Aim for Progress…Not Perfection

In facilitating a recent workshop on personal development, I heard many in the group express frustration over not being where they thought they would be at this point in their lives.  They felt as if they hadn’t reached the perfection for which they had been striving and had fallen short of their goals. Wow, I can relate to that one! As the saying goes, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans.”

Seeking perfection is a lofty ambition, but chances are, it’s not going to happen…at least in the way we picture it in our minds. Real life takes time and sometimes we get side-tracked or things don’t fall into place quite the way we planned. But consider this: we are human and our imperfections are what make us perfect.

In my own endeavors, this is what I have learned: When I focus on making progress and getting better with every step rather than achieving perfection, I am happier and less frustrated. When you see your goal as a journey rather than an end-point, you get pleasure in every incremental improvement along the way. This doesn’t mean that you don’t always try your best; it simply offers a way to reach your goal in a healthier way. Expecting and demanding perfection of yourself 100% of the time is a prescription for frustration.

Many things in the world contribute to our belief that we must achieve perfection or we will not ever be worthy or able to fulfill our dreams. Take the advertising business, for example….we are bombarded with air-brushed beauties and surgically enhanced bodies in magazines, movies and on our televisions. Every time I see a Victoria’s Secret model, I want to wear a sleeping bag to cover up my imperfections! I think Victoria’s biggest secret is that not many real women with their original body parts look like one of their “angels” in underwear! Whether it is appearance, athleticism, financial success or anything else we hold as a goal, we are healthier and more balanced when we realize that if it takes us a while or even if we never reach perfection, the journey is the most important part because that’s where we learn.

We also deal with competition in most areas of life and we tend to focus on the end point rather than the process. When we expect immediate perfection rather than steady progress, we become frustrated.  It helps to remember that our struggles of today will be our strong foundation in the future.  Also, focusing only on perfection can sometimes inhibit creativity.

Most people who achieve perfect scores in any life event, have traveled a long journey to reach that end because there aren’t many shortcuts. When we are working toward something, we need to feel like we are on the road to somewhere and that we’re growing while we’re going. Those growth spurts take place through mistakes, failures and setbacks. They are a part of reaching goals, and perfection really doesn’t need to be the only prize! And actually….not achieving the goal of perfection could mean there is a greater destiny waiting to be discovered!

And finally….remember that imperfections are what separate the true art from the manufactured products!

Linda Henley-Smith is a speaker and coach who is full of imperfections! Her latest book is titled “Slightly Irregular Underwear…Sometimes Imperfections are Perfect!” http://www.lindahenley-smith.com

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