All It Takes Is A Goal

ATG 23: This Sentence Will Change Perfectionism Forever

June 07, 2021 Jon Acuff Season 1 Episode 23
All It Takes Is A Goal
ATG 23: This Sentence Will Change Perfectionism Forever
Show Notes Transcript

What if you could turn perfectionism from a foe into a friend?

I started asking myself that question after years of constantly wrestling with perfectionism. It led me to an interesting creative exercise: I invited perfectionism to have a conversation with me. What unfolded helped me to see that my once mortal enemy might have been a misunderstood companion all along. If you're tired of fighting with perfectionism, it's time for a truce.

Listen in for an episode that will redefine your view of perfectionism and give you tools to use it in a way that will move you toward the finish line of your goal.

Join the FREE 5 day Beyond Perfect Challenge!

Follow Jon on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

Order Soundtracks, Jon's newest book available wherever you find quality books!

Jon Acuff:

Hey everyone, and welcome to the All it Takes is a Goal podcast. The best place in the entire world, including all of Canada, to learn how to build new thoughts, new actions, and new results. I'm your host Jon Acuff and today I'm going to teach you a simple switch that will completely change how you think about perfectionism. If you're even a tiny bit of a perfectionist, a smidge of a perfectionist, you're going to love this episode. But first, today's episode is sponsored by Medi-Share. Have you guys ever had buyer's remorse? You know that feeling of intense regret because the thing you thought you just had to have was only something used once or twice? For me it was the time I bought a really expensive road bike because I thought I was going to get into cycling. I proceeded to hang it on the wall in my garage and feel ashamed for six months. Well, I know some of you are experiencing buyer's remorse right now for something much more frustrating. You know what I'm talking about. It's the healthcare you rushed to get during open enrollment last December. Well, I have some good news for you. You've probably heard me talking about our main sponsor for this podcast, Medi-Share. And these guys have the answer to healthcare buyer's remorse. Check this out, members of Medi-Share save up to 50% or more per month on their health care costs. They say the typical family saves up to $500 per month. And here's the best part, you can become a member at any time. So that means it isn't too late to ditch your buyer's remorse and switch to a more affordable health care that will save you money and help you sleep better at night. If this is your first time you're hearing about Medi-Share, it is the best alternative to health insurance that allows you to share the burden of medical bills, offers access to 900,000 plus health care providers, and has a proven 25 year track record. Plus in addition to saving hundreds per month, as a member of Medi-Share, you will also have access to free telehealth and free telecounseling. You won't find that with any traditional health insurance provider. Guys, it only takes two minutes to see how much you could save. Go investigate that for yourself and your family at That's Remember Jon doesn't have an H in it. So it's a M-E-D-I, that's Medi, share, S-H-A-R-E dot com slash J-O-N. Alright, today we're going to talk about perfectionism. That's a topic that I spent years studying. I've written blogs about it. I've given speeches about it. I've made YouTube videos about it. A few years ago, I also wrote a book about it called Finish. And it was all about perfectionism. Starting on June 14, I'm even doing a five day free challenge about perfectionism called Beyond Perfect, Winning the Race Against Perfectionism. I'm going to teach five free lessons Monday through Friday online. I'll tell you more about that later. But if you're interested, check out That's my last name A-C-U-F-F dot M-E slash challenge to sign up. We're going to have more than 10,000 people from around the world working together on perfectionism. And it's going to be amazing. So why do I write about perfectionism so often? Why do I focus on it? Why do I study it? Why do I research it? Because I struggle with it. I'm in the trenches with you. Sometimes I wish this podcast was just me reflecting back on 40 years of wisdom. You know, like an elder statesman, who has long conquered his biggest challenges and was more than willing to share a few things he's learned while whittling in a rocking chair. For starters, I can't even own a rocking chair. My wife says that I aggressively rock. I think that's true. I'm very active. I never like to sit still. And in a rocking chair, I have that thing going very fast, very quickly. But I'm also not 40 years past my worst mistakes. I'm not. I don't have it all figured out. I'm still actively making mistakes. I'm still actively dropping the ball. I'm still actively learning. I'm still experimenting, and I'm coming up with new goals and finding new ways to deal with things like perfectionism. I think the idea that I'm going to share today is going to change the way you look at perfectionism maybe maybe forever. Is that a big promise? It feels like a big promise. But, but let's see if I can deliver. Let's see how this episode goes. I think we need to start by defining what perfectionism even means. How would you define that word? What does perfectionism mean to you? One of the definitions that I've written about before is that perfectionism is a poison that pretends to be a