December is my favorite month of the year.
I love the anticipation of Christmas day, filled with familiar traditions such as girls’ baking day, the Christmas Eve Vigil, and of course, honoring Christ’s gift of eternal life by giving one another thoughtful presents.
But I also anticipate the New Year and the opportunity to craft a more intentional life. I spend time reflecting on the previous twelve months, selecting my “one word” and setting SMART goals for the upcoming year.
I read two books this month to help prepare my mind for anticipated changes in 2019. It wasn’t until after reading both that I realized the messages complemented one another perfectly:
Don’t allow perfectionism to get in the way of a joy-filled, meaningful life.
Since I am still knee-deep in end-of-semester grading, I am not going to write a proper review, but rather, share snippets of wisdom from each of the books. Suffice it to say, I highly recommend both to those who may suffer from the plague of perfectionism.
Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise
The author uses a personal story that resonates well with all perfectionists. He wanted to start an exercise routine. He knew the benefits of daily movement and he desired to live a healthy lifestyle for himself as well as his family. However, when push came to shove, he could not motivate himself to complete the thirty-minute workout.
He tried rewards, positive affirmations, and visualizations. He found an accountability partner. Nothing worked.
Out of complete frustration, he decided his goal would be one push-up a day.
A ridiculously “stupid-easy” goal. But come to find out, that is the secret to long-term consistency.
The premise of Mini-Habits is to set a goal so easy that your mind cannot resist. Exercise thirty minutes a day meets with resistance (and eventually excuses). Complete one push-up a day does not.
The author discovered that most days … once he was on the floor and in position … he was willing to do far more than a single push-up. But the goal always remained ONE push-up. He warns us to keep the goal below the resistance level; don’t be tempted to raise the stakes. Consistency is the key to progress.
And progress leads to success.
Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff
This is a follow-up book to Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do What Matters. Since the publication of that work in 2013, the author revised his position:
The start does matter. The beginning is significant. The first few steps are critical. But they aren’t the most important. … The finish is what matters more.
What prevents us from finishing a project? Perfectionism.
Perfectionism masks itself as excellence, but in reality, it keeps us stuck and paralyzed.
Acuff offers several tips to help us overcome perfectionism and in turn achieve our goals. A few of his suggestions include:
- Cut your goal in half and/or Double your timeline. Perfectionism’s all-or-nothing mentality tells us that small goals don’t count or missing a self-imposed deadline is failure. Perfectionism is a chronic liar.
- Have fun. Perfectionism tells us that joy is an indication we are not working hard enough. Fun has no value and is a waste of time. Our natural talents don’t count. Again, more lies.
- “Until” is just perfectionism wearing a Halloween costume. We use “Hiding Places” (a focused activity that distracts us from our goal) and “Noble Obstacles” (a virtuous-sounding reason for not working toward the finish line). We develop secret rules that hinder our progress (e.g. I can’t work on anything until I pick the perfect goal). Stop hiding behind the mask.
- Failure is loud … Progress is quiet. Listen to the whisper.
- Finishers make things easier and simpler. Perfectionism makes things harder and more complicated.
- Make sure what you are catching is actually what you want to catch.
I plan to spend the remaining days of 2018 setting “stupid easy” goals to build my confidence – most notably in the areas of physical exercise, yoga, and writing.
I plan to re-evaluate my activities to ensure I am catching what I actually want to catch.
And I will prioritize my calendar to include lots of FUN.
Yes, 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year!