Recently I came across a great quote from Mark Twain.
Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.
Sadly, we live in a culture that worships perfection.
Many people wear perfectionism like a badge of honor, believing that anything less is unacceptable. But there’s a big problem here. Setting impossibly high standards leads to procrastination and anxiety. It kills innovation and stifles creativity. Perfectionists not only are harsh self-critics, but are quick to judge others who fail to meet their criteria of perfection.
Now there’s nothing wrong with striving for excellence and setting goals to improve yourself – it’s admirable! Perfection, however, is a deadly trap. I know, because I fight it every day.
It all boils down to self-centered fear – of not measuring up, making a mistake, disappointing someone (like yourself), looking foolish, being less than the best at something. Really bad news at work (especially for writers!) and toxic to relationships. At the end of the day, perfectionism just sucks the joy out of life.
So I watch the birds – and notice they don’t struggle with perfectionism.
Here’s a cattle egret chick, flapping his wings like crazy, while his siblings watch. Do you think he’s self-conscious, afraid he’s not doing it right? Nah!
And as I watched this tricolored heron flap around, he lost his balance a few times, but got right back up on that branch and tried again. Imagine – not embarrassed at all!
Eventually, that cattle egret got it right. Just a few weeks after trying out his wings, he took off from the nest, and I watched him soar fearlessly across the water. You go, little cattle egret!
So go ahead and take a risk.
Practice spontaneity. Try something new. Dance like a darned fool if you want to. Accept and celebrate your failures as well as your successes – they’re what make you beautifully, wonderfully, imperfectly human. And you know what’s really ironic? God didn’t make a mistake; you are already perfect.