“Practice makes perfect”…
Wait, that’s impossible.
“Practice makes more consistent performance.”
Perfection isn’t my goal. Perfection isn’t even on my radar. Why? Because, honestly, I think perfection is a myth. Think about it. Humans always need a goal, and some of us are very, very good at what we do. But there’s always one more step, one more detail, one more application of our skills to be invented. And then there are mistakes we make throughout the learning process. Mistakes without which we couldn’t achieve any level of excellence, but that darken our record nonetheless.
I supposed there could be one way to define perfection that would make it achievable: If perfection was a yes/no question in which a person is asked if they accomplished their task. Reducing achievements to a binary “yes” or “no” would make it possible to reach perfection, but unfortunately, most things in life are not simple enough to adequately sum up that way.
For instance: Did I run a marathon? Yes, I did… BUT my time was slow, I had injuries I had to deal with afterword, I didn’t lose as much weight as I wanted to, etc. On and on and on, YES, I completed my goal- but I could have done better. Thus we see that reducing an accomplishment to a binary answer doesn’t adequately sum up the experience. My marathon experience was indeed NOT perfect, even though I did accomplish my goal.
Ok, maybe “perfection” isn’t the right term to describe, well, anything. I can’t think of any facet of life that can honestly be qualified that way. Not behavior, as the life experiences necessary to develop perfect behavior require making mistakes along the way. Not skill, as there are always new levels to gain and new applications to explore. Not in art or music, as the very act of creation is messy and the product means something different to every consumer. Even the ellipses of the planets around the sun can’t be described as perfect, as Mercury’s orbit breaks a bunch of physical laws.
But what happens when we believe that perfection is a necessary component of a happy life? The answer is simple: Cognitive dissonance. We know we need to be perfect. We also know that we can’t be perfect. Both can’t be true, so something’s gotta give. Let me recommend a solution:
You could call it proficiency, satisfactoriness, capability. Good-enough-ness. Get-the-job-done-ity. Reliability.
Lets apply the concept of adequacy to my marathon. Did I finish my marathon? Yes. Was it adequate? Yes- I finished ten minutes faster than my previous marathon. Am I satisfied? Yes! Could I do better later? Of course.
In making adequacy my goal, I’m able to achieve my goal and feel good about it, yet still identify the areas that could be improved for later goals. Perfection has undertones of finality, adequacy has undertones of a continuing journey. In my own religious/philosophical viewpoint, there is no end, so there will always be room for improvement. It’s a beautiful thought to me that even God himself may continue to learn and gain new levels of proficiency in his skill set.
I know I’ll never be a perfect wife, mother, musician, cook, organizer, home-maintainer, friend, etc. I also know that if perfection was my goal in any of these things, I would fall very short and feel very bad about it. As it is, I know I’m an adequate wife, mother, musician, cook, organizer, home-maintainer, friend, etc., and I’m satisfied with my performance. I’m constantly improving and happy to do so.
I don’t have to be perfect to kick ass.