Why striving for perfection can be a huge inhibitor to attaining your goals and resolutions

A Resolution for 2015: I am going to start writing a regular blog.

As I sat down to write my first post this morning, I got caught up in a good old pattern of mine– Perfectionism. I was stressed about not getting the blog just right.

After a 40 minutes in perfectionist mode I was just about to shut the computer down, paralysed by the stress of writing my first blog, when I caught myself. I laughed and then I instantly relaxed.

This behaviour was completely linked to another resolution of mine. 2015 Resolution Two: I will let go of my tight grip on needing to be “perfect” – or in other words, trying to attain my current ideals of excellence.

When I realised that I was hooked into a common pattern of mine I felt total relief, oh hello old friend I thought, look how you nearly got me!

As some of you will know from doing mindfulness classes with me – an incredible thing happens within the brain when you recognise your habitual thought patterns. Instead of being caught up in them, they loose their grip, all of a sudden your brain activity shifts to a whole other region of the brain. From this region you have the opportunity to see things from a much broader perspective.

For most, we are so used to listening to these thoughts it is really hard to pull ourselves out of them, or even see how we are separate from them. But amazingly this is one of the many benefits of Mindfulness, an increased capacity to unhook from negative thought patterns and unhelpful stress reactivity.


A blow by blow account of how this actually happened when writing the blow:

1) Striving

After opening a fresh word doc I instantly took to Google “How to be the most influential blogger.”
I suddenly needed to attain total excellence. I wanted it to be the perfect combination of witty, succinct, intelligent, factual, useful – basically in my mind I wanted it to be worthy of a blogging Pulitzer!

2) Doubt

After this kind of striving almost always comes doubt. So pesky were these thoughts that they freaked me out to the point of feeling a bit stressed.

“If I can’t do it well, why do it at all” a familiar thought. I start writing a sentence “nope, that’s not funny enough, that’s trying too hard” after that I actually feel the stress response kick in a little. My heart rate rises just a tad and I get a little jumpy, I get up and make a coffee – Good Idea marike, add a stimulant to the mix, that will assist!!! (yeah no, not a good idea guys)

4) Comparison

Then just to add a little more insult to injury I begin looking at a tonne of other sites and begin my game of comparisons: Headspace, Yoga Journal, Facebook pages, my favourite Bloggers.

“What do I have to offer anyway. … I need to learn more before being worthy of blogging anything… Perhaps I should go back to school and get my masters …”

5) Avoidance/Giving up

By this stage with all of these thoughts no wonder I throw my arms up in dismay and just about shut my computer.

“Ok I give up, I am going to be terrible at this, maybe I will hire someone else to write about these things. This is so not for me”

6) The Big Ah Haa moment – Recognition that these thoughts are just thoughts

It is right here that I catch myself, I realise this is just a thought pattern, and bam, in that tiny moment of realisation I am no longer in it. From here I start to think more creatively and less reactively

7) Letting go of perfect

So how about if I just let go of needing everything to be done perfectly, right now, right as I am writing this blog? How about if I just focus on what I set out to achieve in Resolution One by adhering to Resolution Two?

8) Responding more creatively. When I reviewed Resolution One I realised what I actually want to achieve is simple:

  • All I want is to reach more people. To connect, to give my insights on the experiences I have had in my life to date.
  • I’d like to honestly recount the humbling lessons I have learnt whilst practicing yoga, meditating and living in this hectic modern world, even while writing blogs – Humbling not perfect.
  • And finally I don’t actually mind if people take it or leave it – but if it resonates with just one person. Just one. Then that will be a success in my mind.

Further more I realised that my blogs might not be literary genius, in fact I can’t even promise that they are going to be grammatically correct. But they will be honest. And they will certainly be more frequent than choosing not to write until a time when they might be “more perfect”, or a time when I might be more perfect.

And after 883 imperfect words and one meditated stress reaction, it would seem that my very first blog is complete.