Remembering to Choose Progress Over Perfection

JT - Perfection is the enemy of Progress - Winston Churchill

If you have been around here for a while, you will know I am a recovering perfectionist. Yes I wrote that article back in 2014 and some days I still get tripped up by that perfectionism story. And when I do, I remind myself to choose progress over perfection.

Therefore in this post, I am going to share more what choosing progress over perfection means to me and how I have implement that in my life. Let’s start with progress and what it is…

What is Progress?

Simply, progress is about the small actions, tiny tweaks or steps you take towards your destination or where you want to go. Yes it is the action. Not just thinking about, learning about, reading about or talking about, actually taking action.

Progress is about the small steps, habits or actions taken towards growth, development, (un)learning or continuous improvement. 

Ryan Holiday sums it up in this excerpt from his book, Ego Is The Enemy:

“We will learn that though we think big, we must act and live small in order to accomplish what we seek. Because we will be action and education focused and forego validation and status, our ambition will not be grandiose but iterative – one foot in front of the other, learning and growing and putting in the time.”

~ Ryan Holiday

What is Perfection?

Perfectionism is hard to define, however the following definitions gives some good insights –

  • “A disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable; especially: the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.” ~ Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary
  • “A personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less.” ~
  •  “Refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.” ~ Oxford Dictionaries

In the above definitions of perfectionism, you probably noticed the words –

  • unrealistically demanding goals,
  • a sign of personal worthlessness, and
  • rejection or refusal of anything less (than perfectionism).

For me, perfectionism is very draining and creates stress and suffering in my life. Which is part of the reason why I started to choose progress over perfection and untangle from it!

How Do I Remember to Choose and Honour Progress Over Perfection?

There are a number of ways I remember to choose and honour progress over perfection, however today I am going to share the following four –

1. I Practised Completion –

Do you have anything in your life that is incomplete? Maybe unfinished projects? Unpaid bills or expenses? What about unkept promises, broken appliances in your home or a thank you note that hasn’t been written?

Each project or task in your life has a draining effect on your life energy. Why? Because it blocks your momentum to move forward as the incomplete tasks keep bringing you back in to the past. Is there any that you can complete today?

2 I Started to In-joy My Own Life and Untangled from Comparison –

What have you noticed to your energy when you compare your self to other people? For me, I feel quite drained. It can also lead to animosity, jealousy, competition and resentment. Underneath comparison is quite often a belief or sense we are not enough as we are, which is created by the ego, inner critic or monkey mind.

In his book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Eckhart Tolle talks about the ego and the roles it plays. He says –

“Why does the ego play roles? Because of one unexamined assumption, one fundamental error, one unconscious thought. That thought is I am not enough. Other unconscious thoughts follow: I need to play a role in order to get what I need to be fully myself; I need to get more so I can be more. But you cannot be more than you are because underneath your physical and psychological form, you are one with Life itself, one with Being. In form, you are and will always be inferior to some, superior to others. In essence, you are neither inferior nor superior to anyone. True self-esteem and true humility arise out of that realisation. In the eyes of the ego, self-esteem and humility are contradictory. In truth, they are one and the same.” 

~ Eckhart Tolle

Over time, when I found myself comparing myself to others, I notice the habit loop, observe it, discover the underlying pattern (i.e. thought, feeling/emotion and body sensations). Then over time, start to navigate my attention and focus on the things, people or experiences that connected me to joy and what I have control over.

3. I Acknowledge and Track the Small Steps –

When was the last time you gave yourself a pat on the back for taking a step towards your goals? Remember – if you take 1 step every day for the next 365 days, that is a massive 365 steps towards your intention or goal! Why not catch yourself taking a small step today and track it? I found it useful to help me to transform doubt and it served as a good reminder to continue to pay attention to choosing progress over perfection,

Remember that old saying –

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” 

Lao Tzu

4. I Started to Untangle from Approval Addiction

Approval addiction is something I am quite familiar with and it used to drain a lot of my energy. Not sure what it is? In her book, Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone, Joyce Meyer writes –

“an addiction is something that controls people – it is something they feel they cannot live without, or something they feel driven to do in order to relieve pressure, pain, or discomfort of some kind. Someone addicted to drugs, for instance, will do whatever he needs to in order to get another “fix” when he begins to feel uncomfortable. Likewise, someone addicted to alcohol will feel compelled to have a drink when life’s problems begin to rise up and stare him in the face. The substance that people are addicted to helps relieve their pain momentarily, but then a damaging, controlling cycle starts in their life. Approval addiction is much the same, but instead of running to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or eating to heal the hurt, those who suffer from it seek people’s approval. When they feel unsure and shaky about themselves, they look for a “fix” – they seek out someone to comfort them and reassure them everything is all right and they are acceptable.”

~ Joyce Meyer

In a few words – “approval addiction” is when a person feels unsure about themselves and then seeks a “fix” or “high” through approval from another person. This is one of the biggest things that we can do to start to choosing progress over perfection (or maybe it is just me?).

Over to You…

Do you see the benefits of remembering to choose progress over perfection? If so, what is one way you can start today? Feel free to share your insights or questions below and remember –

“Perfection is the enemy of progress.”

~ Winston Churchill

If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heartwhy not join our Toolkit?

References –

Holiday, R. (2016). Ego Is The Enemy – The Fight to Master Our Greatest Opponent. USA: Penguin.

Meyer, J. (2005). Approval Addiction – Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone. New York, USA: Warner Faith.

Tolle, E. (2008). A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. USA: Penguin.

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