Focus on Your Progress and Forget about Perfection

Over the years, I’ve seen far too many people give up on themselves because they simply couldn’t see how well they were actually doing. An example is a woman who had become 15 pounds lighter over a period of just 8 weeks. But in her mind, she wasn’t getting anywhere at all. I asked exactly what her goal was. She explained it was to develop a perfect body, like a swimsuit model on the cover of a magazine. And she associated all of these perfect feelings she would have, once she got there. This became her exclusive focus and each day she’d get up, look in the mirror and notice, “I’m not there.” She didn’t even see that she was making terrific progress. All she noticed was that she still didn’t meet this ideal of perfection. She convinced herself she had failed, and from there, she quit. What happened was she got caught in ‘The Void.’

The Void is a dangerous place we can wander into if we measure our progress based on what hasn’t happened rather than what has. The Void can zap your self-confidence and send your self-esteem tumbling, making it hard for you to feel good about yourself. Hanging out there can also lead to full-time frustration, which can permeate every aspect of your life.

This painful place is a psychological purgatory where we constantly compare ourselves to an unattainable and vague ideal. The amount of stress and suffering this causes in America today is significantly underestimated. In a culture like ours, where the mass media continually presents pictures of so-called perfection in marketing, movies and magazines, it’s difficult to feel like we’re ever good enough. In a race to keep up with the Joneses, there’s constant comparison and almost always a focus on what’s missing, what we’re not, what we need, what we’re supposed to be, do, say and become. And of course, in reality, the perfect persons’ lives don’t even exist.

The ideal is an illusion, and pursuing it is like chasing the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow—whenever you go to where it appears to be, it’s always someplace else. If we continue to pursue this mirage, we are setting ourselves up for a lifetime of never feeling complete; never feeling good enough, smart enough, healthy enough, successful or beautiful enough. Fortunately, there’s a solution. There’s a mindset that allows you to steer clear of The Void, while enjoying ever-increasing levels of authentic self confidence, self-worth and fulfillment.

The key is creating a game we can win. How do we win so we can feel confident and empowered every day? Well, that happens when we make this dramatic shift where we surrender the pursuit of perfection and instead focus on progress. To do that we must stop measuring ourselves by what we haven’t accomplished and start paying attention to what we have.

“The ideal is an illusion. Pursuing it is like chasing the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. When you go to where it appears to be, it’s always someplace else.”

Whereas the ideal is always abstract and impossible to specifically define, pursuing progress becomes something altogether different, because it’s clear, tangible, and objectively verifiable. Progress is a step in the right direction; it’s any action you can take which moves you further away from your point A (where you began) and closer to your point B (specifically where you have decided to go).

I want to emphasize again that the goals you’re working towards must be stated specifically, using parameters that are objectively verifiable. For example, “Within 12 weeks, I will become 35 lbs lighter.” That’s clear, measurable, objectively verifiable. On the other hand, “I want to get in great shape” is not a goal; it’s an ideal. It’s vague and subjective. It’s an example of a pseudo-goal which can lead you into The Void. We must steer clear of those kinds of targets.

“Progress is a step in the right direction; it’s any action you can take which moves you further away from where you began and closer to your goal.”

When you begin to focus on making progress, one day at a time, towards your goals, you’ll discover that you don’t have to wait 12 weeks to really start feeling good about yourself. You can do it every day, starting now. When you do, you’ll find that the self-critiquing will fade away. Instead, you will truly see and appreciate your progress all along the way; that’s something that will give you a positive focus and sense of achievement.

Focusing on your progress is not complicated at all. You simply identify three to five actions you can take each day that will help you move towards your goals. For example, if your goal is to become 35 lbs lighter over a period of 12 weeks, you can take a step in that direction by doing my 5-25 workout and eating only healthy meals that day as well as taking your vitamins and supplements.

When you shift your focus in this way, what you’ll notice, and this is a very important point, is that you will begin measuring your progress in actions, not results.

Remember, transformation is akin to climbing a mountain;  the way you ascend from the base to the summit is one step at a time. If we don’t recognize each step forward as progress, we begin to notice the impatient child in us asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?!” We do a workout and then get on the scale, expecting to see results. We might stand in front of the mirror and notice we don’t look like that model on the magazine cover yet. This is a game you shouldn’t even play because it’s one you can’t win.

Without putting what you learn here into action, don’t be surprised if your mind plays a trick on you where, more often than not, it will seem like you’re getting nowhere. From my extensive experience in helping people through this process, I’ve learned that this is the number one reason why people give up, give in and quit. And sometimes they do it on the two-yard line. It’s like they’ve gone all this way and come so close to the goal, but they can’t see it and throw in the towel. Please don’t let this happen to you.


Now is the time to begin focusing on progress rather than perfection. When you do, your mindset will quickly change–you’ll gain confidence and momentum with each new day. And because this is a game you can win, you’ll enjoy one victory after another. You will free yourself from living in The Void, that state of mind which leaves so many feeling incomplete and disempowered. When you approach your transformation with this new perspective, you will soon see that your progress is your success!


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  1. I love this so much and it is so true, focusing on how far up the mountain we have climbed really is the key to staying motivated and inspired towards the goal. Always being grateful for how much has been accomplished and building on that in a positive way. Thank you Bill.

  2. Marguerite says:

    Thank you for this post. I am focusing on practice and progress during this challenge, I am going to add five actions per day I can write down and complete each and every day for a win! Always thanks for the encouragement! Much needed at times. M

  3. Clinton Morin says:

    i have been focusing on my progress. i stopped weighing myself and yesterday out of curiosity i stepped on the scale and i was down 20 pounds since june. it was refreshing but i knew i was doing good by the way my clothes were fitting. i had some nutritional messups and missed a few days of exercise on vacation but im back killing it in the gym. thank you bill.

  4. sarah rice says:

    Hi Bill,
    I am not really sure what all the “rules are and when my end date is” I have been working out really hard and eating right and going on a great journey. Please help. I have my before pics. taken in July when do we need to get everything in by? Please help. Also I am using the EAS products since I love them is this OK?



  1. […] Focus on Your Progress and Forget about Perfection ( […]

  2. Niki Flow says:

    […] Then Bill Phillips wrote about it in his book (a favorite) Transformation.  Here’s an article he wrote about it on his fitness blog, “Focus On Your Progress and Forget About Perfection.” […]

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