All It Takes Is A Goal

ATG 27: 8 ways to spot perfectionism in your life

June 28, 2021 Jon Acuff Season 1 Episode 27
All It Takes Is A Goal
ATG 27: 8 ways to spot perfectionism in your life
Show Notes Transcript

Perfect isn't possible.

Deep down, you know this, but perfectionism will do everything in its power to convince you that if you take perfect steps, you can achieve perfect goals. The reality is that perfection is in the opposite direction of your goal's finish line. Sometimes perfectionism is easy to spot, but sometimes it can get a little sneaky. That's why this episode is all about how to spot perfectionism in your life so that you can identify it, avoid it, and stay on track and finish your goals.

Mentioned in this episode:
Jon's book Finish

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 tell you the difference between excellence and perfectionism. And then I'll give you eight ways to spot perfectionism in your own life. 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. 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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, recently I did a five day challenge called Beyond Perfect. So essentially, I taught a lesson Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, for about an hour in a private Facebook group about perfectionism. It's a topic I've thought about a lot. It's a topic I've researched a lot. And when I was preparing for the challenge, a lot of people asked me, "Okay, well, what's the difference between excellence and perfectionism?" And I think that's a great question. I mean, how do you know if you're dealing with perfectionism versus just the desire for excellence in the things you do? I mean, maybe you're just really detail oriented, or maybe you like to be excellent in everything you do. You want every little thing lined up. How do you know the difference between when you're kind of stuck in perfectionism and when you're actually dedicated to excellence? So I think there's some really easy ways to tell the difference. The first one is excellence launches, perfectionism lags. et me say that again. xcellence launches, erfectionism lags. When you're ocused on excellence, you hit our deadlines, you finish the roject, you publish the book, ou stick to the diet, even if ou missed a day or two, or aybe a whole week, you clean ut the basement, you launch. hen you're struggling with erfectionism, though, you miss he deadline. Perfectionists ave a really hard time with the eadline. You end up half- riting the book. You quit the iet because you didn't weigh our grilled chicken accurately nd don't know the exact alories. You stop cleaning out our basement or your garage ecause you can't find the erfect containers. Like you ent to the Container Store and ou got like 47 different size ontainers, and then you just ealized you added more clutter, not more organization. That's the first difference. Excellence launches, perfectionism lags. The second difference is that excellence energizes, perfectionism drains. Excellence is challenging, it is. It's not easy. I'm not gonna lie about that. It's difficult. It can be exhausting at times, but you still walk away with this deep feeling of satisfaction. You're what I call exhausted, but elated. That's one of my favorite feelings in the world, where you're exhausted, but you're elated. You left it all out there and it fills you up. Excellence energizes. Perfectionism on the other hand, is just the opposite. It drains you. It leaves you feeling empty. It removes energy. You feel like there's not a single thing you can do. Have you ever gotten to the end of the day and you can't even form a sentence? I worked with a woman once, and she was a copywriter. I was an advertising copywriter in Birmingham, Alabama. That was my first adult job. Like my first job where I had to wear a belt. That's kind of how I feel like adults do, they wear belts. That's my definition of adults, which is probably a weird definition. But she was another copywriter and she wanted to write a book, but she said,"Jon, at the end of the day, at the end of the day of writing, copy all day at work, I can't even write a check." I just aged myself very quickly. Checks, remember checks? These like little rectangle pieces of paper. They were adorable. But that's the second difference. Excellence energizes, perfectionism drains. The third difference is that excellence encourages others. perfectionism discourages others. Excellence encourages others, perfectionism discourages others. Have you ever worked with someone who was committed to excellence? They were amazing to be around, right? Have you ever worked with someone who is mired in perfectionism? Just the opposite experience. I mean, my own team can attest to that. I don't have a huge company, but I've got a team and if I'm struggling with perfectionism, like if I'm in this space where I'm being really perfectionistic, I end up sending the team emails on the weekends about whether we should use an em dash or an en dash in a project we're doing. Like on a Sunday, I'll email them and be like, "Hey, real quick, guys, I was looking at the details. I noticed that we've got a semicolon down there. And I don't think that's a semicolon in that email." It drives them crazy. It's so discouraging. On the other hand, when I'm focused on excellence, I keep my eyes on what really matters. I give everything I've got, and I don't nitpick everything like crazy. I would say that perfectionists tend to be micromanagers, which is not excellent, by the way. And the problem with a perfectionist as a manager is you never know what they really care about. A perfectionist will give you a list of 10 things, and then you have to kind of guess which on the 10 thing list really matter. And they'll ask you