Perfection is unattainable.
I know this.
You know this.
We know this.
So, why is it that I find myself waking every morning surprised and, honestly, disappointed that I am still living this imperfect life?
I am young. I know that I have yet to experience the true disappointments of the world. I still see things as a little shinier than they are. I still find myself debating if the world had always been this bad or if my youth had made me blissfully ignorant, as I adorned the world through my rose-colored glasses.
When I set out to accomplish a goal, I always start off with an unrelenting amount of gusto and determination. I am highly motivated, ready to make a change, and confident that it will go perfectly. But, as time goes by, and reality sets in, the goals that once seemed so achievable are now feeling further and further from my reach. I struggle to recapture the energy and excitement that I once possessed, because with every rejection, failure, or misstep that energy and excitement has steadily turned its back to me.
That glory, that perfect thing I aspired to capture, that perfect, live-changing goal seems to be nothing, but a mirage conjured up in my thirst for a new life.
A different life.
A perfect life.
But as I told you, perfection is unattainable.
I know this.
You know this.
We know this.
Yet, I still find myself constantly searching for perfection in every corner and crevice of my life, because although I know perfection is unattainable, my brain has yet to fathom that perfection, regardless of my unshakable plans, cannot be obtained.
Then, instead of appreciating where I have come, I spend most of my time focused on where I have been and where I will never go. I resign myself to the idea that the battle has been lost. That all the work I have accomplished that led me here have been for not. Instead of seeing myself as progressive, I slap a failure sign on yet another fallen plan. I cry tears of anger and disappointment, ignoring that unrelenting fact that keeps knocking at the forefront of my mind: Perfection is unattainable...but progress is not.
Striving for continuous improvement instead of perfection should be the goal.
So, why is that every chance that we get to give ourselves a pat on the back, for coming as far as we have come, ends up being a shove into ongoing traffic? Why is it that instead of appreciating how far we've come, we glumly look at the miles we have to go? Why is that we can give everyone we love and care for a break for being "perfectly imperfect" but we still find the cracks in our own formidable foundations? Why are we so hard on ourselves?
Well, it's simple really: we spend most of our time aspiring for perfection instead of progress. There's a fine line between striving to do better and never getting anything done because you're trying to make it better. And until we acknowledge that line, we will continue to reflect in our inability to ever be "satisfied."
So, if you're like me and you want to leave this toxic cycle of unhealthy self-criticism, inconsistent motivation, and flawlessness mindset behind, check out the tips below. With this, you and I can stop our unattainable attempt at perfection and simply appreciate our progression.
The Hindrance of Perfection
Here are some ways that perfectionism might have stopped you from realizing achievable goals:
It slows you down.
Trying to achieve perfection requires more energy, focus, and time. When you narrowly focus your attention on details, things take more time, which can dwindle your energy and tire you out. This makes it more difficult to make meaningful change.
It leads to self-criticism.
When you fall short of a goal, your judgmental inner voice can start throwing insults your way, creating a never-ending battle with yourself. This self-imposed mental assault may lead you to abandon your goal completely. Worse yet, you may be left with an underlying sense that you'll never have the resources or the ability to achieve your goals.
It hinders new ideas and ways of doing things.
When your concentration is directed toward flawlessness, you lose the ability to be aware and open to other possibilities. Perfectionism can keep you stuck doing the same thing over and over again with the same result.
It makes your motivation inconsistent.
By focusing on perfection, you tend to think in terms of black or white. Win or lose. Fail or succeed. There is no gray or middle ground. This type of thinking can make your motivation rather inconsistent. For instance, when things are going well, you might feel confident, skilled, and capable. These positive emotions can encourage you to keep going. But as soon as things turn for the worst, you start feeling discouraged and uninspired. These negative emotions tend to taint your energy and enthusiasm, which makes it tough to pursue the goal.
The Beauty of Progression
Focusing on progress instead of perfection, can make it much easier and enjoyable to reach your goals. Here are some benefits of focusing on progress:
It convinces you to keep going.
It can be empowering to look back and see the progress you've made despite challenges you've endured. When things become difficult, draw on your past successes to propel you forward. Reflecting on your progress can also reinforce the belief that you can change — that your goals are within your reach. This belief in yourself fuels your motivation and can sustain you during challenging times.
It encourages a mindset of learning, not failure.
In the business world, there is a term used to describe the concept of viewing each mistake as an opportunity to learn from what went wrong, rather than as a win-or-lose proposition. It's called "failing forward," or "failing up." Try applying this concept to your daily life. The word "failure" becomes obsolete because there are only learning experiences on the path to achieving your goals. When you focus on what you've learned, it takes the pressure off and gives you space to experiment with new approaches to see what works and what doesn't. The path to obtaining your goal becomes more enjoyable.
It gives you more reasons to celebrate.
By focusing on progress, your eyes are open to each accomplishment and success, no matter how small. With this awareness, it becomes possible to celebrate every breakthrough. You'll relish the next step because you're excited about what the future holds.
Perfectionism isn't sustainable because life is ever-changing and perfection does not exist. There will always be new trials and tribulations that will sway you from your original goal. You'll need to be nimble and flexible to manage all the challenges life hands you. By focusing on progress, you can more easily overcome obstacles, because you know there will be ups and downs. You know that you don't have to be perfect. You know that the path to success isn't a straight line but rather sharp, unexpected turns. Knowing this keeps you on the path to accomplishing your goals.
So, next time you find yourself trying to be perfect, beating yourself up for each misstep, remember this: perfection is unattainable. Instead, identify one or two actions you can take to solve a problem you may have, reframe past failure, and see it as progress. But most importantly, set realistic goals.
Strive for progression instead.
Featured image by Getty Images
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