If I were at a 12-step recovery meeting, I might introduce myself the following way:
Hi. My name is Scott, and I have a new life in Christ, and I’m in recovery from food addiction, anger, lust, people-pleasing, and perfectionism.
When I finished sharing, you would say, “Hi, Scott.”
I’ve been through our recovery ministry at Watermark two times now, and one of the issues I’ve addressed both times is my struggle with perfectionism. I like to have every “i dotted and t crossed.” I hide behind a commitment to excellence and a desire to serve others well. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting excellence and serving others, sometimes these desires come at a high cost and my motives might be off.
For example, I will put in extra hours to the neglect of my family, health, and sanity to make sure I complete everything with excellence. In exchange, I miss out on time with my family or in the gym working out.
Or, I might finish something with excellence, but the motive is not just to serve others. In reality, it’s to serve me, because I want you to be impressed by me and my work. If I don’t do something to the point of perfection, then you might not be blown away by my skills or by how smart I am or my level of preparedness. I worship my reputation and want you to think highly of me.
My perfectionistic tendencies keep me from starting and finishing.
A few years ago, I read the book Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, Do Work That Matters by Jon Acuff. This book helped provide the motivation I needed to start this blog. I knew I wanted to write but lived in fear of what might happen if I began writing. Acuff helped me identify the voices of fear and doubt that prevented me from starting on this goal and dream of writing. Change the hobby or desire, and most of us struggle with a similar battle. I’m so glad I finally did start 3.5 years ago on this blog.
Because of the great impact Start had on me, I knew I’d want to read Acuff’s new book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. More than anything, Finish helped me address the crippling perfectionism that causes so many people, present company included, to quit their goals.
Throughout the book, Acuff addresses several myths/lies we all face when it comes to perfectionism.
- We tell ourselves to quit if everything isn’t perfect.
- We don’t want to fail, so we don’t start and when we do start, we quit because we might fail along the way.
- Imperfection is fast like a cheetah, and when it arrives, we usually quit.
- Perfectionism is dangerous because it masquerades as excellence and is very persistent. It magnifies your mistakes and minimizes your progress.
- When you can’t do it all, you feel ashamed and give up
Rather, he addresses a better way for us to finish what we started:
- To be good at one thing, you might have to be bad at something else. For example, as I finish writing my book, I know I need to take a step back in a few other areas. I need to cut back on blogging, watching TV, and even some relational time with friends.
- Often we attempt more than what is humanly possible. Rather, to succeed at a goal that matters, you might need to choose where you might fail. At the same time, I know I can’t cut corners in some areas (i.e., quiet time, health and wellness, time with wife and kid, and my job).
- Add fun to what you do – it not only counts but is necessary if you want to beat perfectionism and get to the finish. The more fun you add to your goal, be it in the form of fear or rewards, the more likely you’ll actually finish.
- Perfectionism makes things harder and more complicated. Finishers make things easier and simpler
Ultimately the worst thing perfectionism does is that it keeps you home, on the couch, and makes sure you never try. Start helped me begin my writing journey. Finish will help me complete my book. Acuff says, “Starting is fun, but the future belongs to finishers.”
A couple last thoughts on Finish:
- The book Includes useful action items at the end of most chapters. He provides helpful reflection questions and practical next steps.
- He’s so stinking funny. Acuff is one of the most entertaining and engaging writers I’ve ever read.
I don’t usually share book reviews on Monday, but the day this review comes out (9/11) is the last day you can get some pre-order bonuses. If you buy a copy of the book and submit your receipt, you’ll receive online access to the Finish video course/workbook. You’ll also get a Finish marker, dry erase card, and “Today I will finish” Post-It Notes. His team just added the “30 Days of Hustle Video Course” as one final bonus. Those are some fun extras I’m looking forward to receiving!
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review