The Pursuit of Perfection

The dictionary defines perfection as “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects”.  Just take a moment to let that sink in.  Free from all flaws or defects – is this even possible?! I’ll bet most, if not all, of you reading this just threw up a little bit in your mouth because you know that this is ridiculous.  Besides, who in their right mind would want to be perfect.  BORING!!  Give me a hot mess any day and I’ll show you someone who is real.  


Why then, when it comes to fitness and nutrition, do we feel this crazy need to be perfect?  Now, don’t get all high and mighty on me and claim that you are immune to this because I will turn around and show you just how easy it is to fall into this trap.  For example, have you ever started a diet (ugh don’t even get me started on how supremely absurd I think diets are) but then eat something not on the plan and spend the rest of the day eating whatever you want because you didn’t stay on track?  I’m going to take a guess and say pretty much all of us.  Guess what?  That is an instance of pursuing perfection.  Same goes for throwing in the towel on a workout routine when you miss a workout. 


So, how can you avoid falling into the perfection trap?  I think the first step is to identify your personal limitations.  What are you capable of doing at this point in your life?  What is unrealistic for you right now?  Forget all the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s and focus on what you are honestly able to do.  Don’t listen to what your best friend say you should be doing, what your co-worker swears by, or what the tabloids claim is the magic answer.  This is all about YOU.  Don’t compare yourself to someone else, don’t base it off of who you were 10 years ago, and don’t expect to get it right immediately.  Also, keep in mind that these things may change over the different seasons of your life, so it’s important to reassess regularly and be flexible.  


Now that you know what you are capable of doing and what you just can’t commit to right now, it’s time to set some goals.  I recommend coming up with at least 2, but no more than 3, goals.  Why?  Having multiple goals gives you variety and keeps you motivated but limiting yourself to a maximum of 3 keeps you focused.  When I’m training for a race, I typically set 3 goals for myself – one that I know I can reach, one that is doable but will take hard work to get there, and one that is almost out of reach but possible if everything were to go perfectly the day of the race.  This allows me to be successful no matter what happens the day of the race but motivates me to push myself during training.  Be careful not to overreach when setting your goals as you want to set yourself up for success, not beat yourself down.  When you have goals in place, perfection doesn’t matter, the end result does. 


Once you have your goals, it’s time to make a plan to reach them.  This is where hard work, determination, and persistence come in. This is also where perfectionist tendencies rear their ugly head the most.  A plan is simply the steps that must be taken in order to get to the end goal. The problem many people have with plans, especially those centered around health and fitness, is that they think they are written in stone.  Guess what? That is the pursuit of perfection talking.  Plans should be fluid, changing when necessary and flowing around obstacles, not getting stopped by them.  The minute you see your plan as something youhaveto follow, rather than something you can modify if needed, is the moment perfectionism takes over.  And that my friends, is the beginning of the end.  Instead, design your plan to be flexible and always base it on what you previously identified as doable.  Give yourself options and focus on the end goal, not just the steps needed to get there. 


Last but not least, give yourself permission to mess up.  Things will get in the way.  Life will derail the best laid plans.  Let. It.  Go.   

If you follow the above advice, you can break free of the pursuit of perfection and ultimately reach whatever goals you set for yourself.  If you need help getting started, staying on track, or reaching for a new goal, contact us at