The Perfection Problem

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

I don't think I've ever been called "Lazy" in my life. On the contrary. Ask anyone that's ever worked with me and the word that is usually uttered about me is "workhorse". I've been called a workaholic and a machine. I was born and bred to work. Yet, in my personal life, I don't seem to get half of what I'd like to do done. If I'm not lazy, why am I not accomplishing my goals?

It was earlier this summer that I finally diagnosed myself! I dubbed my affliction "Perfection Paralysis."

What is Perfection Paralysis?

Perfection Paralysis is the inability to begin an activity until every element of the activity is perfect. How did I come up with this fancy diagnosis? So glad you asked!

I had a few horses on my property that were perfectly rideable. I love horses and I love riding them! I used to run my own business giving horseback riding lessons. But for whatever reason, perfection paralysis crept in. I stopped riding my horses. "I don't have the time," or "I'm too out of shape," or "It's too cold," "too buggy out," "too windy, the horses will spook." Later it became "he hasn't been ridden in so long, he will need a tune-up and I'm out of shape." I always had an excuse because it wasn't perfect. If the planets happened to align and the conditions were "just right" I'd manage to get in a little ride. But it was very infrequently that this happened.

Once I had identified that I was, in fact, paralyzed by the need for perfection, I began to see it's effects in all aspects of my life. I wanted to get in shape and lose a few pounds, but I didn't go running because I didn't have time unless I got up really early and then it wasn't quite light out yet and the dogs ate my head phones and it just wasn't perfect. I didn't plant a garden this spring despite dreaming of my garden all winter because I was busy working long hours and the land where the garden was to be was overgrown and would take a ton of work to clear and I didn't have the right tools and then it was too late and it wasn't perfect. Maybe next year. Even this blog I've been sitting on for the better part of two years, but the conditions were never right to sit down and begin, or maintain a blog the way I imagined.

I don't know why I developed Perfection Paralysis in the first place. And, what's even worse is that I can't tell you when I developed it. I finally recognized it this summer. But I don't know how long it's affected my life. Recognizing the need for perfection to the point of paralysis if everything isn't perfect, is the first step in dealing with the affliction.

When farming or raising animals, things will rarely ever be "perfect". Often, you just have to make due with things the way they are if you're going to get anything done.

I'll give you an example of how this worked for me:

I got a late start to my homestead this year. I'm blaming Perfection Paralysis for this since conditions are never perfect and I latched onto that to do absolutely nothing. Once I had diagnosed myself, I made every effort to change the behavior.

One of the biggest changes to this behavior was my chickens. I always knew that I wanted chickens on my little homestead for eggs. I didn't make a move to get chickens the first year that I was back home here because I was busy fixing up the house and cleaning out the garage from a family member's mess that was left when they moved out. That was my excuse anyway.

The second year in this house (2021), I planned out a big garden and again knew I wanted chickens, but I had no where to put them. We have foxes and coyotes in the area in addition to hawks and eagles so I would need a run or chicken tractor for protection for them and I had no extra money to buy anything like that. So I didn't worry about chickens until a Facebook Post Caught my eye in the middle of June. The post was advertising a sale on baby chickens from a local hatchery. I looked over the list of chicken breeds available and when I saw my favorite chickens, Buff Orpingtons, there, I made arrangements to buy some chicks despite the fact that I had no where to keep them. You see, by this time I had already diagnosed myself with Perfection Paralysis and I was determined to fight against it.

I decided to purchase the chickens because they were on sale and I figured that I would figure the rest out. I went, armed with a large cat carrier, to buy some chickens and

came home with 3 Buff Orpington and 3 Lavender Orpington pullets. Since the chickens were still small, but off of the heat lamp, I decided that for the time being, the cat carrier would be their coop and a large dog crate would be their run.

My Little ladies set up in the yard in their large dog crate

Each morning I would place the dog crate somewhere in the yard for the day and at night, I brought it back into the garage so that the chicks were protected from any predators. This worked out great for a few weeks, but as the chicks grew, it became a smaller and smaller space and I was forced to make a move on the chicken permanent housing situation.

I decided that since I didn't have a lot of money to invest in the chicken project, the safest and cheapest option for a coop was the garage. I cleaned out the back corner of the garage and built a small coop out of chicken wire and PVC pipe. The back door of the garage became the door to the chicken run which was made from materials from the neighbor's house who dismantled their chicken run. Even though the situation was not quite "perfect" when I saw the ad for those chickens, I jumped on it and made it work. Now I'm waiting for them to begin laying any day and both the coop and the run have been working great!

The PVC chicken coop in the back of the garage

It's still surprising to me how "not perfect" things can be, yet still be functional. Anyone with any construction knowledge at all or a single handy bone in their body would look at my little chicken coop made out of PVC pipe and chicken wire and scoff, saying it's too flimsy and won't work. Well, guess what? It's worked fine so far. Once I get more materials (and some help), I'm planning to make a more solid, secure and more visually pleasing coop. But for now, my chickens are warm, dry and safe and that's what's most important to me.

The bottom line is that so much in this life is difficult. We are all doing the best we can, and often times, that's good enough. If you're anything like me, it can be discouraging reading other homesteading blogs and watching videos on YouTube for "research." Everyone seems to have their "stuff" together and are miles ahead in the homesteading game. The trick is to resist comparing yourself to anyone else out there. Learn from others who have been where you are and grown, but don't compare yourself to them. Especially if you've just started and they've been doing it forever!

Wherever you are in your journey right now, just pick one thing and begin, or improve. If you haven't planted a garden yet, so what? Plant something today. It's the wrong season? Make it work. Grow something inside on your windowsill, or purchase a grow tent to put somewhere in your house. All obstacles can be overcome, but you have to overcome the perfection paralysis and begin the adventure in the first place.

What is one project or dream for your homestead that you've been putting off because the conditions aren't perfect? Let me know in the comments.

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