There are a lot of bad “–ism” out in the world, egotism, nepotism, plagiarism, racism, elitism…the list goes on, but do you know what I think the worst is?
It’s the one that kills dreams, destroys progress, and will dismantle your athletic (and even business or personal) career…
Perfectionism is in my opinion the worst of the isms because it’s deceptive.
It seems like a good thing. According to our culture, we should want to be perfect.
We should want to have the perfect body with abs and an ass to match….
…..eat clean all the time….
….be a sub-10 Ironman athlete and full time employee (maybe as a doctor) while coaching the kids’ baseball (or hockey now that I am in Canada) games and supporting your wife, who also works full time, and still have enough time to mow your Bermuda-grass lawn with the white picket fence…
…always have great, Instagramable workouts, so that our TSS chart goes perfectly upwards, your TrainingPeaks calendar is always green, and the Zwift star says perfect instead of failure….
While no one cares to admit it, the pressure is there. But at the same time, while we “should be thriving for perfectionism,” it’s impossible to get there, resulting in us being frustrated every step of the way that it is not how it “should be.” That’s why perfectionism is so damn bad: we feel the pressure to be perfect but it’s impossible to get there.
There is, however, a BIG difference though between striving for perfectionism and holding yourself to high standards.
You should hold yourself to high standards. You should want to do well in your workouts, be the best athlete/spouse/parent/guardian/employee that you can be. There is nothing wrong with that and I encourage all of my clients to have high standards.
BUT unlike perfectionism, having high standards means that you know will mess up a long the way and you see those errors as ways to improve. You see mistakes as an indicator that you can improve and you work to improve.
With a perfectionist mindset you think to yourself that everything is wasted after an error or mistake rather than saying to yourself, I was not able to do “X” this time, what went wrong so how can I improve it for next time.
Having high standards (but ditching the perfectionism) means that you can make modifications to your plan (especially training plans) so that you can do even better and actually achieve your goals rather than falling short.
This also means you expect your team mates and others (kids and spouses for example) to not always get everything correct and be OK with it. They are human just like you, so thinking that they have to deliver perfectly, sets you up for anger and frustration, which will wreck your relationship. Just ask and expect that they give their best and that’s all you can do. Holding them to high standards though, because you believe they can, will make them want to succeed.
If you want to achieve, you need to ditch the perfectionism and pick up holding yourself and your team mates to high standards.