How Analytics Can Solve The Perfection Problem

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Perfectionism is usually the enemy of done and how we can defeat this monster.
We all probably know that one person won’t do something because things are not perfect. The weather isn’t right, they don’t have the right gear, they don’t have the right connections, or they don’t have the energy to get started. Things have to be perfect before they take the next step. However, certainty is a disease of the mind and keeps people in the same spot. Then, the need for certainty will cause them to regress because they can’t grow since all their focus is on not losing.

Focus on doing important things

To be perfect is to be inhuman, so we need to embrace looking at the flaws and gaps, then figure out a way to fix them or get past them. Not every problem needs to be fixed, and using analytics can help someone figure out what they should do. Analytics can help someone solve a problem in six ways.
  • Make Predictions
  • Categorizing
  • Spotting Something Unusual
  • Identifying Themes
  • Discovering Connections
  • Finding Patterns
The goal of life isn’t to obtain perfection but to make progress that leads to many perfect moments. So if someone has a vision for their future and the right strategies, they can use analytics to help them progress by making better decisions on what to do.
I use financial planning software to make predictions so I can help my clients reach their financial goals. If someone is not saving enough, the software can show them they’re on track to spend $3000/mo at age 65 instead of $7000/mo. This gap might motivate them to start saving more. 
If they can’t save the right amount now because 5-15% is too much for them right now, I can advise them to save 1% of their paycheck now and, with any pay raises in the future, save 50% of that and spend the other 50% on their standard of living until they reach the target savings rate. 
I might need to offer different advice, but having the prediction can help me give the right solution to solve the retirement shortfall. People don’t need to be perfect to reach their goals. They need to make progress, and daily progress can help them predict their future.
I also have clients that were saving too much and were told they could start spending more money now on things they want to do, like a sabbatical or vacation, and still be OK with retirement goals. Having the prediction can give someone more peace of mind about what they’re doing without worrying about being perfect with their savings. 
Trying to be perfect with savings creates a life where someone can’t enjoy other things besides saving. The future is not guaranteed, but we can get a good idea of what will happen and be close to it with a high degree of confidence based on someone’s current circumstances and the path they’re choosing to go down. Ultimately, the goal is to be satisfied with the path when it’s all said and done.

How you do anything is how you do everything

If you were to see how you spend your money and time, you could start categorizing them. With these categories, you can begin to pinpoint why your life is the way it is. If you see that most of your time is spent traveling to work, which gives you 20 fewer hours to do something else, then it might make sense to figure out a way to start telecommuting more so you can have 20 more hours to work on yourself or spend it with family. The same thing can be with your spending. I use a highlight chart for someone’s budget to see how they spend on different categories.
Once you visualize all these categories, you can start to see if you can spot anything unusual. Data visualization can show someone that they spend too much on clothes or eat out too much. The idea is not to have all-or-nothing thinking but to figure out the perfect economy, where you don’t do too much but don’t do too little. It’s hard to make the right decision in your head, and humans are good at spotting patterns. And with the right analytics that shows a picture and story, someone can make better decisions to help them live their best lives.
With all the categorization, then someone can start to see what the themes of their life are. If you were to look at my life, you would know I’m an entrepreneur trying to build. Most of my time and money spent is trying to grow my business. This is why I hired an assistant to help with marketing so it can allow me to focus more on strategy for my clients. When looking at how I spend my time and money and the themes they display, I’m better suited to make adjustments to help me reach my vision. Seeing the categories of my life will tell me that I’m not perfect, but then I can empower myself to make changes that will lead me to the theme that I need to have.
This is why it’s important to know what type of future you want because a theme will tell you if you’re on track for it or not. This is another issue with perfectionism. It just focuses on the present with no defined future or is very unrealistic because so many things out of your control have to be correct. 
When there is a defined future based on the variables you can control, you can create an action plan to help you reach this future. For myself, I need 50 tax planning clients to help me do my other goals that revolve around family, social causes, and personal achievement. So when I review my own business analytics, I’m looking to see what I need to double down on and what I should change.

How can your progress move you closer to getting more perfect moments in your life?

