Working with a client this week, I got to see something I regularly see – a preoccupation with perfection at the expense of progress.
So many of us have learned that we must get things exactly right, we must have the lives we have planned, we must be what others expect and achieve specific things by a particular stage in life. And if these don’t happen, we are disappointed, depressed and unhappy. Things have to be the way we want them to be.
Perfection is a real downer. The more we focus on perfection the more disconnected we become from life. Humans just aren’t perfect – it is not in our make up. We don’t control our world, our lives or really anything other than our response to the events of life. And in the grand scheme, that means we have really no control.
Good. Who wants to control the uncontrollable? Why waste the time? For every moment we anguish over something that we have no ability to control – get the job, lose the job, get married, get divorced, have enough money, get cancer, be popular, etc – all we do is waste our energy, energy that could have been better used to find ways to successfully respond to what life sends us right now. But when we have our story and screen play all mapped out on how life is and must be, we give ourselves no room for variation, adaptation and resilience.
So what if instead of insisting that life look and be as we want it, we were more flexible and more responsive? What if each day we focused more on progress than perfection? We would then commit each day to making small (and maybe sometimes large) steps forward. We would find joy in the movement and in the progress. We would allow our energy to stay anabolic, happy and productive – we would see the good and not focus on the “not good.”
I have repeatedly shared in my workshops that I believe we only ever get two things in life: successes to help us learn how to celebrate, and challenges/failures to help us learn and improve. Neither is good or bad. Neither is right or wrong. Both are just information from our world. But add a perfection requirement and now we judge everything that happens. If it is good we are happy. If it is bad we are disappointed. And sometimes a small disappointment can overwhelm even some of the greatest successes. With a refocus on progress that simply notices movement forward – not judging it as good or bad – we stay calmer, more aware and more capable of delivering even greater progress. We stay open to using whatever comes our way to show up big to each moment – grateful, present, content.
Focusing on progress over perfection doesn’t mean we give in and do less; we still show up as our greatest, most creative and best selves. We simply take away the expectation that things “must be” or “have to be” exactly as we planned in favor of being open and available to whatever comes. We still show up big. But we realize that to be successful in life, we must roll with the punches and be resilient. As the quote goes, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.”
Go for progress – forget perfection; use what comes our way to keep moving forward, showing up big to, appreciating and learning from all that happens.
What stops you from moving forward? What areas in work or life need you to be more flexible, resilient and more aware of progress over perfection?
You were born amazing, but not perfect. So live amazing, and let perfection go; it will just hold you back and help you miss out on your most awesome life.