Learn to let go of perfectionism and enjoy your accomplishments.
“Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude. Excellence comes not from education, money, ability or connections alone. It comes from a commitment to do the very best with whatever you have available.”
These wise words from businessman and motivational writer Ralph S. Marston Jr. offer a healthy and positive philosophy for living. Are you content both personally and professionally? Or do you frequently struggle with feeling frustrated, inadequate or unhappy? Most professionals in the fitness industry have a fervent desire to serve their clients well and provide the best service possible. Yet many struggle with not feeling satisfied with the results of their efforts.
Are you a perfectionist? It’s possible your standards have become more important than your own peace and contentment. Learn how you can shift your attitude to be happy with doing your best—even if it’s not perfect.
Excellence has its merit in being a worthy, honorable pursuit and a reward in itself. Seeking excellence is about doing your best and letting the results go. Perfectionism is a no-win approach to life because the goal is always moving. There is always someone else who does things better.
The attitude of excellence is a far better measure of success than the pursuit of perfection. Excellence as an attitude promotes positive behaviors, a grace-filled acceptance of effort and the patient pursuit of goals—for yourself and others. The demand for perfection fuels dis- content. Perfectionism calls for extreme efforts and the rigid adherence to expectations and standards generally established by other people (who are likely perfectionists too!).
At what point does having high standards shift from positive healthy living to the unnecessary pursuit of perfection? You’ll find clues in your level of energy, joy and contentment. When they are high, you are doing your best and letting the results go. Striving to be the perfect trainer, instructor, manager, parent, spouse, role model, sibling, friend, etc., is exhausting! Struggling for perfection in your work, appearance, physical health and home life sets you up for a never-ending series of “tests” that create constant anxiety concerning how well—or poorly—you perform. If you are a perfectionist, you rarely give yourself a minute to feel good about yourself when you do achieve something.
I encourage you to fully embrace and accept who you are and how you look and act today. Begin—or continue—to make healthy small choices that will, over time, become evident in your peace of mind, your energy level, and your business and personal endeavors. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we, as individuals and as a culture, began sculpting, toning and strengthening our inner souls before our outer shells? You could begin with your “be-ing.”
Use the following five Be-Attitudes to focus on doing the best you can and celebrating your efforts in pursuing excellent cognitive and behavioral habits.
When you are driving, do you ever notice that the radio is on but you can’t quite hear it? It’s more background noise than music. Either you ignore it, or you turn the radio up to hear it more clearly. The same can be said about your self-talk (the chatter in your head). Turn up the volume on your internal chatter so you stop ignoring it and tune into it. Then you can consciously either change your thinking or learn from it. The better you get at catching your negative, perfectionist self-talk tendencies, the sooner you will enjoy the effort you put into your work, stress management and lifestyle choices. For example, you might find yourself saying this self-defeating comment to yourself, “I just can’t articulate well what I do for clients. I need someone else to do it.” Instead, you could change this negative talk to say, “The more I share with others what I do, the better I will get at clearly explaining it.”
Stop looking around, literally and figuratively. Reflect on what you want to accomplish with your business, hobbies and relationships, and with your exercise and nutrition program. Your body type, lifestyle, support systems, season of life and available time to pursue interests are different from those of everyone around you. Look “in,” not “out,” to determine how much, how often and with whom you’ll pursue your goals. Ask a life/business coach, a friend or your peers what works for them and then adapt the suggestions to your own life. Live life on your own terms, in your own way, acknowledging when you’re doing your best and when you’re slacking. Strive to do your best, not to be the best. You’ll feel greater contentment and joy when you do.
Recognize that your health, interests and goals will change over time. Do the best you can each day to help clients, be active, learn, eat well, rest and connect with others. As long as you are patient with the process and not taking radical or unrealistic shortcuts, your body, mind and relationships will benefit. Health and energy are wonderful rewards in themselves.
Have you noticed that your enthusiasm, interest or commitment to being the best you can be for your clients, family and team members has faded? Have you become stuck? Get honest. Admit you’ve been slacking, and determine what you can realistically do differently. Give up the excuses, and find ways to get your head in the game again. Maybe it’s time for a change. It can be amazingly freeing to get honest with the reality of your current life situation.
Attitude #5: Be Grateful
Pursuing excellence in every area of life is both a privilege and a challenge. The world screams, “Be perfect or you’re nothing.” Instead of putting your head down, barreling through and berating yourself for not doing more, look up and be grateful for what you are doing.
Lighten up, be joyful and look for the humor in life. Do you train yourself or your clients too intensely? Yes, looking great is wonderful. Being slim, toned, strong and filled with endurance is an outcome of consistent effort. The same is true of being energetic, sleeping well and having time for friendships and relaxation. If you’ve given up some of these life-enhancing activities to pursue the perfect body, the perfect reputation or the perfect image, consider the path of excellence rather than the ideal of perfection.
The path of excellence is the one that celebrates when you do the best you can each day. Stop comparing yourself with others, be honest about your efforts, look up and lighten up.
Suppose you still have that little voice that whispers in your head, “But I really do want to be perfect.” Then let me suggest a different definition of perfect. This definition comes from a locker room halftime pep talk given by the coach (played by actor Billy Bob Thornton) in the movie Friday Night Lights. The film tells the true story of a football-obsessed town in Texas. It is 1988, when the Permian Panthers are playing their final game for the state championship. The boys are about to go out into the stadium for the final two quarters of the game. Thornton’s character looks around at the players down on their knees and says words to this effect: “You have all known me for a while, and for a long time you’ve heard me talk about being perfect. Well, I want you to understand something. To me, being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship to yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down, because you told them the truth.
“And that truth is that there isn’t one more thing that you could’a done. Can you live in that moment as best you can with clear eyes, with love and joy in your heart? If you can do that, then you’re perfect.”
Again it comes down to doing the best you can.
The next time you hear yourself saying negative, self-denigrating or self-sabotaging things, stop and consider the truth of your circumstances. If you’re not doing your honest best, do something. If you are doing your best, celebrate it and enjoy the contentment and joy that follow.
. . . fully embrace and accept who you are . . .
Pursuing excellence in every area of life is both a privilege and a challenge.