The Problem with Perfection (and Why Better Is Better)

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  • April 16, 2018
The Problem with Perfection (and Why Better Is Better)

I know you. You want to be perfect. You want to go to the gym and do everything just right. You want to count your macros, your calories, how many times you chew, and how many hours, minutes, and seconds you take between feedings.

Here’s my advice: stop it. You are killing your fitness. Seriously. There is no such thing as “perfect.” You know this. In fact, I’ve heard you say it.

But deep down, you don’t believe it.

You think you are that one who can achieve perfection. If you eat the right number of almonds combined with the right portion of beef and spinach, then you will have the perfect body and perform your workouts faster, better — you know — perfectly.

Sorry, it’s not going to happen.

In fact, the more you believe it will, the farther away you get. Because “perfect” is something you will chase and never catch. You are much better off seeking “better” — just a bit at a time, every day.

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How Can You Be “Better” Today?

Let’s say yesterday you ate corn chips and ice cream for dinner. Should you try to be “perfect” today by eating boiled chicken breast and broccoli? Or should you try to be “better” by eating some turkey with your corn chips and ice cream?

One approach is sustainable and, as such, truly brings you closer to your goal. The other leads to disappointment and another ride on the weight-loss roller coaster.

I’m not saying I want you to eat corn chips and ice cream — far from it, in fact. I want you to make the healthiest choices you can for you on your own terms (that fit with the stress and obligations you have in your life right now).

The Problem with Perfection (and Why Better Is Better)

The Long-Term Ramifications of Perfect vs. Better

When we focus on perfection, we set ourselves up for failure. And then guess what happens? We fail — over and over again.

When we aim for perfection, we don’t have a choice. We are either perfect or not. There is no gray area allowed.

And there is the problem. Life happens in that gray area. The dog throws up on your shoes. Your car tire goes flat on the way to that important meeting. You forget to pick up the dry cleaning and all you have to wear is a three-year-old sweatshirt and dress slacks.

Guess what? You go with it.

But if the only options you’ve allowed for are perfection or failure, then you find yourself up against the wall. Not sure how to proceed. Already having failed.

If, instead, you seek “better,” there are always options. And not just one option, but infinite options. Better gives you power and gives you choice. Better makes you human. Better allows you to learn about yourself.

  • Perfect puts you in a corner.
  • Perfect forces constraints on you.
  • Perfect invites failure or triumph — a high or a low, no in between, no every day.

And when you get addicted to that high of perfection, then you are just waiting for the low. Because it will come — one way or another.

You may not stray from your strict eating plan even if Betty brings in her homemade double chocolate caramel fudge brownies to the office. But you will fall off some other way:

  • You’ll skip the gym.
  • You’ll not get enough sleep.
  • You’ll argue with your significant other.
  • You’ll berate yourself for even being tempted by the brownies.
  • Or you’ll beat yourself up for not eating organic, non-GMO, triple-washed, heritage spinach with your grass fed, humanely slaughtered beef.

That’s where perfection leads — angst and unhappiness and getting lost in the (possibly irrelevant) details. Better leads to, well — better.

The Problem with Perfection (and Why Better Is Better)

It’s Time to Work on Better

If you do better every day (or maybe 300 days a year, because we’re not trying for perfection, right?) then at the end of the year you’ll be way better. If you strive for perfection, you’ll continue along the same loop that has you dieting or not dieting or trying this strength training plan then switching to that cardio plan.

The perfection thing is a trap — and you know better than that. You really do. But knowing is not enough. You have to throw off the chains of perfection and feel the freedom of better. I won’t lie: you may miss the chains, at first. You’ll seek them out, even. You’ll be tempted by the latest keto, fasting, carb-cycling plan. Resist the temptation.

Get comfortable in your skin and in your life because that’s where you live and that is what you are building health and fitness and happiness for. Better will get you there.

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Karen Katzenbach
Karen Katzenbach wants to help people develop their inner strength by developing their outer strength. The strongest people she’s known in her life are those who live with love, authenticity, and curiosity. She strives daily to do all three.

She is a CrossFit Level 3 Trainer and a USA Weightlifting Club Coach. She is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach and a POSE Method Certified Running Technique Specialist and is certified in the Functional Movement Screen.

She and her husband, Tony Young, own Momentum Fitness in Santa Rosa Beach on the beautiful Florida Panhandle. She enjoys writing about life, change, and training on her blog. She loves coaching people near and far on making physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy choices.
  • Byron Ferguson

    Wow. Thanks for this post. Having worked up to a pretty healthy lifestyle over the course of a few years, and then having it fall apart, I found restarting almost impossible. Having all the knowledge of all that had to be done now, instead of building to it, just sapped me of my ability to start. Staying at it- even harder because of the quest for “perfection.” So, again, thank you. I’ll definitely think on this.

    • Karen Katzenbach

      Hi Byron. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Perfectionism is an easy trap to fall into especially when you have a solid base of knowledge about a subject. Seeking the “beginner’s mind” is a valuable, and often overlooked, tool in undertaking any new journey. It’s even more important when the journey isn’t new. Best of luck on your quest for “better.”

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