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Should You Settle for Less Than Perfection?

By Anne Keckler | February 11, 2008

“Well we all just wanna be big rockstars
And live in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars”

Barbie Doll Perfection
We want it all. Or at least, I do. I want the ultimate body, a horde of friends, a mansion to live in, Mr. Perfect, and all the rest. Why should I settle for less?

Like most people, every time I look in the mirror I see all the imperfections. My tummy isn’t quite as flat as I’d like. I’m getting a few (more) wrinkles around the eyes. My upper arms need to be tighter. And then, like most people, I go on to eat my normal breakfast and live my normal life, and don’t give it much more thought until the next time I’m looking into the mirror.

I’m very good at seeing my flaws, but not always so good at doing what is necessary to improve them. I might want that ultimate body, but the question is whether I want it enough to make it a priority and do the things that are necessary to get it.

Settling for Good Enough

Guys, if you can’t play an instrument or sing, you’re not going to be a rock star. Ladies, you’re not going to find Mr. Perfect because nobody is perfect. And if you look more like Mary Lou Retton than Nadia Comaneci, you’ll be a lot happier if you learn to live with that rather than spending hours on a treadmill trying to look like a pixie. Not everyone has the genetics, or the time, to obtain the body they think they want, but you can still have the best body for you.

Perfection isn’t possible, so think about what’s achievable now.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream, though. Just make those dreams somewhat realistic. You can change them as you go on, but at least base your dream of the “ultimate body” on the type of body your genetics have blessed you with. Doing this will prevent a lot of frustration because you will be able to set reachable goals.

Examine Your Values

Just because perfection isn’t possible, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a vision of what you want to accomplish. To establish a workable vision, you’ll need to carefully examine your values. Determine what is really important to you, so that you don’t compromise the most important stuff.

Having a horde of friends might require that I compromise my own values in order to appear to the be kind of person they want me to be. While looking for Mr. Perfect, it’s possible to overlook Mr. Good-enough. We’ve all heard of people who sacrifice time with their family while obsessively pursuing a career.

If you know why you want to get more fit, you will be more accurate in prioritizing the activities necessary to achieve your goals. So ask yourself how important it is to you, and why it is so important to you. And keep those answers in mind when you don’t feel like exercising, or when the little devil is sitting on your shoulder telling that one little cookie wouldn’t be so bad.

By living a life congruent with our own true values, and not those we think we are supposed to have, we can live an authentic life.


Your priorities will determine whether it’s more important right now to be stronger, or leaner. To have more muscle, or to be more flexible. Sometimes, you just can’t do it all at once, so you have to prioritize. Many people want to be strong and lean, but it is usually more effective to work on only one or two fitness goals at a time. It’s almost impossible, for example, to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, since one requires a caloric deficit and the other requires a caloric surplus. You might decide it’s more important right now to lose some fat, and later you will build some muscle, or vice versa.

And then you have other things in your life to consider. Sure, you could spend all of your time in the gym with a personal trainer, IF you had unlimited time, unlimited money, and nothing else to do! Most of us don’t have that option, so we have to make choices. It’s important to be healthy, but it might not be necessary to obsess over that last five pounds, especially if you have other priorities, like children, a career, or simply other things you’d like to do with your time. Only you can decide what is the best way for you to spend your limited resources right now. If, like one friend of mine, you honestly don’t have time for any sustained exercise at all, don’t give up entirely. Do what you can do, like seated exercises and eating a healthier diet, and don’t obsess over the things you can’t do right now, like going to the gym or running a marathon.

Priorities can also change with time. A few years ago I went from 36% bodyfat down to 23% bodyfat. Right now it’s a little higher than that because my priority is strength. I have a goal of bench pressing my bodyweight this year, and if I diet too stringently I could lose some of the strength I’ve gained recently. When my children are all grown, I’m sure my priorities will change slightly, too.


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Topics: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Should You Settle for Less Than Perfection?”

  1. Vicham Says:
    February 11th, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    If someone wanted to accomplish both fat loss and muscle gain, which would you recommend going after first? Or would such a question have to be answered on an individual basis?


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