It’s Not About Doing Things Perfectly

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““It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.” — Teddy Roosevelt

In P90X3, The Challenge, Tony Horton makes a great comment after one of his fitness students struggles to complete her reps:

“…Another great example of not getting all freaked out and making them pretty.

P90, X2, or X3, now…none of this is about a bunch of people doing things perfectly. 

That’s for some other clown’s workout, not ours.

This is the real world. I sometimes misspeak. I say push ups, instead of pull ups…blah, blah, blah.

But the workout is still real.”

Every time I hear Tony Horton say that, it reminds me to try things.

Try Stuff, Even If It’s Not Perfect

It reminds me to keep things real and not get caught up in perfection, or the ideal that does not exist.

It reminds me just to try…to give my best effort… to get in the arena and go for it… even if it’s not pretty and it’s not perfect.

That’s the essence and foundation for personal growth.

And  it’s that fundamental mindset that sets the stage to be able to practice the things that lead to doing great things, even if it’s not pretty, and it’s not perfect.

It’s not about perfection.

It’s about progress… and progress is actually one of the secrets to happiness.

When we grow, we light up our life, even if it’s in some small way.

10 Reminders About Not Doing Things Perfectly

Too many people die with their music still in them, or they never realize their potential, because they get caught up in perfection.

Here are a few of my other favorite reminders about not worrying about doing things perfectly:

  1. A friend of mine was good about reminding me: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  That was his way of saying to me, focus on “good enough for now” so we could move on the next challenge, and not get stuck in analysis paralysis or the perfection trap.
  2. Similarly, Voltaire put it, ““The best is the enemy of the good.”  Voltaire always has a way with words.
  3. I always liked the phrase: “Make it work, then make it right.”   (balanced with the idea that if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over 😉  … another way to think of this is, don’t get caught up in pre-mature perfection.
  4. Perfection is a journey, not a destination.  Enjoy the journey of learning and mastery.   This is the essence of continuous improvement.   Thinking back, this is really the big idea that helped me avoid a life of worrying about perfection, and instead, focus on progress.
  5. Focus on progress over perfection.  I always liked the idea that to get better at something, you have to do it more than once.  It takes practice.  You can’t practice very much if you are caught up in perfection.  When I think about it like that, it reminds me of Simon Sinek’s phrasing, “Better is better than best.”
  6. One of my best mentors was good at asking, “Is it effective?”   That was a much better focus, than worrying about some arbitrary notion or measure of perfection.  It was a simple reminder that if it wasn’t working, change your approach.   It’s far better to focus on effectiveness, improvement, or progress.   That’s where the growth is.
  7. As Confucius put it, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”  Talk about trading up.
  8. As Shakespeare put it, “Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well.”  I’ve seen so many good things, come to an end, either for the sake of perfection, or over-doing something that was better in it’s rough and useful form.  I’ve seen some great art, great ideas, and great projects die that way.  Sometimes you just need to leave well enough alone.
  9. As my mechanic always said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”   He was incredibly pragmatic about where to invest time and energy, and not to throw good money after bad.
  10. As Leo Tolstoy put it, “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”   It’s one thing to have great expectations, but don’t let your expectations drain the juice out of your life.  It’s far more effective to embrace imperfect, the Wabi-sabi way.

Perfectionism Is Fundamentally Flawed

Here’s what Wikipedia says about perfectionism:

“Perfectionism: a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.”

Yuck.

Don’t Fear Perfection

The good news is you don’t ever have to fear perfection.

As Salvador Dali reminds us with his inspiring words:

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”

How perfect is that?

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