“The harder you try to be perfect, the less likely you’ll accomplish your goals.”
Throughout this entertaining book on goal achievement by Jon Acuff, perfectionism is the enemy, with a capital “E”. In one hilarious story after another, the author talks about the multiple ways perfectionism schemes to sabotage us when we set and pursue new goals.
Acuff created an online course called the “30 Days of Hustle” (no longer available) which had been taken by thousands of people. Researcher Mike Peasley from the University of Memphis studied and reported on the results of challenge participants. That information is the basis of this book. There were definite patterns in what helped the challenge participants achieve their goals and what helped ensure they wouldn’t be successful.
“Finished” is Always Better Than “Perfect”
"Some readers … think the opposite of perfectionism is failure. It’s not. The opposite is finished."
When we set a goal, we’re aiming for a better something. But “better” quickly morphs into “best,” and this is how we set ourselves up to fail before we even begin working on our goal. If we miss a day in our new diet, we get derailed and have a hard time continuing the diet the next day. If we’re working on creating a new habit, we’re more likely to lose steam—or totally quit our habit building—if we miss a day.
Acuff noticed that participation started to drop off in just the second day of the 30 Days of Hustle challenge. People with good intentions started to drop out when they missed a day, and no longer had a perfect “score” in the pursuit of their goal.
When we stop trying to be perfect, or perform perfectly, we eliminate a huge stumbling block in our attempts to reach our goals. By accepting our own imperfections and being comfortable with our own imperfect steps, we are much more likely to cross our goal finish line.
Reduce Your Goal by Half
"If I can get you to do a little one month and win, you’re more likely to do a little more the next month and win even more. In the course of a year or maybe even a lifetime that approach will always beat the kill-yourself-for-a-month approach."
When we set a goal, we go for the stars. It’s much more exciting and motivating to have a BIG (and “perfect”) goal. We’re not happy setting small goals. In our planning, we’re almost always overly optimistic about what we can do and how much time it will take us to accomplish it all. This, inevitably, sets us up for failure because it’s next to impossible to set a big goal and execute perfectly day after day.
In the 30 Days of Hustle challenge, Acuff asked participants to cut their goal in half—this simple act of reducing the goal helped the people stay motivated and it encouraged them to stay the course and continue the pursuit of their goal.
Decide Which Things You’ll “Bomb”
"The only way to accomplish a new goal is to feed it your most valuable resource: time. And what we never like to admit is that you don’t just give time to something, you take it from something else. To be good at one thing you have to be bad at something else."
Most of us keep thinking we can do it all. We continually add to our already full plates and find it difficult to acknowledge we can’t get it all done. Our search for the best to-do app, project management software, time management book, or productivity class never ends. Acuff says we can either keep trying to do it all, or choose what we’ll not do at all (or do very imperfectly) and be successful pursuing a goal that really matters to us. Learning to let go of tasks that don’t serve us in pursuit of our goals can free up valuable time and energy that we can direct toward progress.
Acuff chose four things “to bomb”:
- Keeping up with TV conversations
- The satisfaction of cutting his own lawn
In choosing your own things “to bomb,” you can use the author’s “traffic light” method. Some of your activities are like green lights because they’ll help you reach your goal. Other activities impede your progress. These are red lights. Start looking at your own daily activities to see which items are green lights or red lights.
If you’re looking for a book on goal achievement, look no further! Do you have a new goal you’d like to work on but you’re hesitating because you haven’t been too good at finishing previous goals you’ve set? This is a book that will help you feel normal about all of those goals and projects you’ve started in the past and never completed. But, more importantly, it will help you realize just how powerful an enemy perfectionism is to achieving your goals. And how easily you can eliminate it and start setting goals you can definitely achieve.
Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done isn’t your usual dry tome on goals and productivity. It’s a fun and easy read, full of laugh-out-loud stories that the author uses to illustrate the various ideas he presents.
If your next goal doesn’t have to be perfect, what goal will you set?