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Why Giving Your 100% is Counter-Productive

Doing less will benefit you more

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I’m sure you’ve heard before that you should always commit 100% to whatever you do if you want to succeed.

But is that really the best way to approach everything?

In this article, I want to discuss why your commitment to giving 100% effort to your work may steer you further away from success.

Why You Shouldn’t Give Your All

Shane Melaugh from Active Growth illustrated this point beautifully with a gym example.

Let’s say there are two people with similar genetics and a similar starting point.

Person A tries to lift the heaviest weight that he possibly can every time he walks into the gym.

He is giving it all. His head looks like it’s about to explode, His veins are popping, and his whole body is shaking. He channels all of his energy for that one repetition of heavy lifting.

When he completes his workout, his body feels wrecked. He needs at least four to five days of rest before he can even fathom stepping his foot back in the gym. Even worse, he may injure himself, which will effectively put him out of commission for weeks, or even months.

Contrast that with person B, who pushes himself to around 80% of his max capability when he trains in the gym. The weights are challenging enough to induce growth, but not so much that his body would break down.

He can recover fast enough from each workout session that he’s able to train for four to five days a week without feeling worn down.

If you check out their progress after one year, what would it look like?

Person A, who goes all out every session, will probably be stronger at first since he’s giving it all.

But it is just a matter of time before something breaks down in his body, and he can’t continue.

Person B manages to keep up with his workout schedule throughout the year. It’s not difficult for him because he doesn’t have to muster up all of his willpower to bring himself to the gym, and his body is still healthy.

If I had to guess, person B will likely comfortably warm up with a weight that person A can barely grind out for one repetition in one year.

This is one reason why Olympic weightlifters can easily lift more than 200kg of weight over their head while most ordinary people struggle to lift even one-third of that weight.

Consistency Always Beats Intensity

The same principle applies to many things in life, whether it is publishing your first podcast, writing your first blog, or shooting your first video.

As someone who primarily works from home, I used to frequently let myself waste time on little details that didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

I remember when I first started shooting video for my YouTube channel.

I wrote out a whole script for my video, and I would frequently spend close to 15-20 minutes, recording just one line over and over again.

Why?

I just didn’t like the way I looked or sounded in the video.

Naturally, recording a video became this big monumental task that I absolutely despised.

My desire to be perfect made me hesitant to even start in the first place because I knew pressing on that record button also meant hours of me agonizing over little details.

And that’s usually how it works.

The pressure you put upon yourself to be perfect actually makes you less productive. You are going to need even more willpower to overcome that inertia.

This perfectionist attitude is especially all too common if you do something that consistently forces you to put yourself out there.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of getting stuck with finding that one perfect word for your blog post or getting caught up with that one seemingly weird gesture you make in your video.

But as a wise person once said, “Done is better than perfect.”

For example, if you own a blog, think about how much your writing can improve in a year timeframe if you write 150 blog posts at 80% of your capability instead of writing 15 perfect blog posts.

As a matter of fact, you often only uncover your weaknesses when you fully immerse yourself in something. 

In that sense, you could say it makes more sense to focus on the good quality of work with high output over chasing an imaginary perfect work, even if you are a perfectionist.

What The Research Says About Perfectionism

A review that conducted a meta-analysis of 95 studies on perfectionism found no correlation between performance and perfectionism.

One common form of perfectionism is called failure-avoiding perfectionism. The term refers to people who are obsessively worried about failing to produce high-quality work and losing respect from others as a result.

People in this category tend to derive no benefit from striving for perfectionism.

Many studies also show that perfectionism highly correlates with negative health consequences, such as higher stress levels, burnout, and anxiety.

And it appears that inefficiencies of perfectionism effectively cancel out any advantages that come with it.

Focus on Building Skills

One mindset shift that may help you is to treat your work or business as a skill-building process.

Repetition is crucial for improving skills.

The more you do something – assuming you are using a reasonably good technique – the faster you will improve.

Don’t chase that perfect one repetition now.

Believe that you will be so much farther ahead after hundreds and thousands of repetitions than where you started.

Conclusion

On the whole, striving for perfection usually does more harm than good.

But as with everything else in life, there’s always an exception.

One area where you do want to strive for perfection is if your work has implications on others’ health and safety.

But for most things in life, I believe that making many correct steps will benefit you more than striving to make one perfect step.

I wish you the best of luck!

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