Lately (more like the past two days), I’ve been reading a lot about “perfectionism” and the art of letting go. It’s easier said than done and like many people in the world, I’ve conditioned myself to strive for perfection in all things that I do. With that, I’ve also always found myself falling short of that perfection – whether it’s not finishing projects, canceling plans, wallowing in self-pity or just plain giving up. This idea of perfectionism (which many of us struggle with) is exhausting. And I know I’m not the only one.
When it comes to achieving success, we often equate that to perfection. We want everything to look and be perfect, but perfection should never be the end goal. This is not new news to us, but we still do it anyway. Even with the knowledge at our fingertips, we continue to push harder for perfection. Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” So can we all admit that striving for perfection over and over again; and then falling short of perfection is a recipe for insanity?
We tend to fall short of our goals not because we fail to start, but we fail to finish them. We also have unrealistic expectations of how and when we achieve our goals. A book that I recently read, “Finish” by Jon Acuff said we tend to think that in order to achieve our goals we must make the journey hard, hustle 24 hours a day with little to no sleep, be in pain, not have fun, and be miserable in the process. Well, no wonder 92% of Americans fail to achieve their goals; it’s because we’re sucking all the life out of them.
We have this ass backwards expectation that goal setting should be hard so that when achieve them we can feel better about ourselves. We also think that if it’s easy then we must be cheating. It’s funny that what comes natural to us we discount because we don’t want to take achieving our goals as an easy feat. Goals are already hard to keep, so why wouldn’t you implement or execute strategies that would make it easier for you to complete them?
The book also mentioned that cutting our goals in half or extending our goal deadlines would make achieving them a lot easier. For example, many people make goals to read more in the New Year, so what do we do? We make a goal to read 100 books, because we've all come across that click bait article by Inc. that says CEOs read 100 books a year and many of us want to be our own boss. So we put on our blinders and set the unrealistic, but optimistic goal of reading 100 books in the New Year.
But what ends up really happening? We get to reading five books and realize, damn, reading 100 books is a lot harder than what it looks – I’m never going to reach this goal. What happen to the optimism? Rather than seeing the glass as being a little more full than empty, we look at how much further we must go and then give up. What we should be doing instead is adjusting our goals by cutting them in half so that we’re excited as we once were when we made the goal so we can keep moving forward.
But isn’t that cheating? No, it’s readjusting and recognizing that many of us suffer from planning fallacy, a phenomenon in which predictions about how much time will be needed to complete a future task display an optimism bias and underestimate the time needed. Two-hundred and ninety two million of us are not master goal setters, and some of us cloud our abilities to achieve these goals with a psychological euphoria of optimism. For once having crazy optimism may be doing more harm than good, both an oxymoron and the reason why goals are not achieved.
Another strategy would be redefining what it means to achieve your goal. As the writers to our life story, we can define the words we want for our story just as we do our goals. For instance, my definition of books could be defined as podcasts, thought-provoking articles in magazines, blogs, newspapers, etc. It becomes a lot more realistic to achieve when I set my own standard.
It’s not cheating; it’s playing the game by your own rules and negating perfectionism. If you want to set a goal of reading 100 physical books, then that’s your standard, but that may not be for all of us. I could guess that there are many CEOs out there doing it this way; and for them it’s working smarter not harder.
Don’t reject innovation, embrace it. Trust me, none of this is cheating. We use products and services every day to make our lives easier, it’s not cheating then, its advancement; and isn’t that the point of goal setting is to advance yourself? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of making excuses for myself, canceling plans last minute, and falling short of my goals. Anything to make achieving my goals easier I’m all for. So let’s use our tools as ammunition to reinforce that perfection is not real and that it should never be a part of goal setting.
I know that what I’m asking you to do is hard, but I’m asking it of myself too. It’s not going to be easy combating perfectionism, because if you’re like me you see what “you want” your world to look like instead of what it really is. It’s going to be hard trying to unlearn it all, but I want that for you and me; because the world needs more of our ideas to become a reality.
Perfectionism is the killer of creativity, peace and happiness and once we all accept that, it’ll become a lot easier not just to achieve a big goal, but many big goals. And for the record, I’m not saying to lower your standards either or not try hard. It’s okay to have high expectations, but you’ll always fall short in achieving them if you believe it has to be perfect. I hope you remember that because it’s not about how you start your goals it’s about how you finish.
My name is Morgan Pelt, founder and lifestyle blogger behind Columbus Living – a blog dedicated to sharing stories about local businesses, events and entrepreneurs. I grew up in Columbus and as a creative outlet; I like to share my adventures and experiences through writing, photography and social media. It's time to discover new places, try new food, and meet new people. Let's go!