Tracy Tried for a Perfect Week…You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next!

Text says in cursive script: "the perfect is the enemy of the good." VoltaireShe didn’t make it! Last week I blogged about trying to get a perfect week, where I stuck to my workout schedule exactly as it’s outlined. I said I was up for the challenge because it was temporary. And here’s what I learned:

Perfection is over-rated. Even if it’s only temporary perfection. As if I didn’t know this before I tried for a perfect week. I realize that these challenges are meant to push us hard.

I’m all admiration for how well Sam has stuck to her running challenge (for those who missed it, she’s running a mile — that’s 1.6 km here in Canada — a day every day between American Thanksgiving and New Years Day). She’s done it faithfully since throwing her hat into that particular challenge ring.

My week went pretty well, actually, until a phone call went a bit later than I’d planned on Thursday night. My biggest struggle every single week is my morning swims at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays. It’s hard to get out of bed and to the gym when it’s dark and cold.

Maybe I need to watch The Grind a few more times? It’s a bit overly earnest for my taste. But some like it. Are you among them? Not sure? Check it out:

Anyway, this post is just my way of saying overall I’m probably better off when I take my forgiving, “do less” attitude. What “doing less” does for me is make everything a bonus. And somehow, when it’s all a bonus, that’s more of a carrot than a stick.  It draws me in and makes me feel like I can do it.

That’s not to say I don’t like a challenge. I do.  I meant it when I said that. I like them because they push me. But I also like to feel good about myself. And perfection is a set-up for feeling crappy about myself.

The thing is, I had a pretty good week last week despite not being perfect. I ran on Monday morning, swam Tuesday morning, did a bike class Tuesday evening and it kicked my butt, personal training on Wednesday, recovery on Thursday, skipped the swim on Friday morning but had possibly the most brutal resistance training session I’ve ever had in my life on Friday after work, recovery Saturday, and a 9K run on Sunday.

And yet the thing that loomed largest in my head was the missed swim on Friday. That’s messed up.  I like Voltaire’s words: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, wrote:

I have a friend who never exercises unless she’s training for a marathon; as a consequence, she almost never exercises. I never push myself when I exercise, and although I suspect she scoffs at my wimpy work-outs, I’ve managed to get myself to exercise several times a week for years. If I’d tried to have a more ambitious work-out, I’m sure I wouldn’t have exercised at all.

I can relate to what she’s saying. We all have that friend who needs to be training for something seriously challenging before she can train at all. It’s good to have goals, I’ll grant you that. But it’s also good to aim low and let what you do be good.

Awhile back, after making myself miserable with perfectionism and all-or-nothing, I decided to embrace the concept of (gasp!) “good enough.” In writing, instead of agonizing over every sentence I wrote and working each one over until it was perfect, I accepted that at some point the work was “good enough” to send out. Guess what? My “good enough” work got published just as much as my “perfect” work (which I never thought of as perfect anyway).

So what did I learn from my failure to have a perfect week? Just one little perfect week, and I couldn’t do it? I learned that for me, setting out for perfection in anything is a set-up that I should avoid.

This week I’ll take good enough. And guess what? If I make it to the pool tomorrow morning (I write this on Thursday, the night before my Friday morning swim), I’ll have had a better “streak” than last week when I was aiming for perfection.

Diagram with a red double-ended arrow between "nothing and something," with the captoin "an infinite distance," and another red double-ended arrow between "something" and "perfection," and the caption "barely noticeable."


2 thoughts on “Tracy Tried for a Perfect Week…You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next!

  1. Different motivators for different folks. I would shock myself how little cycling I’ve done this year, even getting back cycling this June, after my concussion caused by another cyclist crashing into me. Over 5 months of rehab.

    For the past 25 years, basically the way how I work has been this every year:

    *get /remain fit enough to cycle up certain hills on certain regular bike routes for me every year
    *try to at least do 40-70 kms for a day ride once a wk. in summer-fall If there are some 100km. days, great.
    *do a bike touring ride with my partner
    *bike every day for transportation, shopping and fitness when I can safely (I haven’t got studded tires yet) because I car.
    *Or transit, walk, living a car-free life does requires some self-discipline and patience.
    *Do some stretching exercise –a routine that mixes some pilates, yoga….and tai chi. I’m not sweating here. It’s to keep me flexible.
    *I’ve never done any competitive rides, except for a 100 km.populaire. I didn’t enjoy it. I have no motivation…I’ve had to “compete” in my working career, be perfect for my job.
    *try to eat healthy 90% of the time or more.

    Get better, but good enough because EVERYTHING else is really a bonus to me.

    What needs to stay central for me: need to continue love cycling, that has been the priority goal because it keeps me doing it year after year. This is my “win”.

Comments are closed.