Stop Expecting Perfection (365 Days of Spirited Living – DAY 96)
(30 Things To Stop Spending Time On If You Want to Be Successful #5)
“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
— Leo Tolstoy
The end of perfection is the beginning of life. Many times, we get frustrated and even bitter when things don’t go the way we want them to or people don’t act the way we think they should. We lose sleep over small details that are often not important in the grand scheme of everyday life. We torture ourselves — mentally, at least — when we forget to do one little thing or miss the exit to the highway on our way to work.
We beat ourselves up when we get answers wrong on exams, fail to give a better presentation at work, or don’t get the promotion we want. We not only get disappointed with ourselves, but we’re the same way with other people. We’re irritated when the barista fails to add crema to our coffee, when the drive-through line is too long at McDonalds, or when seven-year-old Johnny forgets to take out the trash.
People are fallible. We know this in our heads but when it boils down to actually dealing with people, we forget all about it. Mistakes, hardships, and obstacles are inevitable in life. We know this too, but somehow we imagine that all of this is supposed to bypass us. The perfect picture, the perfect job, the perfect family, the perfect vacation is all in your mind — it does not exist. Nothing is perfect. Nothing well ever be perfect on this side of heaven. And it is all very much okay.
The pressure to be perfect damages the human psyche. This does not mean that you cannot improve. We all can improve in some way, including me. But improvement begins with choosing to accept where you are and realistic plan where you want to be. I assure you that it is not going to be an easy, perfect journey to get to wherever you want to be. But you should intentionally make daily progress toward your goals. Progress is always better than perfection.
Not pursuing perfection is also not an excuse to do sloppy work or to give your very worst at any project, task, or relationship. People are attracted to authenticity. Perfection is irrelevant and could be the very thing that holds you back from realizing your dreams and developing meaningful relationships with others. Productivity fails when perfection is the goal instead of the real goal. Health also fails when the mind is constantly focused on perfecting things. Paralysis is the result when we struggle to overcome fear and guilt — signs of perfectionists.
If you stop long enough to cease expecting perfection from yourself and everybody else, you might find that there is more good in the pot than bad. You might give yourself a glimpse of what perfection really is. It is our imperfections that make us perfectly who we are. Stop living in expectations, hope-sos, maybes, agendas, could haves and should haves. When you do that, you end up missing everything that is exactly what you want which is right in front of you.
Perfection keeps us back from living. Life is a series of choices. We become who we are either by making them or not making them. There are some wrong choices in life. While we want to avoid those as much as possible, most of us have to endure wrong choices that we make before we have enough sense to make the choices we really should which produce the results we really want. But what I’m talking about is not delaying our lives for some better time that may or may not exist. We have a fixed concept of what life is supposed to look like. But life often doesn’t look that way. It looks like it’s supposed to look which is — different than our expectations.
Let’s think about software and its developers for a minute. How good is a new app, or a new phone, or a new gadget when it is released? Perfect? No. Good enough? Yes. Software developers know that good enough is as close to perfection as one will get. If you ask a creator of any given app on any given day if there were any tweaks he would want to make, without hesitation, he would say yes. The inner critic is always the loudest. It will have you tweaking and tweaking, procrastinating, slowing down, and holding up. You never know how good something can be until you let it go to be that good. Software developers know this and we should take a lesson from them.
At the end of the day, you need to have the satisfaction that you did your very personal best. Every situation is not a cause for a nervous breakdown. Learn to adopt a “roll with the punches” attitude. You’re not in competition with the whole world. You’re not even in competition with any one person in the world. You’re in competition with yourself. If you can be better than you were yesterday and do more than you did yesterday, then by all means do so.
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”
— Anna Quindlen