about them a month later and go "Hey, did you do thing number seven?" and you'll be like, "Ah, I guess it was thing number four, shoot." Now those are three really simple differences between excellence and perfectionism. But why do we even talk about it? Why am I so invested in talking about perfectionism? Does it really impact us that much? It does. I mean, I've been studying it for years. I even wrote a Wall Street Journal number one best-selling book about it called Finish. We'll link it in the show notes because babies need shoes. I'm a gold nerd. I've said that on this podcast multiple times. Which means I tend to take deep dives into the rascals that get into the way of you accomplishing your goals. I mean, my big heart for what I do is that I think you're capable of more than you think. I think you're capable of more than you think. I think you've got so many gifts, so many abilities, so many possibilities, so many opportunities. And when I look at that, and I get excited about going okay, how can I help you kind of tap into those? I also look at all the things that are going to get into the way what are the things that are going to get into the way of you being fully you, and one of them is definitely perfectionism. So today I'm going to teach you eight ways to spot perfectionism in your own life. Just eight simple way so that you can say,"Okay, wow, whoa, wait a second. I think I'm in the perfectionist zone. Like I need to take some steps out" or "Whoa, I'm taking some baby steps into being a perfectionist. I need to pause for a second and regroup." Eight ways, you ready? Way number one, perfectionism sets unreasonable expectations. You know, that soundtrack that tells you that you should be able to lose 10 pounds the first week of your diet? You know that soundtrack that tells you that you should be making easier progress on the book you're writing? You know that soundtrack that tells you things shouldn't be this complicated? Like it should be easier to declutter one closet, just one closet. That lady on Netflix did it with joy. She decluttered like 50 homes in an hour and you can do it. One closet? Those soundtracks, that's perfectionism. It always sets wildly unreasonable expectations for any goal you're trying to accomplish. When I wrote my book Soundtracks, perfectionism told me that I should be able to finish the entire book every time I wrote. Talk about unreasonable. It will also tell you that if you ran three days in a row, you should expect to run every day for the rest of your life now. From this moment until you're dead, you have to stay at this exact speed and streak you can never stop. That's the first thing, first sign, first way to spot perfectionism is look for unreasonable expectations. The second way to spot perfectionism is that perfectionism creates impossible timeframes. If perfectionism can't trip you up with the results, it will trip you up with the speed. I mean, perfectionism will come in and say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure, sure. You're making progress. I mean, you could be, you could be making faster progress. I mean, it could, it could always be a little speedier." I'm always surprised when someone tells me that their team is having a hard time adopting a new software system. That's my job. I go around the country speaking to corporations. And they'll occasionally say, "Hey, we're having a hard time we're doing this new thing. And the team is having a hard time adopting it, it's been a real problem." And I'll ask them, "Well, well, how long have they been using the new one?" They'll say, "Three months." And I'll say, "Well, how long did they use the last one, like the last way you did things?" And they'll say, "Three years," I'll say "What? That's not a fair fight. Three months versus three years." The same thing happens in fitness goals. People will tell me that a diet or an exercise program doesn't work for them. And I'll ask "How long have you been doing it?" And they'll say, "10 days." I'll say, "How long did it take you to gain the weight," and they'll say "10 years." So you gave yourself 10 years to put on the weight and only 10 days to take it off? So here's a soundtrack I like to use in that situation. Never give the problem a year and the solution a week. Give it time. But perfectionism doesn't like to do that. It always tells you, you can meet some impossible timeframe. That's what's fascinating. Those first two ways you can spot it, it'll give you a huge expectation of what you can accomplish. And then a tiny, tiny, tiny window to do it. That's when you know, you're dealing with perfectionism. The third way to spot it. Perfectionism amplifies comparison. If perfectionism can't spin you out by looking at your own results, or lack thereof, it will get you obsessed about the results other people are getting. You know that part of you that's tempted to compare yourself to other people, especially online? That's perfectionism. Years ago, I wrote a soundtrack that helped me with this, here's what it is, never compare your beginning to someone else's middle. Let me say it again. Never compare your beginning to someone else's middle. When I started this podcast, when I started it, I didn't need to compare myself to Tim Ferriss. He has one of the biggest podcasts in the world. He has more than 500 episodes and 13,000 reviews. He's made millions from his podcast and has been doing it for years. He's an expert. Why would I compare myself to him? That's like comparing my layup to Michael Jordan and then feeling inadequate. What's interesting, and here's the thing, I think we want to be excellent. So we look to the most excellent example. But I think an even better way to approach something when you're starting something new, is to compare yourself to someone