vitamin. It's one of those things that on the outside looks like a positive character trait. It's the kind of thing people say in job interviews when you ask them to name their biggest weaknesses. They'll be like, "My, my weaknesses? Good question. I guess biggest weakness is I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. I like to work long hours and I hold myself to a very high standard of performance. It's probably, probably my biggest weakness." That's not really perfectionism though. That's just hard work. Perfectionism usually means you don't finish. You don't publish the book. You don't stick with the diet plan. You don't start the business. You don't declutter your garage. Why? Because you want it to be perfect. And since perfect is a myth, you never actually finish. That's how I've thought about perfectionism for most of my life. But my understanding of it has changed recently. I'm working with a brand new definition. Here's what I now believe perfectionism is, perfectionism is just misplaced creativity. That's all it is. Perfectionism is misplaced creativity. Perfectionism is creativity applied to fear instead of hope. You take all this imagination, all this effort, all this energy, all this brilliance, and you apply it to fear. What if it isn't perfect? What if it doesn't meet my expectations? What if I get it wrong? What if I look foolish? What if it doesn't go well? When I started thinking about perfectionism that way, which is really just a new soundtrack. The idea of saying perfectionism is just misplaced creativity, that's a soundtrack or, you know, a repetitive thought. I use that phrase to describe a repetitive thought I wrote a book about soundtracks, the thoughts we have in our head. When I replaced it, I started to see perfectionism in a different light. My broken soundtrack, the one I've been listening to over and over and over again, had been perfectionism is the mortal enemy. I had to retire that one and replace it with the new one. Perfectionism is just misplaced creativity. But what does, what does that really mean? To answer that question, I did a creative exercise, and I decided to invite perfectionism in for a cup of coffee. I just imagined what would happen if instead of fighting it, instead of clawing away at my perfectionism, what if I actually engaged with it? So I did. And I wrote it down. And it went like this. Me,"Okay, Perfectionism. Thanks for hanging out today. I'd love to start off with a question. What are you afraid of?" And Perfectionism would answer, "I'm afraid of won't be perfect. It's, it's right there in my name. My greatest fear is that the next thing won't be perfect." And I'd say, "Well, what if it was? What if everything you did was perfect?" Perfectionism would answer, "It, it won't be." And I'd say, "I know, I know. I know the world is really hard to control. There are so many moving pieces, like the weather, other humans, the Suez Canal, but what if, just for a day, or just for one project, it was? What if everything is perfect? What would that be like?" And I think perfectionism would get kind of quiet, and they'd say, "I'd feel safe. I'd be enough, I can let my guard down. And then I'd say,"Wow, that must be really tiring. Always feeling in danger, always feeling less than and always keeping your guard up." And perfectionism would say, "It is. It is exhausting." And I'd say, "Thank you for doing that." And perfectionism would be surprised by my gratefulness. It'd probably say,"What? Whoa, what did you just say? Did you just say thank you, Jon?" And I'd tell perfectionism, "I did. I did. Thank you for protecting me that way. There must have been a time when I needed that. Where perfect was the only standard that would see me through some particularly tricky waters. There must have been some hall where we were walking down. And it was like Mission Impossible, you know, one of those halls where there's like a million laser beams ricocheting in every possible direction. And the only way to avoid them all was to perfectly contort our way down the hall. I don't know what that was. I don't know when exactly that happened. But it must have been something significant. Because perfectionism, you get really amazing at your job." Perfectionism, again, would be confused by that. They would say, "You think? You think I'm amazing at my job?" And I'd say"Of course, you're incredibly hard working. Every day, every project, every conversation every 'What if?', every dream, you're right there with me, trying to protect me and make things perfect. I don't know anyone who puts in as much effort as you do. Thank you. I've got some good news, though." And perfectionism would say, "What? What's, what's your good news?" And I'd say "You don't have to carry the burden alone anymore." And perfectionist would say, "What? What burden?" And I'd say, "The burden of making sure everything turns out alright. The burden of making sure I never get hurt. The burden of picking every step perfectly. You don't have to carry that burden alone anymore, perfectionism." And perfectionism would probably get quiet and say, "But, but why not?" And I'd say, "Because I see who you are. And you've got more friends than you know. You're not my enemy. That must have been really challenging to both fight the entire world, all the things that could threaten perfection, and me at the same time. I thought you were a villain. I did. I thought you were a villain through and through. My Goliath on a hill. But that's not who you are at all." And perfectionism would say, "Well, then, then who am I?" And I'd say