Progress, Not Perfection

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I heard something rather profound at my son’s Taekwondo class the other day. The instructor said, “We’re seeking progress, not perfection.”

One of the things they teach is there really is no such thing as perfection. Even the highest black belts still have room to improve. I’ve always liked that message, but the phrase he used “progress, not perfection” really resonated with me.

As you know, we’ve been trying to focus on getting out of debt and growing our wealth, but it seems like every week there’s another obstacle thrown in our way. I find myself filled with lofty goals and willing to undertake tough challenges to reach them, only to feel sabotaged by circumstances.

At the beginning of March, I was super excited to hop on board the Student Loan Debt Movement and actually did manage to scrape together my goal of $600. So I should feel pretty good about that accomplishment, right?

Not so fast.

Turns out we might finally be able to sell our reluctant rental house (reluctant because we would have rather sold years ago but we’ve been underwater almost since we bought it). That also sounds like awesome news, but here’s the catch: we have to get rid of the renters in order to sell it. That means no more rental income, which means our housing expenses effectively just doubled.

So my excitement about actually finding an extra $300 to put toward my student loan has turned into a gut swirling anxiety over how I’m going to find another $1200 to pay our mortgage.

That brings us back to “Progress, not perfection.” The fact that I “found” some extra money for my student loan goal shows that we’re making progress, but I keep visualizing this perfection of paying off our debt and saving half our income.

I have to remind myself that even though we likely won’t pay our debt as fast as I’d like or save half our income anytime soon, we’re still making progress. Compared to where we were a few months ago, we’re in a much better situation. We’re more aware of our spending and are increasing our net worth bit by bit.

On paper, we’re making progress, even if it feels like we’re falling behind. With a little luck (and a lot of prayers), we’ll sell the house before we have to make double mortgage/rent payments, or at least before we have to make them multiple times.

Have you ever felt like no matter what you did, you couldn’t get ahead? If so, try focusing on the progress you have made instead of the perfection you’ll likely never reach.

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