I overheard a group of women in the locker room as I was getting changed for my usual lunchtime workout session. One complained after weighing herself for what she claimed was the fourth time in two weeks. "I still haven't lost any weight," she said. "I'm not coming back."
From the outside looking in – me being a stranger and all – it appeared that her imperfect results had inspired her to quit the gym altogether. It seemed as though the process of getting fit was too taxing and possibly just taking too long for her. I don't know how long she had been coming to the gym prior to this conversation with her and her friends, but apparently it wasn't working out how she had planned.
I, however, walked into the gym with a different mindset:
Progress, not perfection.
Too often, we want to get things right the first time we try. We want to go in and be perfect. We want to create and be perfect. We want the perfect end result and the perfect time to align them and manifest nothing but perfection. And we'd rather do nothing than settle for anything less than that.
We quit, or never even start, because the time isn't perfect, or the perfect results aren't immediate. We choose not to produce, or complete what we're creating, because we're held up by an idea of perfectionism that doesn't always align with the work we're producing. For many of us, it's either perfection or failure – there is no middle ground.
But we forget the most important part: It's our progress, not our perfection, which gets results. It's what we produce, not how perfect we produce it. While yes, we want to do things well, we cannot allow our desire to do things perfectly stop us from doing things at all.
We can't continue to excuse our inactivity by suggesting that the moments, or circumstances, we currently have aren't perfect enough to manifest greatness. The weather is too cold to go for a run, so we don't. The job isn't right to start setting the stage for better professional opportunities, so we don't. The camera we have isn't perfect for starting a photography career, so instead, we do nothing. The website isn't nice enough, so we don't advertise it. We constantly run from our goals because we feel that the hand we're dealt isn't conducive to the dreams we have. We feel that, if we had a little more money, time, resources – you know, the "perfect" circumstance – then we could really get to work. But in allowing ourselves to stay stagnant because of imperfection, we're doing a disservice to ourselves and those we're meant to serve with our gift.
Instead of striving for perfection, we should be striving for progress.
The truth is, our idea of perfection will constantly evolve as we do. But you may never get there if you don't start somewhere. If you keep allowing your perfection – or lack thereof – to handicap your progress, you will never do or experience anything.
Spiritually, we are people of flaws, and those flaws will present themselves in our behaviors and our creations – especially as we tackle them for the first time. However, that imperfection should not stop us from getting things done.
So, instead of waiting for the perfect time or stressing about creating the perfect product, commit yourself to making progress. To get it done well – not perfectly. To take one step forward of starting to complete tasks on your to-do list(s). To accomplish one more thing off your list of goals. To grow, or learn, or do a bit more in all aspects of your life. Because as each day passes, you'll be one step closer to where you want to be.
If we remember that it is our steps that bring us to growth and completion, not our perfection, we will better position ourselves for greatness.
New things, or trying them, will never be perfect. They will require you to stumble and fall sometimes. They are every part of trial and error that perfectionism can't stand. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do those new things; it just means that you should welcome imperfection.
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