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Why You Need To Stop Demanding Perfection

Why You Need To Stop Demanding Perfection

I must confess I am a recovering perfectionist who used to let my anal retentive nature slow down progress, overwhelm me with stress, and avoid trying new things because of my fear of failure. We all should strive to be the best version of ourselves that we are capable of being, but demanding perfection is not the way to do it.

I’d like to illustrate why demanding perfection is a losing battle via three case studies regarding healthy living, productivity in the workplace, and romantic relationships.

Turning a Minor Slip-Up into an Epic Disaster

Once upon a time, I had a personal training client who I’m going to refer to as Ashley. Ashley had incredible determination and drive to succeed, but she made the mistake of demanding perfection of herself. Despite the fact that she made positive decisions that resulted in pounds lost and increased fitness, she became very upset with herself. The reason? She ate a piece of peanut butter fudge at an office party.

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I received a panicky text from her the instant this happened. I couldn’t resist replying with a touch of sarcasm, “Um, peanut butter fudge is one of the most delicious things ever, so I don’t blame you.” Ashley asked why I wasn’t fussing at her for making a mistake. I explained that this was only a minor hiccup and nothing to get upset about. As long as we make positive decisions 80% of the time, I see little need in getting upset about the remaining 20%.

Many perfectionists who pursue fat loss fail because they allow a minor slip-up to turn into an epic disaster. They make a single (insignificant) mistake like drinking a beer, enjoying some ice cream, or stuffing face with some delicious pasta, and then agonize over their mistake, beat themselves up for no good reason, and experience immense amounts of guilt. Unfortunately, they often convince themselves that they are a failure and completely abandon their fitness plans (which is the furthest thing from the truth — they are merely human).

Takeaway: If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on. Aim for consistency (not perfection), because we’re all human here. 

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Bashing your productivity into pieces

I could devote 3 days to writing this article if my heart desired. I could obsess with word choice, sentence structure, and formatting decisions for hours-on-end. But don’t you think this would be a bit excessive? Sure, the finished project might be a little better for my efforts, but do you really think my time would be well spent? You are probably shaking your head “no,” but many perfectionists obsess with their decisions so much that it bashes their productivity into pieces.

Let’s apply this point to something you might be familiar with: writing an essay. Assuming a scale of 1-100, would you rather spend 2 hours writing an essay that received a grade of 90, 4 hours for a grade of 95, or 8 hours for a grade of 100? I don’t know about you, but I place immense value on my time, so I would take the 90 and call it a day.

Agonizing over every single aspect of each decision you make is especially crippling in a business setting, where your very survival depends on an ability to act fast. Do you think the world’s most successful business people are perfectionists? Somehow I doubt it. While perfectionists are obsessing with the insignificant details of every move they make, successful people acted decisively and are already several moves ahead.

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Takeaway: Spending a lot more time on a project might make it a little better, but is it really worth it? Your time is money, so act decisively. 

Demanding more than you can expect from others

How would you describe the perfect romantic partner? I have my own list, which goes like so:

  • Cares about her body and enjoys being active
  • Super sassy and able to make me chuckle
  • Touchy-feely (because I love my cuddles)
  • Intelligent book-worm who can make me think
  • Preferably likes dogs, nerd at heart, fan of the arts, thespian, enjoys traveling, drinks beer, will go to scary movies with me…

I could continue (indefinitely), but you get the point. While this list exists in my brain, this isn’t something I seriously expect of potential partners, because my dating pool would be severely limited if I did. I’m not suggesting you should settle for a person with no redeeming qualities, but you cannot wish your ideal Mr. or Mrs. Perfect into existence. When you do meet a person worthy of a date with your amazing self, here’s a list of 21 first date ideas that might be useful.

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Takeaway: Do have standards, but don’t demand perfectionism from potential partners unless you want your search for love to drag on indefinitely. 

Would you consider yourself a perfectionist? 

If so, I would be curious to know why you are demanding perfection of yourself. Do you feel this is useful for your business or life goals and how so? Do you think turning down the volume on your perfectionist tendencies might be a better option? Why or why not?

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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