wartelle

    Marisa – I woke to your email regarding this Manifesto and found it so inspiring I am weighing in. Your Manifesto is Perfectly Perfect and I can see the potential for a great book to come out of this from you. Congratulations.

    I also want to thank each person who has posted offering their own personal insight on perfectionism. Because of who you are Marisa, I believe you attract to you like-minded people who wish to uplift humanity through their work and that shows beautifully through the comments here.

    One way we can uplift others and ourselves is through compassionate listening and active determination to understand the message of anyone – even if they (or you)mispell something, use the wrong word or punctuation, etc. We can critique or criticize ourselves and/or each other all we want to but where does it get us in terms of our heart or our life purpose of helping humanity heal and evolve?

    Your Manifesto was inspired by an editing comment over the improper usage of your and you’re and how that affected the readers view of both the author and perhaps the content. If we wish for our own lives and/or work to move humanity forward we cannot do it if we ourselves stop ourselves from taking in the meaning of the message just because the delivery (text, audio, video, webcast, webinar etc.) isn’t perfect by someone else’s standards that you learned and adopted as your own.

    I too am a perfectionist and this is only my 3rd post ever. There are people all over the world who have great messages to deliver but perhaps they don’t fluently speak the language they are using to address their audience. Or, like me, they may have had a head injury, TIA(s) or stroke, and/or been exposed to toxic fumes etc. that have effectively broken down their language skills to the extent that they can never be certain they will be able to say the right thing when they want to.

    Can you imagine having to live this way while actually having a message that will help humanity evolve? We are currently living in a bullying culture – look at MSN (or not). Persons like me have to ask themselves “Do I have the energy to put myself out there and deal with the bullies while gradually getting my message out?” or “Should I wait until I have it all together?”

    This has been my question. Thank you for your Manifesto Marisa – well said. There isn’t time to hesitate bringing what each of us has to offer forward. What we do need to do though is support each other as everyone has here beautifully and whether supported or not, keep our eyes, heart and mind on the goal which is for the betterment of humanity while living the life we were meant to live and enjoy through much light, laughter and thoughtfulness.

    To everyone,Thank You for sharing your thoughts. Marisa, Thank You for all you are and do, including allowing a forum that supports long blogs in order to achieve greater understanding.

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Diane. I’ve watched so many students and clients stall out or hold their message back because it wasn’t quite right or they weren’t perfectly clear, when the honest truth is that I’m not perfectly clear. No one I know is perfectly clear. And it’s only through the doing and the sharing that clarity comes…

      Thank you for stepping up and sharing your message, knowing that people may stare or gawk or wonder why you talk the way you do. But once they get over that, they’ll start to listen and that’s when you can inspire them with who you are….

      But that would never happen if you didn’t speak because you were worried about what people might think or worried about how professional you sound.

      So congrats to you for making it happen!

  9. Caroline Avatar

    Hey Marisa – thank you so much! As a fellow A-type, high achiever, daughter-of-a-perfectionist, I love the way you’ve totally nailed the blessing and curse of perfectionism.

    Having immersed myself in Hidden Story Power and then Message to Money for the last year, I’m now 1 week away from launching my new website. I know it’s not perfect and I’m good with that :-).

    Thanks to my tendency for perfectionism this project has taken 3 x longer than I anticipated but the end result is so much better than if I’d just tweaked my existing site.

    Letting go of perfectionism means accepting that my message, brand and business will continue to evolve alongside me and that’s a good thing.

    My commitment for this week is to celebrate every broken link (and fix it!)and remember to focus on continuous improvement.

    For what it’s worth, one of the reframes I model and use with my high achieving corporate clients is to swap Perfectionism for Excellence. Within Excellence there’s room for acknowledgement of success and ongoing improvement to co-exist happily together.

    Cheers to happy, lifelong imperfection!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Huge congrats Caroline! I can’t wait to see your new site! I definitely recommend getting it out sooner so you can see how the world responds, rather than delaying for the hopes of an impossible-to-achieve perfection. No matter how much work you do now, it will evolve with you.

  10. Mary Jaksch | A-List Blogging Avatar
    Mary Jaksch | A-List Blogging

    I loved this post! As a recovering perfectionist, I recognized myself all the way…

    The most damaging aspect of perfectionism is that it shuts down creativity.

    After all, creativity thrives when we allow ourselves not to know; when we hang out in the place where there are no clear answers, and where we don’t know exactly where to go next.

    Thanks for an excellent post, Marisa!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      I totally agree Mary! I”m at my most creative when I’m not worried about the outcome…

  11. Ianthe Hernandez Avatar
    Ianthe Hernandez

    This post was what I needed to read just as the right time. I am a recovering perfectionist and I am 100% sure that the stress from being a perfectionist leads to fear and inaction. Those two roadblocks are killer add stress and worry to the mix and its a guaranteed recipe for failure. The way I see it, the quicker I commit imperfect action the faster I get moving and get a chance to see what actions I need to take to finish whatever task is at hand. Thanks for a great reminder Marisa.

    1. murray gray Avatar
      murray gray

      You are welcome! And you can make it happen Ianthe…

    2. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Sorry. That was me writing Ianthe, but I was signed in as Murray… I definitely definitely agree that taking imperfect action is the best cure for perfectionism.

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