similar, not the most successful. Look for similar, someone slightly ahead of you, someone slightly better than you and the thing you're trying to do versus the best in the entire field. Because I think that can be really discouraging. You can look at that person, that company that whatever, later, once you've got some momentum, but right out of the gate, right out of the beginning, I think it can be really discouraging to pick the top person in your industry, the top person in your field and go, "that's what I have to do." Now, what's curious about this, to me is that I think there's an even sneakier form of comparison that we never talk about. I'm talking about comparing the me I am now to the me I used to be. I meet people all the time, they'll say, "Jon, when I was in my 20s, this was so much easier. I was in the best shape of my life. My metabolism was lightning fast. I could, I get in shape just by thinking about working out, I would just think about burpees. And all of a sudden be like, boom, I'm in shape." Or they'll say "Things used to be so much easier when I was younger." They imagine this perfect version of themselves that they no longer are, and they get discouraged. And I bet if we are honest. And if we could really go back in time, we'd realize things weren't that easy. You weren't as amazing as you remember. And you're just getting distracted by perfectionism. I mean, every time I write a book, like I'm working on book number eight right now, every time I sit down and write a book, I hear this voice, this soundtrack that says"The last book was so much easier to write" or "Book six was so much easier to write. Book five just was a breeze." And that's just not true. And I'll have to go talk to my wife, Jenny. I'll be like, "Hey, was book five hard?" and she'll say"Yes, it was very hard." But I'm getting stuck with comparison. The fourth thing that perfectionism does, the fourth way to spot it, is that perfectionism eliminates your ability to celebrate. Perfectionism discourages you from ever celebrating because no victory is ever big enough. You always could have done more. Here's what that looks like, in my own life. Let's say that I have 10 things get done on a Monday. I hustle hard. I accomplish all of them. And I actually end up getting 12 things done. My goal was 10. And I ended up getting 12 things done. You would think that I'd be excited, right? You would think that that would be cause for celebration, but then perfectionism slides right in and instead of saying"Congratulations, you exceeded your goal of 10" it says "Well, I mean, it's cool. It's cool that you got 12 done, but it would have been even cooler if you got 15 done. I mean if 12 was possible, 15 was probably too." Do you know what would have happened though, if I did get 15 things done? Perfectionism would have said,"Well, I mean, 15 is nice, but 18 would have been even better." Perfectionism always moves the goalposts. It never allows you to celebrate at the finish line, because it just keeps moving the finish line. I'm terrible at celebrating victories. I usually jump right to the next thing without even pausing for a second to admit something good happened. Which is a real shame, because then you don't get to enjoy the reward of all that hard work. So there's a question for you today. Can you celebrate? Like right now as you think about the things that have gone? Well, because something went well, in the last year in the last month in the last week? Are you able to pause and celebrate? If you can't, it might be because of perfectionism. The fifth thing that perfectionism does, the fifth way to spot it, is that perfectionism leads to burnout. Perfect is impossible. Deep down, we all know that. But let's pretend for a second that you achieved it. You wrote the perfect blog post. You had the perfect workout. You perfectly cleaned your kitchen. Whatever you were attempting was perfect. In that moment, perfectionism will try to say that the impossible, the rare, the lottery ticket moment where everything came together, is now the new standard. From here on out. That's the expectation. You just have to be perfect every single time. Even saying that out loud, though, is exhausting, because you know where it's going to lead. Burnout. If you listen to perfectionism for very long, it always leads to burnout. We all know what that feels like too. My favorite description of burnout comes from Tolkien in a line that Bilbo Baggins says because I am such a nerd. I know right? Here's what Bilbo says. He says,"I feel thin, sort of stretched like butter scraped over too much bread." That's such a great description Isn't it? Isn't that what burnout feels like? like butter scraped over too much bread. If you ever feel burned out, there's probably some perfectionism at play. The sixth sign, the sixth way to spot perfectionism is that perfectionism turns the starting line into a wall. If you ever run a race, you know that you don't have to climb over a wall to begin. The starting line is just a line on the ground, you barely notice it. But whenever you think about starting a new goal, perfectionism will get real loud and say, "Whatever you do, make sure you start perfectly." For instance, let's say that you decide to get in shape. That's a great goal. perfectionism will come in and fire 100 questions at you."Okay, well, what uh, what type of exercise you're going to do? We join a gym? Which gym? I mean, how many days a week will you go? Do you have the time in your schedule? Where are you going to buy your workout shoes? Gotta research a few gyms in the area to make sure you don't pick the wrong one. What if you track everything with an app? Which app will you use? There's so many different options. You should get some sort of watch that monitors your