How to Recover from Being a Perfectionist

Being a perfectionist doesn’t always look how you think it looks. I’m a little disorganized. I’m forgetful. I have to write things down. My office has papers, notes, and books everywhere. My house isn’t always clean. I have a mountain of clean laundry in my room. But, I’m also a perfectionist in a lot of ways.

I used to really suffer from the “all or nothing” personality. If I couldn’t do something perfectly, all in, all the time, I’d quit. It stressed me out that I couldn’t do it exactly right. So I’d stop and start again when I could do it exactly right. That mindset derailed SO many of my goals.

That’s my form of perfectionism, and I had to retrain my brain out of that mindset. This is why I want to talk about “Good, Better, Best.”

All About “Good, Better, Best”

I’m sure I learned it from somebody else. I don’t know who to give credit to, but it’s something that I have used to get over my past perfectionist mentality and the all or nothing mentality that I used to have that didn’t serve me. This is one of the best tricks and tips that I have that I still use on a regular basis today. It gives me momentum to say I’m going to do something, and actually do it. It’s a really helpful psychology hack that I think can help a lot of people that relate to this kind of perfectionism.

Every time I teach this or talk about it, it gets such a good response and people love it because it really works. So if you’re somebody who has maybe in the past, struggled with an all or nothing personality, then you’re really going to enjoy this. It’s actually something I teach in my 21-Day Challenge. (If you’re interested in my challenge, know that we have a new one coming soon! Click HERE to learn more!)

The “Good, Better, Best” mentality isn’t a unique idea of mine, but it is something that I have implemented into my daily life. And it works so well. I always joke I’m a recovering perfectionist, and I used to really struggle with the all or nothing. I think this is really important to talk about because as people set goals, life will happen. That’s a guarantee. And you may start to have a hard time sticking with your plan. This is when the perfectionist mindset comes in and may want to give up because you can’t be perfect. Instead, think about “Good, Better, Best.”

Let me give you an example.

My dad always has a party at his house when it’s someone’s birthday in my family. I know on those days my routine is going to be switched up a bit. So, I start to think about “Good, Better, Best.” So if I have a nutrition goal in mind where I’m trying to stick to a certain amount of calories or macros, I know that’s going to be hard to maintain at a birthday party. If I know that’s coming up, I know I have a few options. If I’m aiming for “Best,” I’m going to meal prep. I’m going to bring my own food in little Tupperware containers. And I’m going to stick exactly to my macros. That’s “Best,” but is that realistic? Probably not.

I used to be in a phase in my life where I would have done that, but I’m not as strict about those things now, and that’s okay! So for me, I would say “Best” isn’t going to happen at this birthday, what’s “Better?” “Better” could be that I decide not to have any alcohol at the family party. So I’m just going to allow myself to eat whatever my dad cooks, but I’ll focus on just having one starch and no alcohol. Maybe I’ll have a burger without the bun, but I’ll have chips.

“Good” might be a situation where I do want to have a beer. But if I’m going to have beer, I won’t have birthday cake. So basically what you’re doing is instead of demanding perfection from yourself, you’re giving yourself realistic options to continue to work toward your goal without completely giving up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive for excellence. That’s not what I’m saying here. But what I’m also saying is that if you live by an all or nothing mentality, it actually usually provides worse results in the long run. Because oftentimes what happens is if we can’t do “Best,” we throw in the towel and have the burger, the chips, the cake, and the beer and then we get down on ourselves and think might as well not even try this week at all anymore.

Don’t Allow Things to Snowball

If you actually look at the numbers, that decision can be hard on your goals. Let’s keep with this nutrition example at the birthday party. Let’s say, you just say, screw it, and you eat and drink whatever you want, and you decide to start again tomorrow or Monday or whatever. Let’s say you go to the family dinner, and it’s not that hard to eat 3000 calories in one sitting, right? Let’s say you have chips and dip and you have some beers or some white claws and you have burgers and dessert. And you know, pretty soon that can really add up. Let’s say you’re eating really good throughout the week. I maintain at about 2200 calories a day, but if I’m trying to lose I go for 2000. If I let go and end up eating 3500 calories at that birthday, that puts me into a calorie surplus of 1500 calories that day. And then maybe the next day, I’m like, “I did bad yesterday. I’m just gonna have fun over the weekend. I’ll start on Monday.” So let’s say I have a surplus of 1500 calories, three days in a week. That’s an excess of 4,500 calories. You can see how it snowballs.

But if I switched my mentality, and planned on having a “Better” day, I might not be perfect, but maybe I only had 500 extra calories. I still got to have fun, and I didn’t feel like I threw it all away. I wasn’t perfect, but I still did “Better.” Then the next day I can get right back into my routine. So you don’t have these big peaks and these big valleys, you have these little waves in your changes each day.

