focus on proficiency

Focusing on Proficiency, Instead of Perfection, in 2020

Personal Development and Lifestyle


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In this upcoming year, my theme for the year is “Proficiency, not Perfection”. This new theme is what I’m going to focus on – too often, we hold back because what we have isn’t perfect. However, perfection is impossible, and in reality, proficiency and productivity is what will help us reach our goals.

With the new year just around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to happen in 2020.

Back in college, my friends and I would come up with themes for each year.

Usually, the theme would be some stupid saying, something like “Do Your Best 2011” or “Year of Yes 2014”. However, the saying and theme we would create would set the tone for our interactions, our work and what we wanted to the following year to bring.

Over the past three months, I’ve been studying Spanish and recently overcame a plateau in my learning.

For the first two and a half months, I was using Duolingo and only speaking and listening a little bit. Duolingo is a language learning application, but the way you learn is through drag and drop and memorization – i.e. perfection.

While this is a great way to learn new words and understand how sentences are structured, this isn’t how you learn to speak Spanish.

I then changed my strategy to watching and listening to Spanish Youtube videos and speaking with people in Spanish.

With this change, I’m not perfect, but I can have conversations now.

Since I’ve seen a great improvement in my progress, I decided to take this and make it my theme for 2020: focus on proficiency, not perfection.

In this post, I’m going to talk about why focusing on proficiency and not focusing on perfection will help make next year the best year ever.

Perfection is Not Possible

“There’s gotta be an app for that.”

We live in a world where we want what we want right now.

Instant gratification is a wonderful thing, but life is not a clickable link.

Self improvement, growth, making more money, reaching your goals, and becoming who you want to become WILL not happen in a day, a week, a month, or maybe even a year.

Many of us, myself included, strive for perfection and want to make sure every t is crossed and i is dotted on the way to completing a task.

Let me tell you a secret: perfection doesn’t exist.

While in controlled situations – such as tests where you can score 100% – perfection does exist, in the real life, perfection does not exist.

Take cleaning your kitchen for example. Sure, you can wipe everything down, vacuum, apply disinfectant, and wash every nook and cranny, but I can guarantee there will be some spot which isn’t 100% clean.

Additionally, if you wanted to get everything to become 100%, what would be cost – in time, money and energy?

With this in mind, instead of shooting for perfection, maybe it would be best to shoot for proficiency and production.

One of my main principles of life is intentional living.

While one of the big pieces of intentional living is coming up with a plan and taking action, another piece of intentional living is being flexible with your plan if things need to be changed.

Being able let go of perfection and focusing on completing your tasks efficiently and effectively might be the best strategy for you in the new year.

The Power of Being Able to Let Things Go

When I was growing up and playing sports, I had an anger problem.

If I was pitching in baseball and something didn’t go my way, I’d become visibly upset and show my emotions.

In baseball, there are so many things you cannot control, but I’d get wrapped up in the moment and let my emotions get the best of me.

This rarely improved my focus and my performance.

Getting upset, getting worked up over a game, and not being in control of what I could control didn’t result in what I wanted and hoped to achieve.

Being able to let go of the little things and focus on the big picture is critical for success. There’s power in being able to take a step back, reassessing a situation, and moving onto the next task rationally.

Letting go of the little things is so powerful and can be easily done with a shift in focus.

By focusing on proficiency, instead of perfection, we can focus on hitting the target enough times for success, instead of looking to hit 100% of the time (an impossible task).

perfection in work

Why Focusing On Proficiency Will Bring The Results You Want

In this section, I’m going to talk about why focusing on proficiency, production and pushing forward a little bit each day will bring the results you want.

Let’s go back to how I’m learning Spanish right now.

Recently, I’ve started using a platform called Italki. Italki is a language learning platform where you can call native speakers from around the globe and talk via Skype.

Italki can be used to learn from scratch, but for me, I wanted to gain experience having conversations in Spanish, improve my listening, and gain more confidence speaking in Spanish.

The key to learning any language is to understand the purpose of language: to communicate.

What I’ve learned is there are isn’t just one way to say something, and consequently, there’s not a perfect way to speak, write or talk when trying to communicate with others.

For example, in the sentence I just wrote, I could have made it two sentences. I could have used however or therefore, instead of consequently.

The content would be different, but the message would still be the same.

Even as a native English speaker, I make plenty of mistakes in my writing, speaking and grammar.

I’m sure even in this blog post there are at least ten grammar mistakes (honestly though, I don’t care – as long as I think the message is presented in the way I hope to present it, then I’m happy).

With my learning Spanish, I realized I needed to think in a similar way.

I realized I needed to focus on using the words I know, to make mistakes, and to allow myself to become more comfortable over time through practice.

Allowing myself to make mistakes is hard, but is the key to finding success.

How to Let Go of Striving for Perfection to Reach Your Goals in 2020

So, at this point, I’ve been talking about my theme for 2020 in general, and talking about myself.

Now, let’s talk about how you can apply this in your life to reach your goals in 2020.

Let’s say you are trying to get in shape. Maybe, you want to lose weight and/or become stronger.

You decide that each day you are going to exert more energy than you consume.

You make it a goal to get into a calorie deficit to start losing weight.

Along the way, there will be days where you want a snack. Maybe you are attending some weddings and want to let loose for a night.

By focusing on proficiency, instead of perfection, you can let yourself have those cheat meals!

What I’ve found in my life is that if I’m good 80-90% of the time in whatever I’m doing, the last 10-20% can be spent doing whatever.

The speed of change can be affected by the amount of time I’m doing well, but there isn’t much difference between 80 and 100%.

Likewise, in the gym, if you can’t get those last few reps, or your body needs a break, then it’s totally okay.

The next time, try and push for those extra reps.

Take a break if you need it.

It’s okay.

Progress is progress and no one is perfect.

Over time, through the power of time, you will become better.

Consistency and action are the two main determinants of success, and with your efforts, you can achieve your goals in 2020 – whatever they may be!

Embrace Discomfort, Try Your Best, and Make 2020 a Fantastic Year

This upcoming year, I hope it can be one of the best years of your life.

By looking to do a little bit each and every day, you can reach your goals and find success.

Simple daily disciplines will result in massive success. – The Slight Edge

For me, I’m going to look to embrace discomfort, break through my existing barriers, and welcome success.

You are welcome to join me and use the theme of “Proficiency, not Perfection in 2020” to bring success into your life.

When we look back in a year, I’m excited to see where you will have gone with your progress and goals!

Thank you for reading!


About the Author

Hi! I'm Erik, the creator of The Mastermind Within blog.

I'm passionate about helping you improve as a person, get better with your finances, and create your dream life over time.

Through setting goals, critical thinking and intentional living and action, I believe you can master your life, win with money, and get on the path to freedom.

Get your free goals guide below, or browse through the 6 portal pages after the guide form.

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