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Making Progress is Different than Perfection

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Making Progress is Different than Perfection

Scott Miker

The systems and habits approach to improvement focuses on making small steps towards improvement.  It looks at time as something to leverage so it takes the slow road forward and doesn’t expect instant results.

This means that there will be times when things are difficult and times when things are easy.  There will be times where we see great results and times when the results don’t come.  We will have times when it just seems to flow and times when everything feels like a struggle.

These ups and downs are normal parts of life and everyone experiences them.  The difference between successful people and those that are not able to reach their goals is often the fact that in these up and down times we have to keep making progress.

Will Ferrell, the famous comedian said, “I think anyone who has, you know, is in any sort of artistic pursuit, kind of goes up and down with the way they feel about their work.  And I, for the most part, am a pretty happy person.  But, yeah.  I go through definite periods of where I’m not funny.  I’m not good.  I’m – I don’t feel original.”

If we decide to take it easy when we have success and slow down to embrace success, it can quickly leave us feeling behind.  Or if we hit a few roadblocks and quit, we aren’t moving forward at all. 

But if we can continue to make progress through our successes we can have sustained success and continue to grow and get better.  Instead of stopping our new positive habits to go back to old, pleasurable habits that hurt us in the long term, we continue to do the things that got us there.

If we hit roadblocks and our natural response is to quit, then we won’t be able to fight through life’s adversity.  Things are never completely easy and stress-free.  If we assume they will be, we will experience disappointment and distress as soon as difficulties appears. 

In these stressful times, the best thing is to keep making progress.  We have to keep going with our positive systems and habits.  We have to address any balancing forces that hold us back but we can’t stop everything to wait for adversity to go away.  Otherwise, when it finally does, we probably have to start back at zero because it erases all of the progress we have made up to that point. 

Therefore, in the systems and habits approach to improvement we focus on progress all the time.  We constantly want to see that we are moving towards our goals.  We want to always take steps in the right direction, even if those steps are incredibly small while we are dealing with some sort of problem in our life.

If you have a hard time in this area, then a key change to make is to shift from expecting perfection to measuring progress.  If you are using the set the minimum technique, make sure you still do the minimum no matter what.  Don’t built up how much you do and then quit when that extra work becomes too much.  Fall back on the minimum to get through the difficult times.  And if your minimums are too much, then reduce them until they can be done over and over with relative ease.

I am a perfectionist and have really struggled to change my perspective.  But it has made all the difference.  Perfectionists naturally have a tendency to want to do everything right.  This is a good thing.  But they also have a tendency to expect external factors to be right.  This we can’t control and that is what causes the additional stress we feel being a perfectionist. 

Shifting to a focus on progress can be incredibly beneficial to anyone but especially anyone utilizing the systems and habits approach to improvement.  This approach uses small, easy steps to keep moving towards goals by creating new positive habits that eventually run on autopilot.  Using progress as the measuring stick allows us to keep working through all types of ups and downs until the new thoughts and behaviors stick.