Then after seeing your themes, you can start to make connections. If you know that you need to talk to 100 people to get a new customer, that can be freeing. Instead of dreading every “no” you receive, you can say that you’re 99 people closer to getting that new customer. If you’re noticing that you’re not sleeping well, then you can do things to fix that. By tracking your sleep and applying analytics, you might see that losing one hour of sleep makes you 14% less productive. Then after reviewing the data, you can start focusing on ways to improve your sleep and get productivity gains in your work and personal life. 
80% of your gains will come from 20% of your efforts, so the idea is to double down on the connections that will give you the most return on your time and money. Then you should delete, delegate, or defer the other 80% from your life. When you’re going after your perfect moments, it requires you to embrace chaos in other parts of your life. You can’t fix everything, so focus on what is essential.
Making progress is about having the right behaviors. In public health, I learned about The Transtheoretical Model. Someone might need to undergo these six stages to get a behavior change.
  1. Precontemplation – People are unaware that behavior is problematic or produces negative consequences
  2. Contemplation – People are aware of their behavior but might not be ready for the change
  3. Preparation – People are starting to take small steps to begin adopting the new behavior that is healthier or more productive
  4. Action – People are embracing the new behavior and intend to keep it in their life
  5. Maintenance – People have done the behavior for more than six months, and it is about preventing a relapse
  6. Termination – People quit the behavior and have regressed into their negative behavior.
If someone sees the connection to what stage they’re in, moving towards or staying in the maintenance stage can be more manageable. Analytics can bring self-awareness to your actions and hopefully cause less self-sabotaging.

Do your best

I’m a big fan of all you can do is all you can do. Just make sure you’re doing all you can do. Life can be hard at times, and it’s OK to terminate an effective behavior, but the goal is to get back into preparation and then into action if it’s essential. However, sometimes you need that break to give you a different perception and appreciation of doing that behavior. 
Gaining awareness can be uncomfortable, and people can use perfectionism as a scapegoat to rationalize a false sense of certainty in their lives. And complete certainty slows things down too much. 
Most of the time, good enough is good enough. Things should be fine if people are satisfied and getting the desired results. There is not enough time to make everything perfect, and it’s best to embrace the uncertainty of events and know how to work with them. 
Treat pursuing the theme like a game that takes multiple attempts to get the desired result. Where you don’t focus on what’s missing, you focus on what has been gained or will be. 
If you can say you are a better person than you were six months ago, and you’re on track to be a better person in six months, then you’re probably doing the right things. Focusing on the gains is much more important than removing gaps or flaws because removing them would require the impossible of being perfect. 
One of my favorite quotes from the stoics is, “The Impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” This quote was written 2000 years ago by Marcus Aurelius, the last great emperor of Rome. Out of the 60 rulers, he is known as one of the five great philosopher rulers. Many rulers were not that great, but Marcus Aurelius knew how to work with problems by objectively looking at them and not allowing his ego to ruin his perception. This is what data analytics can do. It gives you an accurate answer on what you should do to remove obstacles objectively and not irrationally.

Looks towards others for inspiration

If perfectionism is holding you back, modeling your behavior after someone’s success can help you make changes to have success. In the Redeem Team Documentary about US Men’s Basketball team, the team in the early 2000s thought they were perfect against their competition because they were 63-1 in the Olympics. However, losses to Argentina, Yugoslavia, Spain, Italy, Greece, Australia, and Puerto Rico showed them that something had to change. So the US Men’s Basketball committee convinced Kobe Bryant to join the team in 2006. 
The team’s training facility was in Las Vegas, with many highly talented but young players like Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Lebron James. They would go out and have fun and return to their hotels around 4 am, the same time that Kobe Bryant would be heading to the gym. This act showed the team what fundamental professionalism looks like and how it can lead to being a better basketball team that can compete against the world. The team started being more serious about their training, leading to the perfect outcome: winning the gold against Spain in 2008 and another in 2012 with Kobe leading the way.
Figure out what is holding you back, and then find solutions to help solve your problem. And with problems, you can’t go around them. You have to go through them. What stands in the way becomes the way. You can do it intelligently or foolishly, but an analytical approach can prevent the latter.

Final Takeaway

The more problems you can solve for yourself, the better your life will get, and you will realize that things won’t be perfect and there will be setbacks. However, failure is rarely fatal if you act honestly. And this honesty will help you see that having a perfect process won’t help you grow.

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