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If at First You Don't Succeed, Try Less

Have you ever had the experience of making a goal (a really good goal, you're brain tells you), and then instead of doing it, you actually do the opposite?

For example, I try to eat healthily and am continuously looking for new ways to improve my health and create better habits. I do a pretty good job. Then I get the advice to give up sugar forever. My brain knows that's good advice. Sugar is addictive, related to inflammation, and not necessary for my health. But instead of reducing the amount of sugar I eat, I start eating more sugar. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Jon Acuff, in the book Finished, discusses this as an aspect of perfectionism. I highly recommend you read or listen to the whole book. The audio is only about 4 hours longs, and Jon manages to intertwine comedic bits worthy of a Seinfeld stand-up routine in his teaching. Here I will only mention one of the many suggestions he gave for overcoming various aspects of perfectionism.

The suggestion which resonated with me, although it seems counterproductive, is:

Cut your goal in half.

That's right. Instead of "try, try again." Try less. While it's not the usual advice we hear (work more, reach for the stars, raise the bar), it works in many situations.

For example, I made a goal to open up my schedule for ten new clients. It sounded like a great goal. I wanted to do it, or so I thought. When I got coached on it, I realized that my brain was offering me some thoughts about how that wouldn't work with my schedule right now. Because the subconscious thought was there, I hadn't taken action on the goal and helped no new clients. What I did was cut my goal in half – more than in half this time. I decided I had time for three new clients. With that goal, my brain was willing to take action to accomplish it because it was a do-able goal.

Sometimes you can't choose to cut a goal in half. If that is the case, double the time instead. You may want to clean the whole garage – not half the garage. Great! But the garage that has been messy for months or years doesn't have to get all cleaned this weekend. Your perfectionism tells you that you need to do it now! On Saturday, you look at the garage, and it's so overwhelming that you decide it suddenly vitally important to binge-watch all 15 seasons of ER. What if instead, you doubled (or tripled or quadrupled) the time? If you give yourself a month instead of a weekend to clean the garage, then the goal is possible. Today you only have to clean out one-fourth of the garage to be a success, and our brains love wins!

If your goal is to lose 10 pounds this month and you lose 8, your brain says you failed. If you want to lose 5 pounds this month and you lose 8 pounds, your brain says you succeeded! Either way, you lost 8 pounds. Isn't it fascinating what our brains tell us?

This week, cut your goal in half or double the time. There's no rush. Remember, you're not choosing between losing ten pounds or losing five pounds. You are choosing between losing zero pounds or losing some pounds.

Where in your life can you try less to achieve success?

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