A Parent’s Perfectionism And A Hard Lesson Learned

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A Parent’s Perfectionism And A Hard Lesson Learned

Early on in The Strategic Coach® Program, we introduce a concept called The Gap, a state of mind highly common among ambitious entrepreneurs — and one that can cause a great deal of harm.
Quite simply, The Gap is the space between where we are currently in any given situation and where we want to be — our ideal. As we move toward our goal, we mentally measure our progress, and here’s where it gets tricky.
Most of us measure forward, looking ahead at the ideal goal and seeing that we’re always falling short. Any tendency toward perfectionism makes it even worse. At Coach, we learn to measure backward from where we are now to where we first started.
Measuring backward, we can immediately see the progress we’ve made. The feeling of accomplishment, even in small steps, keeps us moving forward with confidence rather than falling into The Gap and its accompanying feeling of failure. Measuring backward is how goals are reached and fulfilled! It sounds so logical and so simple. Why don’t we measure backward all the time instead of choosing the perfectionist’s route to our ideal outcome?
Once we truly understand how easy it is to put ourselves — and those around us — into The Gap, and how great life outside The Gap can be, there’s no measuring forward again — as Chad Johnson shares in his honest and deeply humbling story.
A quick, and heartbreaking, trip into The Gap.
Chad Johnson is a remarkable entrepreneur in The Strategic Coach Program as well as one of our exceptional associate coaches. He is also a devoted husband and father of 11 children. It is from his family life that he shares an unforgettable story about how quickly The Gap can propel us into thinking we’ve failed. This experience provided him with a powerful life lesson that will resonate with many.
As a Strategic Coach client and coach, Chad is well aware of The Gap and its pitfalls. Yet, one day he found himself heaping all the negativity of The Gap on his children in one unthinking moment.
Chad explains, “In reality, we fall in and out of The Gap all the time, depending on how we measure our progress — and we put others around us in The Gap, too, which is an unforgivable thing. In the story I’m going to share, I, sadly, had no awareness that I was actually doing this to my children. Their faces told me that I was.”
Smooth sailing on a family project until perfectionism showed up.
Chad and his family live on a farm in north central Oregon. On the property, there was a 6,000 square foot barn, where they had remodeled the upper level into a great family space with a gym, an office, and a library. Down below on the main level, it was a true barn, with a tractor, other farm equipment and implements, and a lot more “stuff.”
As Chad tells it, “One Saturday, I said to the kids, ‘We’re going to do an ‘80/20’ on the barn today.’”
“An 80/20 meant that we were going to go in there and make a great improvement,” Chad explains. ”We’d put the bikes away, organize everything, sweep out the mangers, and so on — but not to the point of 100 percent perfection. I know that aiming for 100 percent can easily lead to falling into The Gap.”
Divide and conquer was the strategy.
Chad and the kids broke up into two teams, an upstairs team and a downstairs team, having discovered over the years that divide and conquer works well for getting things done in a large family.
“We turned on the music, set a timer for two hours, and decided we were going to bang this out before lunch. When the timer went off two hours later, I headed down the stairs with my upstairs team and saw my downstairs team looking up at me. I’m not sure exactly what was going through their minds, but I’m sure they were excited to show me what they had accomplished.”
As Chad reached the bottom of the stairs, something caught his eye. It was a small section where they stored the odd pieces of wood that didn’t fit along the wall where all the other lumber was kept. To Chad’s eyes, it looked like these scraps of wood had just been pitched into this four- by six-foot space.
The one thing.
Chad continues, “I called them over and, without even thinking, started to pick on the one thing, the one thing out of 3,000 square feet — the one little spot that wasn’t perfect. I started to berate them about not caring, not being able to do quality work, about just chucking stuff into that space.
“Immediately, I saw them go from being so proud to show me the work they’d done to something I wasn’t expecting. They had been so pumped, thinking that I was going to love what they’d accomplished, but in the space of a minute, I took them to a place of utter failure. I deflated them completely.
“It was crazy because they’d done far more than I’d asked. They’d far surpassed the 80/20 we try to aim for. Everything had looked beautiful in the barn except for that one thing. And to see myself suck the life out of them was a moment I’ll never forget.”
Chad’s children turned and walked toward the house. That’s when it really hit him. He wondered what he had been thinking. His aim was always to build his children up, but he realized that in that moment, he had just destroyed them.
Chad admits, “I had put them in that place where you’re not enough, you’ve failed, and you should be ashamed of yourself. All of this, when they had done such amazing work! And yet, my tendency was to find that one thing.”
Aim for perfection, and you invariably set yourself up, instead, to fail.Click To Tweet
Asking for forgiveness.
Chad called out to them and asked them to come back. He says, “They turned around, expecting more abuse, probably.”
As Chad apologized and asked for their forgiveness, he told them what was true — that they had far surpassed his expectations, that what he had called them out for was such a small thing compared to all the great work they had done. He continues, “I told them I was proud of them, and I saw them come back to life.”
Always on the perfectionism lookout.
We all go into The Gap, the by-product of our high ideals and perfectionism. The important thing is to recognize you’re there and get yourself out as fast as you can.
As Chad finishes his story, he tells us, “This experience showed me that I was not only putting people I love deeply into The Gap. I was also doing it to people like my team, who I care very much about and who look up to me and depend on me.
“These are all people who don’t have the benefit of knowing about The Gap, or how to get themselves out of it, and I wasn’t conscious of that. But that moment in the barn with my children taught me an important and powerful life lesson I’ll always remember.”


