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My Failures at Perfection: Why I Focus on the 80, not the 20

Around this time last year, I sent a reader survey and asked a number of questions about what you all like to read about on our blog & email list. One thing that came up a few times was a request for me to share areas in which I fail!

It sounds a little mean, but I know (well, I hope) that actually, what motivates this is a desire to be affirmed that the journey is not about perfection. Don’t we all feel better when someone acknowledges their flaws & broken bits?

In Tsh’s book about simple living, she talks about the 80/20 goal: If you are succeeding in being mindful about your life & choices 80% of the time, you are doing great! Celebrate! Don’t worry too much about the other 20%.

Same message from Shawn Blanc, whom I’ve mentioned because of his resources on Focus & Margin. He is fully sold on planning out all of your time, even leisure (yes, that would include: “2 hours watching Netflix” or “3 hours surfing the internet aimlessly”). Most people are scared to plan out their time because: A) obviously, it’s much better to spend 3 hours watching Netflix without acknowledging that you’ve spent 3 hours watching Netflix. But also, B) we are afraid of failure. I don’t want to plan out my time and then not end up doing what I had planned, then feel like a dummy.

He says: wrong! If you plan your time, you are way more likely to spend it in a way that you’ll be happy with. And if you change your plans 20% of the time, you’re doing an amazing job!

If your goal is set for 100% success, there will be guaranteed failures. Plans change, inevitable, complicated real life rears its head…  You’re probably going to be disappointed, discouraged, and want to can the whole thing. I think that instead of wanting all or nothing, and beating ourselves up about it, 80/20 is a great goal to work towards.

I talk about thoughtful shopping… at its basic essence: putting your money where your mouth is, right?


So, what’s in my 20%?

  • Kraft Peanut Butter. I know that Kraft Heinz is a massive food conglomerate that makes all kinds of weird non-foods. Monsanto is gross and I’m sure that this PB is full of soy & weirdo processed corn that all traces back to evil Monsanto. And, it’s full of sugar. And, I should be giving my family real nut butter without all this sugar and garbage and blah blah blah. And I LOVE it and I want to keep eating it forever.

So, there’s that.

  • I’m terrible at laundry, this is a known problem. I leave things too long and I neglect stains and all of it is not my strength. Discovering Oxi-Clean spray was like a gift from on high. I don’t know what is in it, or what it is doing to the earth, and the truth is, I don’t want to know. ‘Cause then I might feel the need to stop using it. Same goes for the commercial grade toilet cleaner that I have deemed necessary in my life.
  • I like gift-giving and I still buy my kids stuff they will love for their birthdays & Christmas, even though we have too much stuff and I don’t want more stuff.
  • When I throw away Ziploc baggies or the ones you get for produce, I have an occasional wince that I should be washing them & reusing them. But… no. I just can’t muster up enough to care. Isn’t there more plastic in one McDonald’s toy than in my box of 100 baggies? I just... don’t care.
  • I would potentially also say the Gap sale rack. Philosophically, I don’t like it: the fast fashion, the bonkers overpricing so that they can have drastic sales… just, all of it. But, it’s also easy. The clothes are trendy-not-too-trendy and I know that they are my style (more or less) and it is a cheap way to add to my wardrobe. Doing it all online makes it even better.

A year ago, I would have counted the Gap rack in this category for sure. But, if I’m honest, the scales continue to tip away from ease and more to my misgivings. I haven’t visited the sale rack in a long time, and I don’t really want to. My clothing budget hasn’t really changed, but my priorities about clothes & shopping have.

Because along with these failings are some wins of the journey: spaces where the gap has narrowed between my beliefs and my actions. I haven't purchased anything from Amazon since last November; I've shopped at Walmart maybe twice in the last few years (early morning milk run!). My favourite "new" clothes are all amazing finds from consignment stores - giving new life to leather boots, J Crew & BR blouses, 7 jeans, and my ultimate fave Lululemon sweatshirt (and unofficial new uniform). 

Integrity can be redefined, from a 100% expectation of perfect, value-aligned actions all the time, to an honest journey towards good.  

Click here to download our Shop Good guide and share your own wins & failings in the comments below.

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