Form vs. Substance

Photo by Anastase Maragos on Unsplash

I have had this long running debate internally, trying hard to find the answer to many forms of the same question.

Is it more important that you work out at all or does it matter how you do it? Should you just lift weights without bothering with the correct posture and form? Should try to write everyday or write well? And on and on…

On one side, the answer seems really easy…at least at first. Of course it matters more that you actually show up than how you show up! This seems immediately wise. And we’re told that once you build the habit of showing up, you can then work on the other details. Except that, very often, once habits are built, they are not so easy to modify. Also, what if you’ve been doing “x” all wrong, and are now set in a negative or harmful pattern? This might seem theoretical, but I think it is a valid consideration.

On the other side, many people in the name of being “perfectionists” never get anything done. We get stuck in the “analysis paralysis” or any of its equivalents. This is also largely true for many. If you want to, you can find an excuse for just about anything! And so, the antidote to this perfectionism is to “just start”…get stuff done. Build the momentum and, at least, you’ll be on your way, with the law of compounding on your side. In the name of full disclosure, I’m usually in this camp. “Just start” has very often proven to be good advice for me in the past.

But…how about a third option?

What if we try to start small, but also start well? Back to my workout analogy…what if I start with just 5 sit ups, but I try to do them properly, paying attention to good form? What if I try to write just two paragraphs every other day, but try to write as clearly and simply as I can? This way, I’m getting in both the consistency and the good foundation required for long term success at whatever the task at hand.

In the spectrum, this feels a little harder than “just start”, but “well/proper/better” is less demanding than the almighty “perfect”. I think this can be a sweet spot. What do you think?

Reflection Questions

  • Where do you sit on the spectrum?
  • Where do you need more focus, form or action?

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Babatunde Mumuni

Babatunde Mumuni

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I think and write here about life as one continuous experience, not fragments stitched together. I believe that we should partake of this with our whole selves.