Michael J. Fox once said, “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
Excellence is a process or pursuit; perfection is a “state” (and a static state at that). If and once one were to reach a state of perfection in anything the quest would be over, no improvement possible, and the passion that drove the pursuit of perfection would die.
Don’t misunderstand. Aspiration for perfection is a noble quest, but there’s a danger and a downside. If the expectation of “perfection” is present, surely you’ll be disappointed if you don’t reach it.
If the charge of being perfect is the standard of success, it’s often easier not to get started than to risk almost certain failure in falling short. Laurence Olivier said it best, “Striving for perfection is the greatest stopper there is. It’s your excuse to yourself for not doing anything. Instead, strive for excellence, doing your best.”
It’s better to be prolific in your striving than starving in stagnation, self-fed with an alluring excuse not to try because you could never be perfect (or at least not right away).
The gift in seeking perfection is that you could never approach that without becoming at first proficient and ultimately excellent; that can be a magnificent obsession.
Intent on seeking perfection (or at least proficiency) in any endeavor or area of your life?
Here’s a formula you can use on your path to mastery or excellence in any undertaking:
In your mind, what does “perfection” look like, feel like, sound like? Write a detailed description of the ideal state (perfection), situation, accomplishment, or objective?
Imagine what “it” looks like just before perfection—your life, your surroundings, your state of achievement so far? Write that description as well?
- What’s your present “reality”, what does it look like—the here and now? Write a detailed description here too.
Now create a plan with key steps, achievements, benchmarks etc. to get started moving from “here” to “just before perfection”. What do you need to do to get started? What do you need to do right now? Who’s help can you enlist? What do you need to learn or know? What will you need to do, get, create, or learn along the way? Create a detailed action plan with activities, times, dates, and performance measurements.
Record your growth, and remember to recognize and celebrate your achievements along the way. Focus on a commitment to progress and consistently move in the right direction on the road toward perfection—that’s the best a person can do.
Another warning–you probably won’t hit “perfection” regardless of how hard, how smart, or how long you work—blunt, but a reality. There’s an invisible, unpredictable barrier in front of you. Your sense and measure of “perfection” will probably change before you get to perfection, which would make it impossible for you to ever achieve.
But excellence is within your reach!