Redefining perfection

Perfection. Something most of us try to achieve. But when you think about it for a minute, is attaining perfection really achievable? Let’s look at a few things.

Perfection is a beautiful and ugly word at the same time. I’ll tell you why. It’s beautiful because it gives us a target to shoot for. It’s aspirational. However, it is also ugly because it is unattainable. By seeking perfection, we put an inordinate amount of pressure on ourselves to reach unrealistic targets.

First of all, what is the definition of perfection? The first definition is the state or quality of being or becoming perfect. But what does perfect mean? It has two definitions that I would like to focus on today: 1. conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type and 2. entirely without any flaws, defects or shortcomings. Now let me repeat that… entirely without flaws, defect or shortcomings. WOW! Even reading this gives me the cold sweats! Without flaws, defect and shortcomings. In whose eyes?

Now, I love the idea of working on myself, of reaching and striving for more, of working on becoming the best person I can be and showing up openly and courageously every day. What I am working on and striving for, is getting rid of that ideal of perfection. I can’t say I succeed all the time. It is a work in progress but I find there are two questions I ask myself that help me in this regard.

As human, we are flawed by nature, so in whose eye do I need to be perfect? And what does that even mean? Am I seeking to be perfect in my eyes? In the eyes of my peers? In the eyes my friends and family? It doesn’t really matter. My definition of perfection is going to be different than my friends, colleagues, family. They have different ideals, a different background, different interpretations. So I’m really aiming for a moving target. How about perfection in my own eyes? How do I even begin defining perfection? Is it doing everything right, 100% of the time based on certain criteria? Yeah… It is! And it’s unrealistic because life has a tendency to get in the way.

Why do we seek to be perfect? I know I seek perfection because it fills a need within me. The need for significance. If someone can see me as perfect, then I’ve arrived, haven’t I? I also feel significant in my own eyes when I’ve done everything I’ve set out to do, in exactly the way I envisioned it. Now, we can all be  perfect sometimes. We all have moments of brilliance where the universe aligns, everything falls into place, we perform optimally and ta da…! Perfection! But to expect that to be sustainable is not realistic.

So I’ve been working on re-defining perfection and I thought what if I looked at perfection as the process? Instead of focusing on the outcome, I focus on the progress of getting from A to B in whatever I am trying to achieve. Let’s say I am trying to get healthy, yes I am expecting a certain outcome. But I am also going to change how I have been doing things because doing the same thing and expecting different results is what Albert Einstein defined as insanity. If my measurement is my ability to reach my goal and the progress I am making every day towards my goal, I have many opportunities to celebrate, to examine, to readjust and make sure I continue on my journey. Focusing on the progress allows me to see how far I have come. I have gotten into the habit of waking up at 5 am to workout. This was unimaginable a few months ago. I can look back with pride on the progress I have made and be super proud of myself. It also puts wind in my sails. If I can advance here, I can make advance elsewhere. I know I still have work to do, but as long as I make progress I know I’m on the right path and while I may not achieve perfection, I can still make sure I am better than I was before.

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