Take Imperfect Action

As I am still in the nostalgic throes of a fantastic college reunion, please indulge me if I reminisce a bit in this post. It will make sense in the end, and I’ll try not to meander as much as I usually do, notwithstanding my previous sentence and a half. I’ve had a lot of thoughts this week on the subject of paralysis by analysis, and I want to remind everyone that change is best made through imperfect action. If we wait for perfection, we’re going to be waiting forever. The time to act is NOW.

Looking back at my childhood, I felt an overwhelming sense of perfectionism as I grew up. This led to a tremendous fear of failure. I don’t know where it came from; I used to think it was just a Connecticut thing. I’ve since discovered it is not unique to our state.

In any case, this led me to strive for perfection in everything. It’s odd to look back now at my high school self. My perfectionism led to constant stress and pressure to succeed. As a result, my accomplishments were ridiculous, and yet I took little pleasure in them. I was the epitome of an overachiever at Conard:

  • Eagle Scout
  • National Merit Finalist
  • National AP Scholar
  • Wrestling Captain
  • Scholar Athlete
  • Lead Trumpet in the Concert Jazz Band (and in West Hartford All Stars, where musicians were selected from both Conard and Hall, essentially making me the lead trumpet in all of WeHa)

At Yale, I was a no longer a big fish in a small pond. And, correspondingly, I finally learned the two most valuable lessons of my life:

  1. How to fail.
  2. How to ask for help.

When it comes to fitness and nutrition, these are important lessons to learn. Nothing in life is perfect; so inherently, you WILL fail. This is normal, and this is okay. Start again. Over, and over again if needed. Ask for help if you’re stuck, and eventually, you will succeed. In the words of registered dietician Jen Broxterman, “we underestimate how normal it is for a lot of things to fail, which causes us to overreact when they do.” So, RELAX. And start again.


It’s also worth noting that success is not synonymous with perfection. You will not be perfect with your diet. You will not be perfect with your recovery. And therefore, you will not be perfect with your training. Even when your recovery is on point, you will still have missed lifts. Failing is how we learn, and how we improve. With the help of a coach, we can discover what went wrong, and work together to fix it.

We often build things up in our heads to be perfect. The perfect diet and exercise plan might look like:

  • 4 days of strength training per week
  • 2 days of conditioning per week
  • 3 days of steady state cardio per week (yes, some overlap here)
  • Perfect macros for your goal
  • Perfect adherence to your macros
  • 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Limited stress outside the gym

We can rename this perfect idea as the Best Theoretical Option (BTO). I like this name because it shows how fallacious the idea is. It is THEORETICAL, not realistic.

Instead, we need to look at what on this list is POSSIBLE. Maybe it’s 2 training days instead of 6. It might mean focusing on protein intake, rather than all macros. It might mean increasing from 6 to 6.5 hours of sleep per night, rather than shooting for 8. What we want to find is the Best Doable Option (BDO). Focus on the BDO, rather than the BTO. Take IMPERFECT action, and you’ll see change.

At the end of the day, something is always better than nothing. Focus on what you CAN do, rather than what the perfect option would be. Perfection doesn’t exist, it is theoretical. And, to bring this full circle, I’ll leave you with the writing prompt from my 2004 Writing SAT 2, “Perfection is boring. It is the imperfections that are interesting.” Let that thought marinate, and I’ll see you in the gym.

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