The other day I was speaking with a dancer about perfection. Dancers constantly strive for perfection, but it’s an unattainable goal. No matter how well they perform, no matter how seemingly perfect their last pirouette, no matter how amazing their last double tour…it can always be better.
Some people feel fine with “good enough.” Others, like this person I spoke with, aren’t happy with doing their best or even doing better each day. They want to be perfect.
This attitude spills over into life in general. “I want to be the best dancer, the best friend, the best spouse. It drives me crazy.”
Indeed, it can drive you crazy. And here’s the rub: If you are never satisfied with doing your best and getting better each day, you’ll never even see perfection. And that stops you from achieving it.
See Perfection First
You can’t achieve that which you can’t see or appreciate. So, if you strive for perfection—if perfection is even possible to achieve—you must first train yourself to see it and appreciate it. That means seeing perfection in:
- A leaf of grass
- A snowflake
- The face of a puppy
- An encounter with a stranger
- Your conversation with a friend
- A cup of coffee
- Your walk to work
- Your night’s sleep
- The way the sun shines on a puddle
- The cloud cover
Feel Gratitude for Small Perfections
Every day, you experience a multitude of perfect moments, experiences and things. Train yourself to notice them. Then train yourself to express gratitude for them. Say a simple prayer: Thank you God for the sun peeking through the clouds so perfectly. Thank you God for the moment of perfect joy I saw on that child’s face. Thank you God for that perfect bite of croissant. And thank others…
Keep a gratitude journal. Write five things in it each night that were perfect…or as close to perfect as possible. Voice your gratitude for those moments or experiences, no matter how small.
Take Small Steps
Remember that you can get to perfect by doing your best or by doing a little bit better each day. No one—or very few people—do anything perfectly the first time. Studies say that it can take up to 10,000 hours to truly learn to do something well. So, take small steps. Chunk it down. Whatever it is you want to do, do it just a little bit better each day and one day you will do it really well–maybe even perfectly.
Also know, like a dancer, even when you do something perfectly, it’s highly likely that once you’ve accomplished that goal, you’ll find you can do it better–or someone else will.
For this reason, excellence represents a better goal than perfection. Perfection is fleeting but excellence endures. As you daily do your best and become better, you will achieve a level of excellence, and this only continues to grow over time if you continue to strive for higher levels of excellence.
What do you think? Can you achieve perfection? Is it a worthwhile quest? Or is excellence a better goal?