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Progress vs Perfection

We’ve all heard “nobody’s perfect,” and we all pretty much know that includes ourselves.

So, I am constantly challenged to understand why people feel that any situation will ever be perfect before they will make a move. Instead, they stay put, waiting for the date to be right, the money to be right, the place, the position, and on and on.

And guess what? It’s never perfect.

And so they don’t progress.

Ah - there’s a word: progress. Let’s talk about progress and how it is what you should focus on, because frankly there’s no perfect out there. For the person looking to succeed, the understanding is that there is no finish line, and that’s a good thing.

Progress is ever-moving, fluid and even so it’s something you can measure, whereas perfection is a subjective term and really as difficult to nail down as it is to nail jello to a wall. When I sit down with a client we establish a baseline, a “Point A,” and we work on a plan based on a personality assessment to determine their motivators.

We can then set small goals, day to day, week to week, month to month etc., to measure what they have achieved. Is it perfect? Nope. But it’s progress, and it’s movement toward personal development and improvement from where they started. Perfection, on the other hand, is far more rigid and tends to stifle motivation because again things are never “just right.” I just talked about procrastination in a previous blog, and often you’ll find perfectionists in this camp.

When people have reached a goal, they’re excited, energized and ready to work toward the next goal. Perfection on the other hand always finds flaws, errors, and (if we’re really honest) excuses to keep from any progress. That will sap anyone’s energy and enthusiasm. Goal setting should make you want to jump out of bed in the morning (progress) and not hide under the covers (perfection).

I learned many years ago when someone first asked me what I saw in the mirror that I wore a mask to appear OK and happy and successful...and it was killing me, really. What I changed from that moment on is how being REAL and authentic and open is the key to progress. This transparency is freedom, and again it serves to energize me.

You’ve likely heard the saying as well that in the pursuit of success, there is no finish line. In other words, progress has no end. There is always ways we can improve. If that sounds frustrating, think of a time you finished a project that you put all your effort into over a period of time. It was no doubt rewarding, but perhaps after a little time, you may have started to feel a little lost, even adrift.

It can almost be a letdown to come to the finish of something, and it can set you back a little while you try and regroup to answer the question, “now what?” Progress, because it’s measured in increments, is its own destination. In many ways, you are always “there” at the finish line while the next one is just ahead.

Conversely, the need for perfection puts you in an endless race as well, but it’s a race that is pointless because you will never get to perfection. There’s nothing to celebrate, ever.

Finally, people who focus on progress, not perfection, are generally more positive, happier, and maintain a great energy that make people wonder what they had for breakfast. That’s because progress looks at what IS working, how you’ve improved from the previous time, and what you’ve learned in the process. That’s good stuff.

Perfection and we all know someone who is a perfectionist, seems to always focus on what’s wrong. Perfectionists never seem happy in my experience. Nothing is ever good enough, so disappointment is a constant in their life. I’m not sure how they can enjoy anything, really, and I wonder how they can maintain relationships.

So, where do YOU stand? Where do you want to stand? We’re all imperfect, so let’s focus on getting closer to better and best. The only way there is to take the path that progress puts us on. It’s simple enough to start and once you start seeing progress, you end up wondering why you didn’t start sooner.