The same could be said for finances. Let’s say, you’re trying to stick to a budget. You get invited to go out to a girl’s night that you didn’t budget for. You can either say screw it and spend without thinking, or you can agree to be “Better” and spend $50. It’s not perfect. It’s not “Best” but it’s intentional and you’re maintaining momentum in your goal. That way you don’t feel like you need to give up on your budget this month and try again next month.

Learn to Value Progress Over Perfection

What I’m saying here is that giving yourself permission to use “Good, Better, Best” can 1) increase your confidence and 2) allow you to get closer to your goals. You’ll be more confident because you’re retraining your brain and teaching yourself that momentum is better than perfection. And the more times we pivot, stay flexible, and succeed, the better we feel. You’ll get closer to your goals because you’re more likely to stick to them if you’re aware of your own issues with perfectionism and working hard to recover from it. You’ll know your own pitfalls associated with giving up when things aren’t perfect, and you’ll stick with your goals more often.

Now you can plan for a situation before you go into it. You say, “Is this a Good, Better, or Best day?” If it’s intentional, it doesn’t feel like a failure for it not to be perfect. You’re learning how to stay motivated and to actually do something when you say you’re going to do it — even if it’s not as perfect as you originally wanted at the beginning of the month. You’re showing yourself that you can modify and adjust. You can pivot and reposition a little bit, but you can still stick to your plan.

Succeeding is so much less about the goal itself, and so much more about the psychology and the behavior that you’re teaching. And that’s why this method that I’ve developed works in any category because a lot of people think it’s about having the motivation to do something big. And while that’s important to dream big, it’s more important to learn, to train your brain, and to get your mind in the right place. It’s about building the confidence to say you’re going to do something and then actually do it. My process is all about creating realistic expectations for yourself and also eliminating shame around past failures.

How Can You Use “Good, Better, Best” Today?

My challenge for you today is to focus on “Good, Better, Best” in whatever area of your life you’re focusing on right now. Maybe you and your spouse aren’t being intimate as often, maybe you feel like you’re yelling at your kids too much, maybe you’re trying to start your own business. This principal can fit with any of those goals. Ask yourself what you can get done today? Focus on progress, not perfection.

For me, right now I’m focusing on writing my book, which I’m really excited about. Maybe “Best” would be to have my whole outline and stories written by the end of this week. “Better” might be to at least finish my outline. “Good” might be to at least write some topics down in the note section of my phone. That’s not a failure, that’s momentum! You can do that for any area of your life and what’s going to happen, is you’re going to get closer and closer to your goal. Maybe not as fast as you would if every day was a “Best” day, but faster than you would if you kept giving up and starting again on Monday.

I talk a lot about momentum because I’m always looking for different ways in my life that I can create momentum. One of my little tricks that I do is that I focus on the easiest things first. For example, let’s go with this book example. What I do when I’m writing a book is I start with the outline, then I look at my topics and I say, “Okay, what part feels the easiest for me to write right now?” I know that’s the opposite of what a lot of other people say. Many others say to do the hardest thing first. I actually believe the opposite. I think you should do whatever feels the easiest, because then you can look at what you’ve gotten done and you can feel inspired by your progress. And that inspiration can get you through the harder tasks later on.

You could say, “Yeah, that’s awesome. I just wrote a whole chapter. That’s amazing!” And it gives you the momentum that you need to keep going forward. And that’s what I’m focusing on. And that’s one of the reasons I think I’ve been able to do the things I’ve done. People always come to me, and say, “Natalie, you have done so much stuff. How do you get it all done?” Well, I focus on two things: 1) Learning to train my brain to do the things I say I’m going to do. And that means I start tiny. I start simple. I start easy. 2) I always ask myself what I can do to help me get closer to my goal TODAY. What can I get done today that’s going to give me momentum? What can I get done that will get me excited to tackle the things that are a little bit harder? I’m always looking at what I can do in my day to give me momentum and what I can do to prove to myself that I can say I’m going to do something and then actually do it.

I want you guys to try out this “Good, Better, Best” technique. And I want you to let me know! Tag me in an Instagram story and I’ll share it. Shoot me a DM. I want to know if it worked for you, if you hated it, if it helped you recover from your own perfectionist ways.

You got this!

xo Natalie

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more techniques like this one, my next 21-Day Challenge starts soon! Learn more HERE!

P.P.S. I also talk about this topic on my podcast, if you’d rather listen than read, click HERE!

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I’m Natalie

Ten years ago I started out in the online world in the fitness space. I started blogging, sharing at-home exercises, and offering easy recipes. This turned into writing eBooks — one of which blew up in a way I could never imagine!

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