You can be successful and happy or successful and unhappy. The difference is in how you measure your progress.
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News Year’s Resolution Ideas That Everyone Can Get Behind

The end of the year is a natural time to try to integrate your past, present, and future. As always, though, it’s important to use these three time frames in a way that fills you with confidence and excitement instead of stressing you out.
That’s why we all love and hate New Year’s resolutions: They fill us with resolve and determination, but if we don’t stick to their high ideals, they end up feeling like embarrassing failures.
The problem with resolutions is that they get the time frames all wrong: They’re about trying to fix something from your past out in your future.
Instead, try approaching your goals for the new year this way:
Look back over the past year and celebrate your progress. How far did you come? Why is this a triumph? We often forget to recognize and acknowledge our wins, but this celebration fills you up with morale.
Look at the projects and relationships in your life you’re most excited about and want to carry forward. This great foundation gives you momentum.
Ask yourself what you want—the things you have a desire to experience and achieve in the future, which might be completely new, unprecedented, with no ties to the past. This charges up your motivation.
Always make your future bigger than your past.Click To Tweet
This thinking turns your past, present, and future into useful tools rather than another “stick” to punish yourself with. The “stick” method is discouraging, guilt-inducing, and doesn’t work anyway. Just ask anyone who makes hifalutin resolutions on New Year’s Day—usually to correct what they did the night before!
May your new year be the biggest and best ever, full of challenging and exciting goals that make you grow.


Discover 10 goal-setting tips that successful business owners use to keep them on course to a bigger future.

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Staying Positive By Looking Backward

When you first set a goal, you probably have a vision in your mind of what that goal will look like once it’s achieved. You probably have an idealized image of that future achievement and its positive impact. As you move toward that vision and make progress, you’ll probably even measure the distance between where you are and that ideal vision to determine how far you have left to go.
But all of this is a great way to get demotivated, discouraged, and down on yourself.
Instead, I advise a different approach that will have you staying positive on a consistent basis.
Setting achievable goals and measuring backward.
There is a right way and a wrong way to set goals and to measure your progress. Simply put, your ideals should be used only as a way of illuminating your specific, measurable, tangible goals. If you use your ideal as your goal, you’ve set yourself up for disappointment. Use your ideal vision of a bigger and better future to set goals you can actually achieve.
Then, when you measure your progress, the key to staying positive, inspired, and motivated is to look backward to your starting point and measure from there to where you are now to see all the growth and improvements you’ve made. If you measure forward, toward your ideal, you’ll be disheartened by how far you have left to go, because, ultimately, the ideal is a constantly moving target and not achievable anyway.
If what you’re moving toward isn’t a specific goal, you’ll never achieve it.Click To Tweet
Here are four benefits of measuring backward instead of forward:

