Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
A few years back I was making an hourly wage and my income varied every two weeks. It came down to how many hours I was scheduled to work, how much overtime, etc. My attitude towards budgeting was to “spend only on necessities, with occasional splurges.”
As you can tell it was hardly exact, but I lacked motivation for writing out a budget because my income was so difficult to predict. I decided I’d make a real budget once I got a salaried job with a consistent income. Long story short, that’s what ended up happening, but it took my wife and I a few months to refine our budget to the point where it is today. Where would our finances have been if I had started budgeting sooner?
I think this process of waiting for a specific circumstance to happen before getting started is very common. We tell ourselves when we reach a certain point, then we’ll be ready.
There are many other examples of this that come to mind:
I have a huge stack of books on my dresser that I keep meaning to start reading. I’m honestly excited to read them, but at this point the amount on my “to-read” list has gotten overwhelming. I keep finding myself adding more books to my Amazon wishlist, yet I haven’t been able to get myself to sit down, crack one open, and read a few chapters.
With blogging, I currently have a list stored in Evernote with over 100 ideas for future posts, yet I usually end up spending more time brainstorming and jotting down phrases than I do actually picking one idea and cranking out a full post. I also start multiple drafts at a time, before completing one full post. Sometimes I get so caught up in crafting the perfect post, rather than roughly writing out the ideas and publishing it in a more timely manner. Blog posts don’t have to be perfect to get the overall message across, but they do no good sitting in my “Drafts” folder. It’s more effective to get them published sooner so the ideas start making an impact on people.
This also happens with fitness and exercise. Rather than passing up dessert or going on a walk, we tell ourselves we need to “research” the perfect diet and exercise plan before we can start. Instead of making small progress day by day, we’re trying to reach that point of perfection. Unfortunately, while we try to reach that point of perfection, we’re stuck not making any tangible progress towards our goals. Sure, in this example the individual is becoming more knowledgeable about fitness and nutrition, but they haven’t implemented any of that new knowledge. ACTION is more important than finding the perfect plan.
This happens with finances as well, especially with budgeting and investing. Many people are so worried about “investing wrong” and losing their money that they sit on the sidelines for years and never get started. I get it, starting to invest can be an intimidating mental hurdle to clear, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with something simple, and work your way up as you learn more. It’s much worse to just keep your life’s savings sitting in a savings account earning .01% interest.
My main point in describing these examples is don’t let the pursuit of perfection stop you from making decisions that can help you make progress.
JD Roth over at Money Boss calls this concept “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” It also is called analysis paralysis, which is the state of over-analyzing a situation to the point where a decision or action is never taken.
At some point you just need to jump in and go for it, and live with the outcome. Don’t spend life standing on the sidelines. Stop focusing on circumstances that you can’t control, and instead focus on your effort.
It’s important to focus on getting started and taking action. Choose one goal you have and break it down into smaller tasks. Then focus on making some progress each and every day. Keep your focus on one goal at a time, studies show that most people are terrible at multi-tasking. It’s better to make gradual progress on one goal, than it is to be paralyzed into inaction by having too many ambitions all at one time.
Don’t worry about making mistakes, it’s a much bigger mistake to procrastinate and stay the same. Life is much more fulfilling when you’re striving to improve yourself everyday.
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