How To Stop Perfectionism From Ruining Your Goals

As perfectionists, we believe if something can't be done perfectly it shouldn't be done at all. Here's how you can stop that belief from ruining your goals.

So this is just a quick post to share something I’ve been doing that might help you if you have any kind of struggle with perfectionism. Or if you ever get the feeling that if you can’t do something perfectly it’s not worth doing at all.

I’m an ‘all or nothing’ person. If you struggle with this stuff, chances are you are too. And while that expression is often used as something positive, I don’t really think it is.

I really, really struggle to keep doing something once I have a blemish on my perfect record.

I’m either going to the gym every single day or not at all. I’m either totally obsessed with eating healthy food or I’m not at all. I swing from all to nothing to all to nothing. I can’t deal with obstacles. I can’t deal with real life.

Getting better at imperfection

I think that being able to keep going in circumstances that aren’t ideal is SO underrated.

I mean, it’s great that you can do something perfectly in perfect conditions, a lot of people can’t. But can you keep going when an obstacle comes up? When something unexpected happens?

Can you keep going in circumstances that aren’t ideal?

Once I realised I couldn’t, I started thinking about how I could get a little better at persevering. And I found my answer.

Whenever I feel like I’m getting a little obsessed with having a perfect record (so usually after a week or so of doing something everyday) I purposely screw up. I purposely deviate from the plan.

Why I screw up on purpose

I miss a gym session. I eat some junk food. I don’t write a blog post when I’m meant to. I do something, anything, that would normally throw me off.

And before you say anything, I know this sounds like a huge cop out.

It could easily just be something I comfort myself with after I screw up. But this isn’t something I’ve been doing in hindsight. This doesn’t really work if you just use this as an excuse when you screw up (trust me I’ve tried), because you’re not really learning anything.

When to do it

You have to plan in advance to skip something, for the right reasons.

Do it when you feel yourself getting a little too attached to the process. When the fact that you can’t stick to your plan for one day is a bigger deal than it should be. Screw up on purpose. Throw a spanner in the works.

It will help you realise that you can keep going when things don’t go according to plan. You can complete a twelve week workout challenge even if you had to skip one day in week four. You can be healthy even if you ate a few too many cupcakes on your friend’s birthday.

Why it works

It’s better to do things imperfectly than not do them at all. It doesn’t ‘ruin’ my week. It doesn’t make me ‘bad’. It doesn’t make me lazy.

It’s training me for the variables, for real life. It’s like if you’re a runner preparing for a big race you don’t only train in perfect conditions. You train in all conditions – rain, hail and shine. It’s building strength and resilience. It’s creating the ability to persevere and persist no matter what.

And it’s helped me realised something else too: it’s better to start things imperfectly than not start them at all.

We do not need to wait for perfect conditions because we can succeed without them. We do not need to wait for a new job, more money, losing weight, more time (which will never happen by the way). We can start now, even if things aren’t perfect.

Perfect conditions make initial success easier but long-term success harder.

If you have no resilience, if you have no ability to keep going when something unexpected happens you cannot be successful over the long-term – unexpected things happen over the long-term. You need to train yourself to operate in all conditions, and that’s what I’m trying to do.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear if you can relate to this!

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who has these problems! Do you get obsessed with having a perfect, unblemished record? Do you find it hard to keep going once you’ve slipped up?

Don’t forget that comments are always welcome and very much appreciated – I’d LOVE to hear from you.

Sam xx


Author: Sam Brown

  • I have nominated you for The Leibster Award. You can find out more here and I can’t wait to see what you reply…

  • Ooh girl, another amazing post. This resonates with me so much! I’m that obnoxious person who gets legitimately upset if I get a 99% instead of 100% on something. I’ve struggled big time with perfectionism and while on the one hand striving to do better is a good thing, perfectionism is more often than not a way to compensate for self-worth issues. “It’s training me for the variables, for real life.”–> I loved that! Everything you talked about is so psychologically healthy. It’s good to throw in a day on the couch instead of working out if you are getting too obsessive/perfectionistic about it, or to have a donut in the midst of healthy eating to prove to yourself the world won’t blow up, life will go on, and you’re still rockin’ it. Beautiful as always!

    • Hey Alex,

      I’m so glad to hear you could relate to this haha sometimes I think it’s just me that struggles with this stuff! I’ve found this really works for me but it’s still a struggle to make myself screw up on purpose! It just feels so counter-intuitive and I worry that if I do it then it will throw me off, but then I remind myself that that’s the whole point!

      Sam xx

  • Power post that I can relate to soooo badly.
    I am a 100% or nothing kinda girl too.
    I feel like I need to ruin good things and I constantly put myself down or put my own obstacles in my way that people tell me weren’t even there in the first place. Everything you are saying you put it so much better than I ever could and it’s literally me. xox

    • Hi Marie,

      Thank you so much for your comment!! I do exactly the same thing as you – self-sabotage. I’m still trying to figure out exactly why I do it but once we’re aware that that’s what’s happening it’s easier to stop. But I seriously do that all the time (and I think quite a bit with this blog too, which I’m really trying to work on!)

      Thanks again for all of your lovely comments 🙂

      Sam xx

  • This is me TO A T!!! Hahah I was laughing as I was reading this because I was thinking “yes….yes….yep me too” the whole time. I definitely need a way out of this frame of mind because it’s not a healthy way to live. There is no way I will be able to make it to the gym every single day of the week for the rest of my life, but does that mean I will never go to the gym again? Great article Sam!

    • Hey Lauren 🙂

      haha I’m so glad you can relate to this (in a weird way, haha more so glad that I’m not alone). I think this is one of those things that takes a long time to figure out because it’s a habit that’s so ingrained in us that we don’t even really notice it. It can be a really good thing but at the same time, once one little obstacle gets in the way, having this mindset makes it so easy for us to be thrown off! I’d love to hear if there’s anything you do that helps with this!

      Sam xx

  • The ‘all or nothing’ mentality definitely resonates with me. Particularly when it comes to exercise. I’m either a couch slob or a regular runner. Every few years, I train for a ‘fun run’, starting from zero fitness until I can last the distance. Once the event is over, I give myself a well deserved rest. But this few days’ rest turns into a week long rest, then as each week passes by I tell myself that my fitness has dropped too much for me to manage any type of run. Case in point – I did a 10k run 5 weeks ago and haven’t done any running (or exercise of any kind really) since. Even if I had only run once or twice per week since then, something which is definitely achievable, I would have maintained by fitness.

    Thanks for your insightful posts. Having only discovered your blog a few weeks ago, I now find myself reloading your site every few days hoping there is a new dose of inspiration waiting for me. You should be really proud of your site!!! 🙂

    • Hi Katrina,

      Thank you SO much for your lovely comment, I really appreciate it so so much! I can so relate to you on the running front, I find that I’m exactly the same with running and working out at the gym. It really is such a weird mindset that we have when you actually think about it, but somehow it’s fairly easy to justify haha so weird.

      And thank you so much for your kind words about my blog, I honestly appreciate you saying that so much and I’m so happy to hear that you’re finding it helpful!!

      Sam xx

  • This is honest and open and real. I totally hear you on the perfectionism thing – it keeps me from trying so many things because Im afraid of failing my own silly high expectations. Iv had to keep coming back to the drawing board and letting myself go from aiming at such an unreachable goal of perfectionism. Thanks for this its great!

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