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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

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

2. Use the Pareto Principle

Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

3. Make Stakes

Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

4. Record Yourself

Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

5. Join a Group

There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

6. Time Travel

Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

7. Be a Chameleon

When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

“Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

8. Focus

Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

9. Visualize

The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

10. Find a Mentor

Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

11. Sleep on It

Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

Check out his video to find out more:

13. Learn by Doing

It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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14. Complete Short Sprints

Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

15. Ditch the Distractions

Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

16. Use Nootropics

Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

17. Celebrate

For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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The Bottom Line

Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

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