A sense of accomplishment. You gain a real sense of accomplishment that keeps you in the positive zone and appreciating your actual achievements and improvements rather than perpetually striving for unachievable perfection.
A new way of viewing your past. You acquire the ability to look at your past achievements through a new lens and appreciate the real progress you made and goals you achieved. Past progress that may have seemed disappointing to you when you were measuring forward instead of backward is now transformed in your mind so you can see your achievements more clearly, giving you renewed confidence now.
Increased confidence. This renewed confidence from knowing that you made progress in the past has you staying positive and optimistic that you can do it again in the future and achieve even bigger goals, especially now that you know how to measure properly going forward.
Strategy for setting goals. You have a new understanding of the purpose of your ideals and how to use them to illuminate your path and set achievable goals. Your ideals can keep growing and getting even more exciting and motivating, allowing you to set even bigger goals in the future.

By making these simple switches in your mind to set achievable goals and measure backward instead of forward, you’ll see that staying positive and motivated is easy. And if you find yourself striving after ideals or getting in a negative zone by looking at how far you have left to go to achieve your vision, just remind yourself to flip the switch. It’s a mindset shift that takes practice but in time will become a habit. Share this strategy with others, and you’ll be surrounded by positive, energized people as you work toward your bigger future goals.


You can be successful and happy or successful and unhappy. The difference is in how you measure your progress.
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If You’re Pursuing Happiness, You’re Doing It Wrong

I was in born in the United States, and I think that the American experiment is one of the most extraordinary things that’s happened in human history.
But there’s something I’ve always questioned, and that’s the part of the Declaration of Independence that states that all people have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
I totally agree with the life and liberty part, but it’s the idea of pursuing happiness that troubles me. “Pursuit of happiness” implies that you’re not currently happy. It means your happiness lies sometime in the future. And my feeling is, the moment that you pursue happiness, it’s always going to be a make-believe game. It’s not going to be an actual goal. It’s an ideal.
Goals are specific, measurable, and attainable, while ideals are abstract and always out of reach. Aiming for something as vague as “happiness” means you’re never going to achieve it—because you’re never going to know when you’ve reached it.
Expand your happiness.
Instead, I encourage the expansion of happiness. This means starting with happiness and building on it rather than pursuing happiness.
Before setting a new goal, take the time to recognize and appreciate the progress and achievements you’ve made so far. You’ll see how you’ve raised your levels of capability and confidence with your past progress. What you then want to do is take these things that are true and expand them outward. You’re not trying to get anywhere. You’re just trying to get bigger.
Happiness is your starting point, and you’ve expanded on it by achieving the goal. So, it’s a constant outward expansion of happiness.
Happiness is internal. It doesn’t come as a function of competitive achievement. Pursuing happiness isn’t possible. What you need to do is start off positive and just keep making it bigger.
Start with happiness.
It’s an enormous burden to be in the mindset that happiness is something you need to go out and get.
Rather than “pursuing” happiness, start with happiness. If you take the time to think about it, you’ll find things you’re happy about. Acknowledge those, and use that positive energy to build on and enhance your happiness.
I don’t think we set and achieve goals in an effort to become happy. We do it because we are happy and want to expand our happiness.
The harder you try to pursue an ideal, thinking it will make you happy, the further away you’ll find that hypothetical happiness to be once your work is done.
“Start with happiness.” —Dan SullivanClick To Tweet
Achieving real happiness.
Happiness must be based on reaching achievable, measurable goals. This way, it’s not idealistic happiness. It comes as a result of the specific measurements of progress you make, so it’s also a grounded happiness: You’ll know exactly why you’re happy, and you’ll be able to see how to replicate the happiness and expand it.
By expanding on your happiness and setting tangible goals, you have a far better chance of actually being happy than if you were to pursue an ideal called “happiness.”
I believe the history of America might be different if the Declaration of Independence had used the term “expansion” instead of “pursuit.” But the next stage can begin now. During the first 250 years, we pursued happiness, but from this point forward, we’re going to master the ability to start with happiness and continually expand it.


You can be successful and happy or successful and unhappy. The difference is in how you measure your progress.
Get The Free eBook »

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