your misplaced creativity. You're creativity applied to fear instead of hope. I don't know when it happened. I don't really know how happen, but at some point, I think you took this overwhelming passion and this joy for life and you stuck your neck out. You tried and it didn't go well. Because not everything goes well, especially not the first time but you got hurt and eventually decided it was easier, not to hope. It was easier to protect. And that's a real shame because you've got the best imagination perfectionism. Did you did you know that?" And again, perfectionism would probably be quiet and say, "No. No one's ever told me that." I'd say,"It's true! Your imagination is unrivaled perfectionism. No one can see what's possible like you. You dream in colors most people don't even have access to. But when you got hurt, you took all that passion, all that creativity, all that energy, and you focused it on protection, not creation. And that's when creativity became perfection. Perfection is the promise that you're never going to get hurt again, that things are going to go so well that there won't be bruises, there won't be stumbles, there won't be mistakes. Now, I could argue with you how logically, that's impossible. But logic never wins an argument with fear. And I'm not here to argue. I'm here to say that I see you and I need you." Perfectionism would say, "This is such a weird conversation. It's a good thing you don't completely understand, Jon, how to check your podcast traffic numbers, because I guarantee the average listener bounced a long time ago. Plus you and I, Jon, we don't talk, we fight." And I'd say "What? What makes you say that?" And perfectionism would say, "Well, you did write a book with a subtitle that said'punch fear in the face.' So..." Then I'd have to say, "Ooh, touch, touch. I didn't need to do that. I wrote a book where the subtitle was 'punch fear in the face.' But that's only because I didn't know who you were. And I didn't know how much I needed you. I need imagination. I need creation. I need passion. I need desire. I need an ocean of courage. And under all the layers of perfectionism you've put on over the years, I know that's what's in there. I don't get any of those things unless we work together." Perfectionism would probably say, "I don't trust you, Jon." And I'd say, "I wouldn't either. The book subtitle does not help. And I've, I've also talked about you in 100 speeches on 100 different podcasts. And the conversation was always the same. I labeled you the enemy of done." Perfectionism would say, "Yeah, that's a good hook. I'll give you that. It's a good hook. It's sticky, 'the enemy of done.'" And I'd say, "I know it is, it is, but I don't think it's true. What's true is that perfectionism is hope that got hurt. It's just misplaced creativity. I can't dream again, not fully, not really, not wholly, unless I get to know you better." And perfectionism would say,"This is starting to get a real Tuesdays with Morrie vibe." And I'd laugh and say, "I wish. That book sold more than 15 million copies. I would do a Thursday's with Perfectionism book in a second." Perfectionism would say, "Fair enough, fair enough. So what do we do next?" And I'd say, "I think we sit and talk. I think we probably go on a few walks. People really seem to like pickleball lately, maybe we play some pickleball. I don't know. I'm just calling a truce. I'm waving the white flag. I think the two of us can create something awesome together if we push in the same direction. I think you'll make a better ally than enemy." And end scene. The conversation is over. This episode is, is probably why I'll never be able to make it as a voice actor. Did you notice how similar the perfectionism character sounded to me? Ah, look at me using sarcasm to cover up something I care about. I see what you're doing, Jon Acuff. Changing how I looked at perfectionism has changed my life. And I think you can change yours, too. You know, that book, you almost wrote? Perfectionism will get in the way unless you deal with it. You know that exercise plan that you, you started it, but the results weren't as fast as you expected, so you quit? Perfectionism got in there too. Raise your hand if you have a shame treadmill in the garage or a Peloton that's now just a really expensive place to hang laundry to dry. Anybody? Anybody? You know, that business idea, you've half launched 1000 times? Perfectionism was right there. You know that podcast you nearly created? The attic you barely decluttered? The job change you dreamed about but never made? The new year's resolution you swore you'd keep this time but lost sight of? Perfectionism was in the mix with all of those, but it doesn't have to be that way. You can win the race against perfectionism. Starting on June 14, I'm doing five days of free live training to help you get beyond perfect. And if you can't make it live, because you have like jobs and stuff By the way, congrats on that you have jobs and stuff awesome. No problem though. We'll send you a video replay that you can watch. Don't miss it. Sign up today at What will you learn? Well, here's what I'm going to teach you. On Monday, June 14. Day one, we're going to talk about how do you build the best base. The best map in the world is useless if you don't know where you are when you first open it. So on day one, we're going to draw a massive"you are here" X in our lives so that we can build a base that you can jump from. A launch point, if you will. Without a starting line, like, without a good starting line, you'll never find the finish