Pushing ourselves to do our best is clearly one of the keys to success. However, don’t confuse the noble act of trying our best with the noble act of pushing ourselves to perfection. They may sound similar but they are dramatically different. Doing our best requires a discipline to take no shortcuts in our effort, and perform at our very finest. But perfection is a whole different story, and the pursuit of it can do far more to destroy what we are putting forward than to perfect it.
We can control our effort, but we cannot control our outcome. Remembering this helps us to optimize both.
It’s not a crime to pursue perfection; it’s just a mistake. If even one shred of evidence existed to prove otherwise, I’d be a fan of perfection, but in fact, the pursuit of perfection only works against us. After all, one of the greatest strengths we possess – when we perform at our highest level – is the ability to perform unencumbered by tension. Do you believe, for one second, that focusing on perfection will decrease tension?
Perfection happens on rare occasions, but it is not something that the best of the best actively try to achieve. If you ask someone who actually achieves perfection, he or she will almost always tell you that they did not even contemplate perfection while attempting to accomplish it. They knew that the mere thought of it would create tension, and so that moves them further away from it. When a pitcher is pitching late in a ballgame, and in the position to possibly pitch a perfect game, watch how carefully the other players do all they can to not focus on the potential feat at hand. Other than pitching performances and bowling, there is almost no sport or occupation that even allows for perfection and yet, instinctively, we seem determined to pursue it.
I say, let’s pursue imperfection! Let’s give ourselves a pep talk and remind ourselves of this: Our imperfections, and our ability to deal with what happens when we are outside of our comfort zone, is what will truly impress people. Instead of fearing what might go wrong, why not embrace what might go wrong as an opportunity to show others the real you?
When things go wrong, we allow those who are judging us to see a more intimate, and unrehearsed, side of us. Typically, these moments cannot be planned for because they often happen organically, but that spontaneous side of ourselves is what many really want to see. When we have to deal with an unforeseen situation, it shows others how we behave under pressure, in the real world. This human side lets others see your true character. Fashion designer and author Lauren Conrad once said:
“Imperfection is relatable.”
I once heard a story about Richard Harris that truly illustrates this point. He had played the part of King Arthur in Camelot, countless times over the course of his career. During a performance in his later years, he actually forgot the words to one of his signature songs. Although the orchestra attempted to cover for him, he signaled the orchestra to stop playing the song. For a brief moment, the audience gasped as he walked towards them and said, “I must confess, I have forgotten the words. Perhaps, if it is not too much trouble, you could help me to remember them.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the building as the audience stood in unison and sang, together, the immortal “Camelot.” I’m quite sure it was an experience that no one in attendance would ever forget. I wish I had been there.
The pursuit of perfection is a noble cause, but the acceptance of imperfection can actually give you a wonderful opportunity to just be you. If you can embrace the imperfections when they make their surprise appearances, you will find that it will bring you closer to those around you. Your smile and easygoing attitude will be on display and will win over everyone there… and they’ll love you for it!