Seek progress, not perfection.
If you’ve been keeping track of my core value series this is my third entry, right behind having an optimistic outlook on life and putting effort and intelligence into your work. In the most recent Wilson Post article, I covered the dangers of competing with others, especially when it comes to our kids.
Today, I want to cover why having a mindset of growth and progress will always lead to a happier life than one focused on achieving perfection.
Hey, I get it, perfection is sexy. The thought of being the absolute best at something, of creating the ultimate work of art, or of being the complete human being is an attractive one. We think that by attaining perfection we’ll solve all of our problems. We think people will love us, respect us and value us if we could only be the perfect parent, spouse, employee, etc.
Unfortunately, life’s not that easy.
I think if we ever were to achieve perfection, the definition of that perfection would simply move further ahead. Think about it, we could be put on a tropical island with all the food, activities, and people we need. We could have every need met. We could have the finest home, best boat, and coolest hammock on the island…
But some of us would still complain about the bugs. Or the sand. Or the humidity.
In reality, perfection is not attainable. In reality, perfection will only drive us mad.
The dangers of perfection.
I used to have a sign in my home that said, “Perfect is a word used by people who are ready to quit.” It got dirty over time and was a bit ugly, so I threw it out. Oh, the irony. But the point remains.
Initially, I thought it meant that when somebody was tired of working on something they would simply say, “Ahh, screw it, it’s perfect.” As if perfect was akin to good enough. But now I’ve come to believe it means the pursuit of perfection will drive us to surrender our passions.
Just like my island analogy, we can always find something to complain about, something to improve upon.
This pursuit of perfection is often what causes the best-laid plans to remain on their back. I’ve been guilty of this…numerous times. You think of something you’d like to do, desperately even. You can see it take shape in your mind’s eye. You begin to think about what you’ll need to do, what you’ll need to learn, who to contact, what Facebook posts to make and how happy you’ll be once everything is just right.
Only, it never happens.
We never do everything we need to do. We never learn everything we need to learn. We don’t contact enough of the right people. The Facebook posts don’t get enough likes, comments or shares. So we get frustrated. That frustration gives way to more effort because, hey, maybe we’re just not working hard enough. Maybe we should learn more, do more, contact more and post more.
The actual doing of the plan can wait, because you’re working on making the plan perfect.
Until you’re not.
The day comes when you lose the passion for perfect. You lose your mojo. And your dream slowly fades out. All because you just weren’t ready enough, yet. You simply wanted to make it perfect.
Perfect can kiss my ass.
Progress to proceed.
This section could alternatively be titled, “I’ve only lost 2 pounds this week.”
In my day job as a weight loss coach, I have clients come in for nutrition sessions visibly frustrated. When I inquire as to what the problem could be I’m met with the above phrase more often than I care to count. This is the part of the blog where I try to figure out how to spell a low growl to convey my frustration.
I get it. We want things now. We want them to be perfect. But life doesn’t just happen now and it sure as hell isn’t perfect.
Life is constantly happening and life is constantly progressing.
If we match that constant occurrence and progression with constant effort and progression of our own, we’ll get the results we so desperately seek. By seeing a weekly loss of 2 pounds as a consistent loss of 2 pounds, rather than a one-time event, we’ll realize that in a year we’ll have lost 104 pounds. By seeing that measly 2 pounds loss as a part of a bigger progression, we’ll understand the bigger picture and see that progress, no matter how small or slow, is still progress. Baby steps still move you forward.
In addition, think about this. If you have something that’s perfect, it will never get any better. And if it will never get any better. Due to the average human nature of increasing dissatisfaction, that perfect thing will only decrease in value, much like a new car the minute we drive it off the lot.
However, if we obtain something that would constantly progress and improve…well, now you’re onto something. Even if you don’t really like it at first, as it gets better you’re sure to enjoy it and appreciate it sooner or later. And your appreciation will only improve with the object.
This is how we should view ourselves.
Stop chasing perfection and all of its eventual misery, self-sabotage and white flag waving.
Most of us focus on the day-to-day, so we stay frustrated. A few graduate to a weekly view and find a little more happiness. Monthly? Now that’s rare, indeed.
Allow me to challenge you.
Learn to look at yourself in a yearly manner. Ask yourself, “Am I a better person, parent, spouse, worker, boss, ______, than I was this time last year?” If you can confidently answer that with a resounding “You bet your ass!” Then I think it’s safe to say you’re a happier person because of it.
Further, what are your plans for the next 365 days to ensure you can answer in the affirmative again next year?
Are you taking steps every day to improve yourself? Are you reading books? Are you listening to podcasts or audiobooks? Are you taking courses or enrolled in school? Are you exercising or eating better? Are you working on your optimism?
What are you doing to progress?
If you’re unsure where to start, do some research. There’s a vast web of information out there. A lot of it is junk, sold by people who merely want to make a quick buck. But there’s some gold out there if you only know where and how to mine it.
If you’d like lifestyle coaching from your’s truly to help find your way, reach out to me via the contact form. If I can help you, we can discuss working together to improve your progress in life. If I don’t feel I can, I won’t waste your time or your budget.
Your next step.
There are no forms to share this time around. No pen and paper exercises for you to do.
Merely a mindset shift.
It takes some time to fully understand it and break the habit of perfectionism. Trust me, I speak from experience…after experience. But the good news is that the more you do it, the more aware you’ll become.
Look through the books I’ve recommended in the hyperlinks in this post. Some have drastically improved my life and have helped to shift me into a progress-producing machine.
I realize that exercise, nutrition, and habits are not the only things that make up a complete life. Increasing our intelligence and fitness in as many areas as we can is the true path to happiness, self-sufficiency, and our ability to help our fellow man. With that being said…
Keep an eye out for the upcoming Resources page. I’ll be uploading it soon. As it currently stands, I’ll be sharing books, products, and other blogs and websites to help you improve your quality of life, health, and happiness. Like this blog, it’ll be a work-in-progress, not a matter of perfection.
I’m also putting together a weekly email for those who’ve taken the plunge and SUBSCRIBED (at $0.00/year, it’s pretty cost-effective) to the website. This won’t be anything exhaustive. I know what getting too much crap in your inbox is like. I’ll be providing a few short, beneficial bits once a week which you can easily share or just as easily unsubscribe to. No emails about bundling your phone with your cable and internet. I promise.
That’s it for this one, everybody. Remember, switching from perfection to progress isn’t easy, but once you’ve jumped the track life becomes much more satisfying and so less stressful. You deserve it, your loved ones deserve it. Progress, not perfect.