Messy and Finished beats perfect and incomplete every time.
Starting is not a challenge most of us have but finishing is the hard part. In Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, author Jon Acuff shares strategies and tactics for moving from being a chronic starter to becoming a consistent finisher. He writes extensively on the perils of perfectionism and ways of dealing with it.
If you want to finish, you’ve got to do all that you can to get rid of your perfectionism right out of the gate. You’ve got to have fun, cut your goal in half, choose what things you’ll bomb, and a few other actions you won’t see coming at first.
Favorite Takeaways: Finish by Jon Acuff.
According to studies, 92 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. Every January, people start with hope and hype, believing that this will be the New Year that does indeed deliver a New You.
But though 100 percent start only 8 percent finish. Statistically, you’ve got the same shot at getting into Juilliard to become a ballerina as you do at finishing your goals. Their acceptance rate is about 8 percent, tiny dancer.
CHAPTER 1: The Day After Perfect
Well begun is half done
We tend to put too much emphasis on beginnings. In doing so, we miss the single day that wrecks more goals than any other.
Perfectionism dies slowly
- It’s persistent and particularly dangerous because it masquerades as excellence.
Perfectionism will tell you it’s now or never, forever obsessed with the idea that if you don’t finish it now, you never will.
Perfectionism will tell you that you’ve spent so long in a hiding place that there’s no more time. You’ve missed some magical window. Your opportunity is gone. The chance has passed.
When you make a goal, you make a promise to yourself. You’re going to lose a few pounds. You’re going to declutter a closet. You’re going to start a blog. You’re going to call an old friend. The moment you create that goal, you’ve made a silent promise.
When you don’t finish it, you’ve broken that promise. You’ve lied to the person you spend the most time with. You. If you break enough promises, you start to doubt yourself.
CHAPTER 2: Cut Your Goal in Half
Cut your goals into half
Cutting your goal in half is Kryptonite for perfectionism. It makes absolutely no sense and sends a bright flare into the night about your intentions. Not only are you refusing to give in to perfectionism, you’re setting yourself up for success before you’ve even started.
In the middle of a goal, perfectionism gets real chatty. The first thing it says is that you won’t be able to do something perfectly and you shouldn’t even start. Far better to give up now than waste all that time and fail.
Perfectionism trots out a laundry list of reasons you shouldn’t begin. You’re too old. You’re too young. You’re too busy. You have too many goals and don’t know which one to focus on. You don’t have enough money or support. Someone else has already done the exact thing you want to do. Someone smarter with better teeth.
Chronic starters like you and me, overestimate what they can accomplish in a set period of time. When they fail to hit the massive goal, it leads to discouragement, which results in people quitting and never finishing.
CHAPTER 3: Choose What to Bomb
The only way to accomplish a new goal is to feed it your most valuable resource: time. And what we never like to admit is that you don’t just give time to something, you take it from something else. To be good at one thing you have to be bad at something else.
Just say NO
Just say no. No long explanation. No apology. No justification. No. And remember, if someone gets mad at you for saying no, they just confirmed you were supposed to say that in the first place.
If someone gets mad at you for saying no, they just confirmed you were supposed to say that in the first place.
CHAPTER 4: Make It Fun if You Want It Done
Perfectionism and fun are like oil and water. They don’t mix. Perfectionism thinks fun is a waste of time and holds no value. Unfortunately, most of us tend to feel the same way.
The reason we pursue goals we don’t like is twofold: We think goals have to be miserable. We believe perfectionism when it tells us that fun goals don’t count.
Remember, perfectionism will tell you that fun doesn’t count. Even worse, it will tell you that using rewards or fears as a form of motivation to reach your goal is a crutch. You’re the only one with stupid, fun, weird systems.
The closer you get to finishing, the more interesting everything else in your life becomes. It’s as if you’ve put on distraction goggles. Things you never noticed pop up and dance tantalizingly across your vision.
CHAPTER 5: Leave Your Hiding Places and Ignore Noble Obstacles
A hiding place is an activity you focus on instead of your goal.
A hiding place is the safe place you go to hide from your fear of messing up. It’s the task that lets you get your perfectionism fix by making you feel successful even as you avoid your goal.
Other hiding places can look like productivity, but they’re deceptive. Like quicksand. Quicksand doesn’t look that different from a regular beach.
They make you feel like you’re doing well when in reality you’re not getting anywhere on your most important projects.
A noble obstacle is a virtuous-sounding reason for not working toward a finish.
A noble obstacle is what perfectionism throws at you next if you deal with the hiding places. It’s the Very Good Reason you cannot pursue your goal. Perfectionism will tell you, “If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right.” And when we leave the idea of “right” undefined, it tends to get complicated, usually in one of two ways.
In the first kind of noble obstacle, perfectionism sneakily tells you that you cannot move toward your goal until you do something else: “I can’t do X until Y.” In the second kind, perfectionism tells you that reaching your goal could actually produce bad results or make you a bad person.
Goals are simple but they are not easy. You must leave your hiding places. You have to abandon your noble obstacles.
CHAPTER 6: Get Rid of Your Secret Rules
At the core, perfectionism is a desperate attempt to live up to impossible standards. We wouldn’t play if we knew the whole game was impossible, so perfectionism promises us that we just need to follow some secret rules. As long as we do that, perfect is possible. So over the years, as you chase goals, perfectionism quietly adds some secret rules to your life.
Four Questions to Smoke Out Your Secret Rules
The problem with secret rules is that they’re secret. They’re often buried deep inside, hidden by years and years of misbelief. You don’t even know you’re following them.
To really smoke out your secret rules, I want you to ask yourself these four questions:
- Do I even like ____________?
- What’s my real goal?
- Does the method I’m using match who I am?
- Is it time to quit?
CHAPTER 7: Use Data to Celebrate Your Imperfect Progress
Perfectionism hates data
Perfectionism uses these shrinking levels of success as proof that things aren’t going well. Remember, in the middle of a goal, perfectionism is trying to convince you that the results aren’t good enough and that you should quit.
Review your Goals
If you don’t review the progress, you can’t make adjustments. You can’t learn from mistakes. You can’t get better, and ultimately, you can’t finish.
Perfectionism doesn’t want you to look at the progress. It might tell you that you don’t need to. Smarter people don’t need maps or measurements or data. Or it might tell you that you’ll be afraid of what you’ll find.
Data would tell us the truth and perfectionism can’t stand the truth. That’s why we hate data, because for years perfectionism has demonized it.
Trying to finish any goal is like running uphill. At the top is the finish line and in the middle it feels so far away. If you stare up the hill, it’s easy to get discouraged. You’ll never reach that moment. Fitting into that old dress feels impossible. An empty, clean garage you can park in seems unreachable. Seeing your finished book on a real shelf in a real bookstore feels unrealistic. The distance is simply too much.
Perfectionism can’t stand self-awareness
Reviewing your past is one of the best ways to understand who you really are and how you’ll work best on a goal. Keep in mind that perfectionism can’t stand self-awareness. If you’re self-aware, you’re more likely to know and accept your limitations, which means you won’t fall for the promise of a perfect performance. Self-awareness might also make you want to fly more often.