One of the most difficult parts of my writing journey has been dealing with the fact that I’m not perfect. When I write a blog, post a video, or teach, I want to inspire people. I want to make them thirsty for learning. I want to share positive messages to energize and elevate them. But then sometimes, I wonder, who am I to give advice or to share inspiration. If my message isn’t perfect, should I even share it?
I think like many of you, I have every intention to be perfect. I love moments like the New Year, the start of a new month and even the start of a new week to start over and set my goals. I love planning to achieve those goals. But time and time again when it comes to implementing those goals, I’m forced to confront perfectionism.
Perfectionism is a beast that is very difficult to tame. It robs us of our opportunities to grow by keeping us from starting or continuing through obstacles. I love how Jon Acuff describes it in his book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. According to Jon the moment that sabotages most of our goals is the day after perfect (Chapter 2 p. 7-17). You know the day. You make it to the gym 5 days in a row but then you miss a day and stop going. Why bother? You were doing well in your Psychology class, but you failed the last quiz. So now you quit working at it, you’ll never get it back up to an A anyway. Right? That pile of laundry or mess on your desk will always be there. Why bother?
The day after perfect is the most difficult day for me. I’ve been confronting it nearly every day this year. I set some goals to exercise regularly, start my morning routine and declutter my house. The goals are perfect. They are exactly what I need to be doing right now to get from where I am to where I want to be. The problem is, I’m not perfect. I’m not yet the person who can get up every morning without hitting the snooze. I’m not yet able to clear off the piles on my desk. Thanks to my husband who is exercising with me, I have a nice streak going there. But there will be a day I miss and then guess what? It won’t be perfect anymore.
Perfectionism keeps us from starting and it keeps us from finishing. According to Jon, “perfectionism magnifies your mistakes and minimizes your progress.” (p.14). One of the strategies to combat this is to prepare for the day after perfect. No matter what we try or what goal we set, at some point we are going to hit a point where it’s not perfect. You can create a plan for this. For example, although I want to get up early every morning and start my routine, I’m struggling. I’m trying to figure out the problem, but until I do, I’ve created a “better than nothing plan.” I’ve got a short 10-minute routine that I can squeeze in even if I fail to get up. I also have a second back-up plan. If I don’t manage to get up, I will still do the routine at lunch or during my afternoon open time slot. I’ll still get the benefits of my routine and it will keep me from giving up altogether on my goal. It’s not perfect. But it’s ok. I’m working toward something new and sometimes growing and changing isn’t linear and it isn’t easy.
The best way to tackle perfectionism is to celebrate your imperfections.
All of us struggle at some point. None of us are perfect. Even that neighbor or sister-in-law that seems to have it all together. They have their point of not perfect. Comparing your less than perfect attempts to their seemingly perfect ones will only feed the perfectionism beast more. The best way to tackle perfectionism is to celebrate your imperfections. Look at them as opportunities for growth. Make plans to battle it and back up plans for when you lose the battle. Don’t let the day after perfect be the day you quit. Keep at it. Just do it, NOT perfect.
Acuff, J. (2018).Finish: Give yourself the gift of done. Portfolio / Penguin