“Perfection is the lowest standard any human can have.” — Heather Forbes
The quote was written in respect to raising children but I suppose it applies to life in general. You can only achieve perfection in very narrow spaces. You cannot explore or enjoy anything outside that narrow space unless you are willing to be imperfect and to make mistakes. Being perfect is a trap. It implies a self-image problem.
An imperfection is your friend. A mistake is how you learn, but only if you can admit the mistake exists and only if you understand and accept the lessons they display. People who wish to appear perfect cannot admit a mistake, and so can never see the lesson.
The key to understanding the quote is that perfection is situational. You can be perfect at some simple task. Shuffling cards perhaps. You cannot be perfect at any complicated task because there is always more to learn. If you decide to be perfect at a complex task, like raising children or running a business or advising clients, then you must redefine perfection to suit yourself, by limiting the parameters. That fails.
I have noticed that smarter people are aware that what they know is only a little of what there is to know while lesser minds think they know a large share of what there is to know. The more you learn, the more you discover that what you don’t know is bigger than you thought.
Once you think you know enough, you are done. You cannot grow and you cannot become more capable. You will be a social pariah because most people will not find you engaging. Life will be about defending yourself rather than expanding yourself.
As a strategy, seeking perfection is a losing one.
Life is more fun, and thus easier, if you try a lot things, quickly quit doing things that don’t work, carry forward the lessons from those mistakes, and let the good decisions run until they don’t. Be always on the lookout for fun, interesting, challenging, and potentially fulfilling opportunities. Take a course, meet a new person, help someone, write, read, exercise, play, pray, try something you know you will not be good at doing, at first.
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
William H. Purkey
I would bet that people who share Purkey’s view spend no time whatsoever thinking about perfection. They don’t need to, they are having too much fun.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.
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