It’s often the strive for perfection that prevents you from reaching the finishing line


Numerous tasks and projects are never finished due to the belief that the result needs to be perfect. Indeed, perfection may be the biggest enemy of getting to the finish line.

One of the reasons for this is unrealistic ambitions. We want to be able to be perfect at everything we do, and at the same time tend to grossly underestimate the effort this will take. The result is disappointment, and disappointment is a very strong signal to quit entirely. In the end, the quest to perfection, results in nothing rather than in something that would be more than good enough.

Anyone visiting a gym in January could notice this phenomenon. The new years’ resolutions bring hordes of people to training, and the initial ambition is very high – maybe from nothing to three times per week. After a month or two, most have encountered competing priorities, days of fatigue or simple inertia, and as the new practice routines have not yet formed into a fixed habit, the initial three days have shrunk to two, or one, or maybe a full week with no practice at all. This is the crucial time when many quit entirely, and by April the gyms tend to be half empty. Instead you should be saying that a week or two with no practice is no disaster, and even irregular practice is better than no practice at all.

We also tend to underestimate the time it takes to reach our goals, and when our internal pre-set deadline is approaching, and we have only done half the job, we are also at risk of giving up entirely. A good practice is therefore to make a pause at an early stage of a longer task and then cut the ambition in half. Rather than having finished the entire book you are writing by June, you set a new goal for yourself to instead have finished the first eight chapters. This simple measure has proven to increase the performance by 63 % and motivation by 90%.

Another trap we are easily falling into, is an ambition to be perfect at everything we are doing – being perfect at our work, having a perfectly clean house, a perfectly trimmed garden, a car that is always shining clean, a perfect marriage, and being a perfect parent. This is of course impossible. It is therefore important from time to time to sit down and decide what are the true priorities in life. Is it trimming the hedges or playing with the kids? Once you have your priorities right, you can be less than perfect in all aspects of life that does not really matter – a strategy that with a smile has been called strategic incompetence. But the priority list needs to be your own, and not to meet the expectations of others.

Finally, to reach your goals, the journey needs to be meaningful and fun. If it isn’t, ask yourself why you are doing this, and dare to say No! if it’s not something you really want to do. But when you decide to accomplish something, try to persevere and disregard the opinions of others and your own fears of failure.

This blog post was inspired by Jon Acuff (2017) Finish: Give yourself the gift of done.m

Illustration: – Skeeze

svensk_flagga   Detta blogginlägg på svenska

Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

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