Mussar Mondays – Pirke Avot: Not letting perfectionism get in the way of our passion

“One good deed leads to another. One transgression leads to another.”

– Pirke Avot 4:2

It takes so much energy to start something new, why get in our own way with thoughts of self-doubt or perfectionism when it’s experimentation and simply staying present in the process that will get us so much further anyways?

I’ve been thinking about perfectionism a lot recently. Firstly, because I have always been one. And secondly because as I start this new project of a website and podcast the feeling to create perfect content is constantly hovering over my head. Instead, one thing that I hope to keep reminding myself is that I get so much more from engaging with the process of wrestling with my ideas and with trial and error than I ever do from just sitting and over-thinking every single decision.

I know every one says this but it really is true. It’s more rewarding to try, fail, and learn, than it is to sit, research, and mitigate risks. I know Nike has turned this phase into a cliché but there really is some truth to it: you simply have to do it.

Practical Steps to Combat Perfectionism

One great way to keep positive momentum going and to cut down on perfectionism is to create a goal that is not just for that one project but rather one that encompasses them all. For instance I have two goals for this specific episode; one big and one small. The micro goal is to say something thought provoking that will give added value to your days. Now, pressure and perfection could weigh me down in reaching that goal so that’s where the larger goal is. The macro goal of the podcast, as a whole, is to create relationships and conversation. Winning here is not having a perfect episode, which does not even exist (especially this week as my nose is stuffed up from a cold), rather winning for me means creating friendships around these ideas of spirituality and self care.

Full Transcript – Scroll below to read along:


00:06 Welcome to another episode of Mussar Mondays. Today we are looking at the character trait of enthusiasm or passion, and specifically we’ll be thinking about how to maintain our passion without letting perfectionism get in the way. In Pirke Avot, the teachings of our fathers, chapter four, it says that Rabbi Ben Azzai used to say: “run to pursue even the most minor of mitzvot, of commandments, and the flee runaway from transgression. For Mitzvah, brings another Mitzvah. And transgression, brings more transgression. For the reward of doing a Mitzvah is the opportunity to do another Mitzvah, and the reward for transgression is another transgression.

01:03 What I think this teaching gets at is at the idea of momentum. Once we begin something, it can be very difficult to stop, so when we have an idea for a project and if we begin it right away, we have all of that passion and enthusiasm. We should stick with it and keep running forward because that positive momentum will keep us going forward. However, if we have an idea for a project and then we begin to second guess every single detail, begin to nitpick at what the possible failures and challenges might be, and we get into mindset of perfectionism, then this is the momentum that we are creating and it can be so challenging to get out of that mindset once it begins.

02:06 In the same way that it takes so much energy to get the train going down the tracks, but once that momentum of the train is ticking along, then nothing can stop the direction of the train. However, if you begin a project and then you pause, not only are you taking away all of your hard work in getting your momentum moving to begin with, but in fact you are actually putting in energy for a different track. This is the track of perfectionism where you use all of your brain power, thinking about the things that might go wrong rather than recalling your strengths and acting on them in order to complete the goal you had started off to begin with. Have a great day.

“Do you also have macro goals and micro goals for tasks? Does the micro goal ever overshadow your larger macro goal by taking the majority of your mental and emotional energy? Comment below!”

Thanks again and looking forward to being on this journey with you!

 Passion over perfectionism

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