Progress, not perfection; change can be messy



By Rocky Detwiler


Do you ever feel like you’re just not good enough? It seems like striving for perfection is a necessary part of life, at least according to our media. Reality television shows starring beautiful people, commercials, magazines and newspapers all remind us how we don’t measure up to “perfect.” These messages bombard everyone in the family, not just the young girls and women, although they seem to get hit the hardest.

This pursuit for perfection holds many people back from real change in their lives. They set out with the best of intentions to reach New Years' resolutions or goals at any time during the year. They have a plan and know what they need to do in order to reach their goal. The pest called “perfection” comes in to thwart their plans when they slip up in any way. The first time they miss a workout or cheat on a piece of cake, they accept defeat and lose all hope of achieving their goals.

As a transformational expert, this is incredibly difficult for me to see. I think most people fail to understand that real change is messy. Rarely do people establish new habits in their lives without messing up at times. Setbacks are part of the process, and the battle must first be fought in your mind.

My wife and I routinely train in schools and companies using our online program with in-person coaching (see below), which challenges individuals to achieve real change in their lives. We stress the concept of “progress, not perfection” because we understand that any forward movement is better than nothing at all.

This concept was driven home earlier this spring when we were working with a local company. We were excited to work with the sales staff at this large organization. Self-improvement was important to them, and these were adults who seemed to be at the top of the food chain. The group began our online challenge to establish positive habits in their lives, and we met every two weeks in person for coaching. 

We were excited to delve into discussion at one of our early meetings and were completely surprised to find that the biggest challenge for this sales staff was drinking enough water on a daily basis. They drank coffee, energy drinks, and soda all day, every day. The hardest task in our challenge for them was drinking water! We started small and focused on progress, not perfection. After three months, they were all improved in all areas of their lives, including drinking more water on a daily basis.

A couple of months ago, I was humbly reminded of this concept yet again. My wife and I were working with an amazing group of 13-year-olds at South Junior High School in Boise. Generous local donors, along with the caring support staff at the school, provided our challenge program and coaching to a group of 7th grade students for the final months of the school year. We joined 25 of the best and brightest adolescents weekly during their lunchtime in what we dubbed, “Fun Fridays with Rocky and Friends.”

A couple of weeks into our meetings, and after teaching these 13-year-olds how to take time each day to “be still,” I asked the students for a report from the past week. Hands went up around the room and I anticipated hearing an amazing story of how the meditation had relieved stress or anxiety. I’ve heard these stories before and I love seeing how small daily tasks can really make a big difference, especially with adolescents. 

I called on the eager boy in the front with his hand raised, sure he would validate this very important daily habit. He proceeded to share that he sat down for “quiet time” after school this past week. He followed my specific instructions and was focusing only on his breathing and heartbeat, and then he fell asleep. We all shared in his laughter and I reminded myself…progress, not perfection.

We were able to teach this concept to these students and the proof showed up in their real-life transformations. By the end of our time together, the quiet students in the back of the room moved to the front seats and boldly engaged in discussions. Also, instead of entering an empty classroom and waiting for the students to ramble in, we found the room full of eager students waiting for us. Our favorite part was seeing the students’ creative vision boards and the pages they’d written in their gratitude journals. The small daily tasks, along with the concept of progress, not perfection, helped change these kids’ lives.

As you work towards your goals, remember that focusing on your progress, not

perfection, will bring true, lasting change to your life. Forward progress and perseverance will help you reach any goal you set for yourself.


Rocky Detwiler is the author of “The Samson Effect.” His goal achievement program is called the Samson Life Challenge. You may contact Rocky at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Visit his website at to download his free ebook, “5 Steps to Fit & Healthy” to help you achieve your physical goals.