line. The good news is all it takes to get moving is a 1% win. And I'll teach you how to get that too. On Tuesday, June 15. Day two, you'll learn how to redefine your results. Perfectionists often think they need to have the final results perfectly analyzed before they even take the first step. I need to know the exact final destinations, a longitude latitude, before I start. That's hogwash, which, by the way, is a fantastic word. And in this case, a fantastic truth. You don't need to know exactly where you're going. You need to redefine your results. And you need to make sure that there are four things. That they're messy, that they're personal, that they're inspiring and that they're specific-ish. On day two we'll create results we can actually accomplish, discover the power of a 30 day review, and close with a dire warning from extreme skiers that every perfectionist needs to hear. Didn't that sound dramatic? From an extreme skier, dire warning, what? That's Tuesday? Who does that on Tuesday? I do. On Wednesday, June 16. Day three, you'll learn how to make time to talk about time. Every action in your life gives value and takes energy, whether it's a goal related action, a meeting at work or phone call with a friend. All of life hinges on those two things. The best actions are high value and low energy. They feel natural. They're easy for you to do and they're extremely rewarding. The worst actions, the worst activities you do are low value and high energy. They suck the life out of you, and they don't generate any results. So how do you plan your time accordingly to make the most of this limited resource? On day three, you'll find out. Spoiler alert, I'm working on this idea. I've been working on this idea for a while. And I think it's going to end up in a book. I think this idea is going to make it to a book someday. I want you to see it here first. This one's going to be super fun. On Thursday, June 17. Day four, you'll learn how to pump up the volume. Have you heard that song lately? I love that song. Pump up the Volume. It's better than you remember. Successful goals start with successful thoughts. You'll learn how to write new soundtracks and keep the music at an 11 for your entire goal. From discovering the difference between actual and aspirational, to turning your soundtracks into sticky stories with three easy techniques. You'll leave this day with a crash course in creating thoughts that work for you, not against you. And on Friday, June 18. Day five, you'll learn how to fuel up to go further, faster. You don't need to worry about your fuel on day one. You're running on pure motivation. New Year's Day excitement and first day of school nervous energy. But what about day 10 or day 20 or day 100. The difference between sustained change and temporary change is finding the right fuel for the road ahead. Get ready to fill your tank on day five. And I know I said it's a free five day challenge. But of course there's a bonus day! On Saturday, June 19. Day six, bonus Saturday with my wife Jenny Acuff. Jenny got her undergrad and photojournalism and her master's in construction management from Georgia Tech. In an industry typically dominated by man, she was like, "Nah, I'm going to run $50 million construction projects in Boston because that's what I do." How did she do it? Because she's beyond perfect and has never let perfectionism get in the way of her next adventure. Our 20 year marriage has been a 20 year education in taking chances and taking the next step, even if it's not perfect. Join us for a special bonus conversation on Saturday. And if right now you're thinking, "Do I, do I even struggle with perfectionism? What's the perfect way to answer that question? Am I really a perfectionist?" You probably are. Don't overthink it. It's free. It's going to be awesome. Sign up today at Is there a perfect way to end a podcast episode? And we'll have all the links in the show notes. But is there a perfect way to end a podcast episode? I don't know. Maybe not. But this one, this one is over. Thanks for listening. And thank you for writing such amazing reviews. I'm going to read one right now that I love from Cassandra213R. The title is "Jon calls me every week." And the review says "Jon calls me every week. Isn't your favorite time of the week getting a personal message from Jon Acuff? Oh, he doesn't call you? That's a bummer. I mean, he doesn't call me directly, but he leaves me a message in the form of a podcast. But I know it's for me. I don't have a mom I have hour long chats with about how life is going. My best friend just had her first baby and she's got a lot going on. My husband is managing a huge project at work. But Jon always comes through with encouragement for me. I'm a reformed perfectionist, a book writing podcast recording child rearing, personal chef to my family, and sometimes I feel like a huge failure. The personal messages from Jon are a huge boost to me and I'm happy to share them with you too. I know they'll help you with your goals. Just like they helped me with mine." I love that Cassandra. Thank you for leaving that. That is so fun! I love that it feels like a personal message. That is the best. Well, I hope you dug this week's episode. I can't wait to see you in the Beyond Perfect challenge. I'll see you next week. And remember, all it takes is a goal. This episode of the podcast was brought to you by Medi-Share. Text JON, J-O-N to 474747 for more information. Huge thank you to Medi-Share for sponsoring it. J-O-N to 474747.


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