Is There a Problem with Striving for Perfection

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

~Vince Lombardi

Raise your hand if this quote hits close to home because you tend to hold yourself to the standard of either “Perfect” or “Abject Failure”.

Guilty as Charged

Guilty as Charged

This is definitely something that I struggle with, especially when it comes to my running.

I’ve talked before about the half marathon where I set a 7 minute PR and instead of being excited at the result I was pissing and moaning because I missed my “A” goal by 5 fricking seconds.

Honestly, to this day I still beat myself up over the fact that I stopped at one point to pour water over my head, which definitely cost me more than 5 seconds.

But you know what, even if I had come in just under my “A” goal I probably would have still gone back and dissected my race to figure out how I could have shaved a few more seconds on that particular day instead of just celebrating the fact that I ran an excellent race on that hot and humid summer day in Central Florida.

Why are We Striving for Perfection?


I Can’t Stop Striving for Perfection in Running (and Other Areas of Life as Well)

Follow up question, is striving for perfection a bad thing?

I know that perfection is an impossibility, and yet I try to hold myself to that standard because I want to be the best I can possibly be at whatever it is that I’m doing.

I mean, I’d rather aim for 100% and “settle” with 90 than aim for 90% and wind up with 80.

Where we get in trouble, or at least where I get in trouble, is that whole being happy with 90% part.

What is the Solution?

Point blank, I don’t think I can stop yearning for better.

And clearly that frame of mind is equal parts blessing and curse.

Wanting to improve is a good thing.

I want to qualify for Boston. I want to become a better interviewer for the podcast. I want to speak in front of crowds and inspire people. I want to be a better husband and father.

And there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve in any of those areas (or in most any other area of life for that matter).

The problem arrives when I don’t live up to being better, and I (harshly) criticize myself for falling short of an impossible goal on any one particular day.

As runners, we are going to have less than perfect days!

We are going to have bad workouts. We are going to have bad races.

But we can’t beat ourselves up every time we fall short of being perfect.

Achieving perfection may be an impossibility, but that doesn’t mean that striving for perfection is foolhardy.

We just need to be ok with the fact that catching excellence still qualifies as a success.

Keep Striving for Perfection

Keep Striving for Perfection

Are You Your Harshest Critic? How Do YOU Overcome the Negative Self-Talk that I Definitely Struggle With?

Link Up–Attempting my first ever link up today with Running on HappySuzlyfeCrazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs. I’m probably going to break a rule or two, but I promise it won’t be on purpose!

6 replies
  1. Sarah K
    Sarah K says:

    I read Amy Marxkors book The Lola Papers after your interview with her last fall. There is one whole page I copied and have as my mantra – here’s the short version….the scariest dreams are the ones that are quite possibly attainable. Set a goal too high, and miss, wasn’t meant to be. Set a low goal, and achieve it, not a big deal. It’s those ones in the middle, the ones that we might just get that are the hardest, because we might fail, and it will be SO hard. She called it conquering the middle ground – and that’s what I’m trying to do right now. This season has been incredibly successful – and until my last half marathon, I had NEVER put a time goal out there before race day. I would break out in a nervous sweat for days before the race because I had told people my goal – which means they would know if I failed or hit it. I try to find something positive about every run, and hopefully on the next step of this journey I can keep doing that because there is no time to beat myself up.

  2. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    This is a great post. It’s so true — most runners strive for perfection and beat themselves up when they miss the goal (even by 5 seconds). I’m guilty of it as well. I just try to instill it in my athletes that while yes, striving for perfection can be a good thing, it’s not the end all, be all of your performance.

    Thanks for linking up! Hope to see you regularly!

    • Denny
      Denny says:

      Thanks Rachel! Striving for perfection is definitely a double edged sword. When you can embrace successes that aren’t “perfect” you’re in the right place.


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