When I was about eight years old, I was sitting in the passenger seat of my dad’s MG. We were on the way home from a T-ball game. We’d lost the game in a score more appropriate for a basketball game. I told him that I was a perfectionist.
He chuckled, “No, you’re not.”
I was crestfallen, “Yes, I am.”
“If you were a perfectionist, you wouldn’t be comfortable wearing those pants,” he said as he pointed to the tear in the knee of my uniform. I looked down past my yellow jersey and thought about it.
Was it a shortcoming that I wasn’t a perfectionist?
Perfect is the enemy of good
Fast-forward nearly 40 years, and I’m still not a perfectionist. I no longer wonder if my resistance to pursuing perfection is a character deficit. Acknowledging that perfect is the enemy of good creates permission for continual evaluation and modification of ourselves and the things that we do.
One type of improvement is accepting things and setting an intention of moving forward without fighting absolutes.
For my creative agency, it’s that we will never be website developers. I can say to clients, “We would love to help you design your website and consider user experience, but when it comes to development, we’ll need to find a partner.”
There can be space between services that a client desires and services that we offer because to bend toward perfect for someone else is never going to yield sustainable, personal satisfaction.
For me, as an individual, it’s accepting that I am not 30. There are aches and lines; there are limits and new priorities. There is P!nk!
Now, don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop late-night Sephora shopping splurges on retinol and hair masks. There’s a difference between improvement and perfection; improvement exists on a continuum, while perfection feels more like a destination.
As I get older and more experienced, the adage of life being about the journey resonates with me. I am in motion and flight, but I am not pursuing a figurative or literal destination.
The question, particularly for those of us who spend a lot of time online, is how do you resist the perpetual treadmill that society and your inner saboteur (Thanks, Cody!) try to push on you to be perfect?
You say no.
As a person, as an entrepreneur, an employee, a visionary, you put your foot down.
“Forget your perfect offering – there is a crack in everything; it’s how the light gets in.”
Allow yourself to embrace the broken or the less effective, and dig into the how and why. It isn’t, “I’m failing, and that’s unacceptable,” it is, “This isn’t working, and I’m not sure why. What are some ways that I can revise or start fresh to achieve a different outcome?”
Some questions to ask:
Why do I want to be different?
If the answer is along the lines of I want to be more organized or improve at public speaking, excellent. Figure out a plan, whether you KonMari your house or take an improv class, and move forward understanding that change takes time and commitment.
If the answer is that you loathe yourself or your life, move on to the next question.
What is fueling my desire for that change?
Feeling that you want to do something better is excellent, desiring to be someone else is not.
Why? Because you can’t, which is at the core of so much of the perfection treadmill. You cannot un-become yourself or transform yourself into a different person.
What will achieving this change accomplish?
Businesses often fall victim to the idea that they need to hop on a trend to be viable. If you evaluate the desire for change and play out the steps it would take to achieve it, and examine what it would yield, if it isn’t a demonstrable benefit to your business, you need to let it go.
If it’s personal and you think it will make you happier, please refer to the infinite posts and testimonials about money, thinness, and marriage not being the magic elixirs for happiness.
If you’ve found that the change or improvement you desire is realistic, next ask yourself:
What is holding me back from doing it?
Fear? A sense of unworthiness? Laziness? I’m not judging you. I’m actually being serious.
Knowing what you want is a very small aspect of achieving it. Understanding obstacles, opportunities, and wherewithal is a huge part of setting yourself up for success.
Take a look at yourself, your business, and your hopes. I promise you that helping drive all of it to a place of accomplishment has nothing to do with a pursuit of perfection.
It will happen through an appreciation of what makes you and your business inimitably who and what they are and allowing yourself permission to conceive new ways of improving them.
Back to that idea of perfection, it’s a concept with a transitory measurement. Proximity to a state that feels nearly perfect, that’s something you can do.