I once heard a story about Neil Armstrong. He explained how a trip to the moon worked.
He said something like, “If you’re off an inch on landing, it’s really no big deal. You will safely land on the moon. If you’re off an inch on takeoff, you’ll miss the moon by a million miles.”
This type of quote is often used to reinforce the need for careful planning and accuracy. For a perfectionist, even a recovering one like myself, it’s an affirmation of everything we fear.
If I mess up even a little bit, if I’m a tiny bit off, the whole thing will crash and burn!
The good news is our lives are not moonshots. We don’t have to get everything exactly right at launch.
In fact, in thinking that way, we will over-analyze . . . end up paralyzed . . . and do nothing. Waiting for the perfect moment, perfect plan or perfect idea is the easiest excuse to do nothing because perfect isn’t possible. Striving for progress should be the goal.
Imagine you set out to lose fifty pounds. You remember what you looked like ten years ago and hold that picture in your head as the image of perfection, of meeting your lofty goal. Each day you look in the mirror and don’t look fifty pounds lighter.
As the discouragement sets in, you consider bailing on your diet and exercise regimen and trying something else, and something else, and something else.
Or you give up entirely.
The problem is that you know what it would like to lose fifty pounds, but not five. Or two. You don’t know what progress looks like.
I was in this exact situation a while back. After being confronted with my bulging belly in a family photo, I decided it was time to lose some weight.
I found a personal trainer and we got to work. But every day I would wake up, look in the mirror and say to myself, “You look about the same as you did yesterday.” I was losing weight, but it was a slow process and I couldn’t see my progress.
Once I lost 15 pounds, my trainer pulled out an odd contraption for me to strap on. Then he pulled out a 15-pound bowling ball to place in it. He wanted to show me that even though I didn’t feel I was making progress that I actually was. He made me complete the day’s workout with the extra 15 pounds strapped to my body.
I didn’t believe 15 pounds was that significant, not compared to my lofty goal of perfection. But wow. That workout was brutal. Every movement was more challenging. Every step more difficult. As I took off the silly contraption and dropped the extra weight all at once, I realized how significant my progress really was. I was making massive progress even if I didn’t realize it.
We have a lifetime to adjust and adapt in our businesses and in our personal lives. Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. Look for the progress you’re making every day. Really be intentional about seeing the little changes, the small steps that are moving you forward.
It’s hard to notice one less pound on your body, one fraction of a percent of improvement in your bottom line, or one less hiccup in your system.
What small step can you take today to make progress toward your goals?