heart rate. Do you have the right supplements? Should you sign up for a race? What if you researched races in the tri-state area before you walk a lap around your neighborhood? I know you want to walk around your neighborhood just to kind of get some fresh air. But what if you did some deep research? If you're going to do this thing, you should do it right. What if you got a stationary bike? Which kind of stationary bike? There's so many different stationary bikes. I just googled stationary bike for you. And there were 34.5 million results." Perfectionism gets real chatty in moments like that. Can you feel the starting line growing taller and more difficult to get over? Suddenly, what was just a line, "I'm going to take a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood. I'm going to get in shape" has turned into this massive barrier of research and doubt. There's a saying and construction "measure twice, cut once." It's pretty self explanatory. You should measure the thing you're going to cut twice. And then you should cut it once. Perfectionism and overthinking turn that into"measure 100 times, and then cut, wait a second. Are you are you sure you're ready to cut?" That's what perfectionism does. It turns starting lines into walls. The seventh thing that perfectionism does, it makes you fix fictional problems. Perfectionism tells you to solve problems that haven't even happened yet. For example, starting a small business. When I thought about starting a small business, I thought about all the moving pieces. Perfectionism told me, "What do you... What are you going to do and you have to fire someone? I mean, that's going to be terrible. Like, they probably have babies. Like they probably have kids, and it's Christmas time and you're gonna have to fire them. Oh my gosh, it's gonna be so hard on their family. They probably have a dog with like, really cute eyes, that's gonna look at you and like, cry those dog tears." I hadn't even hired anyone yet. I was so far away from even hiring anyone and perfectionism was telling me to come up with a solution for a fictional problem. That's something that trips up every would be author. People tell me, "Jon, I really want to write a book, but I'm terrified of what will happen if someone writes a one star review about it." The book isn't finished. You know, in most cases, the person hasn't even started writing, but every time they even think about writing, perfectionism says "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Before you do, you better come up with a perfect plan for how you'll handle criticism from strangers." I guarantee that whenever you think about your goal or your dream, there are some far out fictional problem that perfectionism brings up. And the last thing, the last way to spot perfectionism is perfectionism. cripples community. You can't be part of a community if you're listening to perfectionism, because one of the things that tells you is that everyone else has it all figured out, except for you. The rest of the entire world. Like the whole world has a manual for what it takes to be a successful adult, except for you. We all got them at the hospital. Like we left the hospital with like that towel or like blanket they wrap babies in with like the blue and pink stripe. I feel like every hospital has that blanket. And then they gave me a book, and it was like how to be a perfect successful adult and always make the right decision. It's weird that you didn't get that rule book. Everyone has it except you. Have you ever felt like that? When you feel that way, you worry that your progress is too messy, your life is too scattered and your challenges are too big to invite anyone else in. So you hide it and you don't get to have community. Perfectionism. cripples community. Those are the eight ways to spot perfectionism in your life. And now, now I'm a little curious. Which of those eight signs do you see? Like right now, which ones would you go "Oh, yeah, I got that"? Number one. unreasonable expectations. Number two, impossible timeframes. Number three, comparison. There's probably a lot of people right now going"Ding ding ding, ding ding." Number four, inability to celebrate. Number five, burnout. Like maybe you're on the edge of burnout or you're deep into burnout right now. Number six, starting lines that feel like walls. Number seven, fictional problems. Always trying to prevent and fix problems that haven't even happened yet. Number eight, lack of community. Maybe one or two jumped out. Maybe you went eight for eight and we're like, "Dang, like I scored 100 on a test, I would rather have a zero on." If that's you, don't worry. You're amongst friends. And if you want a little more about perfectionism, listen to Episode 23 of my podcast. I learned something about it, about perfectionism, that completely changed my understanding. And if you really want to take a deeper dive, read my book Finish. A PhD named Mike Peasley and I studied nearly 900 people for six months as they worked on goals to learn what it takes to beat perfectionism and turn from being a chronic starter into a consistent finisher. Has that ever felt like you? Like you're amazing at starting, but you have a hard time finishing? We studied that and I wrote a book about that. I'll link both resources in the show notes. Thank you so much for listening today. Please make sure you subscribe to this podcast and if you've got 60 seconds to spare or 90 seconds if you're feelin verbose, you decide, I would ove a review. With new podcasts ike mine, your feedback in the eviews is critical. It's so elpful. So thank you for doing hat. I'll see you next week. nd remember, all it takes is a oal. 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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