Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

How many times have you started a task—or thought about starting a task—only to quit immediately because it seemed too hard? You wouldn’t be alone. I’ve quit many, many things for the simple but dumb reason that it looked like too much work. We all fall into this trap.

The worst is allowing your brain to shut down a task before you’ve even begun. For example, re-designing my personal website has been on my mind for a couple of years now. I’ve thought about it over and over, about all the work that would be required, about the new content I’d need to develop. My brain would register these seemingly endless tasks and then shut me down. It was just too daunting for me to take on a re-design of my site.

So I quit.

Without even making an attempt at the re-design, I just up and told myself it wasn’t worth it. I reasoned with myself. My brain told me the existing website was good enough (despite having years old content and an outdated design). I repeated to myself that the website got the job done. I talked myself into status quo.

Falling victim to “status quo” is dangerous. It can lead to bubble thinking, where your thoughts and ideas are constrained to the confines of what is comfortable to you. You may find yourself failing to exercise your creative muscles. It’s the leading cause of apathy.

Thus begins the viscious cycle of this apathetic state of mind. Nothing seems like it’s worth the effort. I mean, what you’re doing now is working? Right?

This has been and continues to be a massive challenge for me to overcome. Escaping the cycle is like trying to defy gravity. It just keeps pulling you back.

And this is why I iterate. Perfectionism is the main culprit to my lazy mind. I say to myself that if the outcome cannot be perfect, then the task cannot possibly be worth it. That’s where I’m wrong. Achieving perfection is impossible, and it’s that line of thinking that causes you to give up immediately.

So let’s void perfectionism and admit that it’s not feasible. With perfectionism out of mind, setting realistic goals becomes possible. For me, I wanted a fresh, simplified design of this website to better showcase my writings and projects. That’s the goal I needed to chase after.

I pursued this goal by chunking up the tasks necessary to get to the finish line. I started by creating a website outline one afternoon. Then I worked myself toward finding some other inspiring websites from which I could gather ideas. Day after day, I moved the ball forward. Ideas turned into wireframes and wireframes turned into design, and pretty soon I had a working prototype. I focused on iterating, on getting the next version out until I had a new, working website that met my original goal.

Starting is the key. Do something. It doesn’t have to be a huge lift—it just needs to get the ball rolling. And once that ball is rolling, you’ll find the momentum to keep going. You’ll experience that intoxicating energy you get when you start accomplishing the tasks that lead to your goal. You’ll keep going and you’ll keep iterating.

Now’s the time to stop being apathetic. Re-think what you once thought wasn’t worth it. Push that ball and see how far you can move it.

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