Are you the type of person that has ‘exceptionally high standards’?

Some one who demands the absolute best of themselves all the time, everytime?

Perhaps you consider yourself to be a bit of a perfectionist?  Maybe you’re even a little hard on yourself sometimes (all of the time)?

If this sounds familiar then managing the ‘messy middle’ can be a real challenge!

So what do I mean by the ‘messy middle’?  Well, its that gap between your current capability and the desired level of performance that you would like to reach.

For example, your ability right now in speaking a foreign language with the fluency that you would like to the actual level that you can speak it with.  Maybe the short distance that you can currently run and the marathon that you have always wanted to complete.  The ‘messy middle’ is the gap between your current position vs your desired destination.

The difficulty with being a ‘bit of a perfectionist’ is that they struglle with the ‘messy middle’.  Perfectionists are always shining a light on areas of ‘incompetence’.  This is where that new language is not being learnt as quickly as one had hoped or where that running is not progressing as smoothly as anticipated.  At times it all looks like a bit of a mess!

As a consequence the perfectionist can self sabotage any growth.  ‘This is pointless’! ‘I’m such an idiot’! ‘I’m never going to get this’!  Do any of these sound familiar?

So the question is how does the perfectionist navigate their way through the ‘messy middle’.

Well, by focusing on the process and not the outcome.  Commiting to the the process involves regular intentional practice while understanding that along that way that its going to appear a little ‘messy’.

15 minutes a day = 91.25 hours a year

30 minutes a day = 182.5 hours a year

45 minutes a day = 273.75 hours a year

60 minutes per day = 365 hours a year

This involves tracking the process and not the outcome. Measuring progress by the time spent intentionally practising and looking for the perhaps not so obvious little (big) ‘wins’ along the way.  Remember that we can measure success in so many ways and that by discovering new ways to do this, it can instill powerful emotions and growth in us such as achievement, growth and pride.

Joe McDonald is a professional coach working with individuals and teams in business, sports and life.  See for further information.