Excellence is not average and perfection is unattainable.
Striving for excellence is a way of thinking. This type of thinking leads to a way of being and pushes you to do better. It is striving for an outcome that is high quality and a cut above the rest.
There has always been this gnawing push inside of me to improve upon myself even if no one else expects it of me.
When I was younger and had no one to play with outside, I would play catch with myself by throwing a rubber ball against the side of a three story building. This particular wall of the building had no windows, so there was no danger of breaking anything. Rather than being satisfied to just throw the rubber ball against the wall and catch it, I needed a challenge so I created a competition between my left arm/hand and right arm/hand.
I would stand in a spot and throw the rubber ball against the wall with my right hand so that my left hand could catch it. Then my left hand would throw the rubber ball against the wall so that my right hand could catch it. The first one to drop the rubber ball or miss the catch five times would be the loser. I remember thinking how lame my left arm was which drove me to try harder and harder to build dexterity in the movements of my left arm and left hand.
Day after day after day I played this game. My lefties improved, but they were never as good as my right handed throws and catches. Given the amount of time I played this game, it always bugged me that I could not make both my arms equally as dextrous at throwing or my hands at catching the rubber ball. Even back then I was striving for excellence, but if truth be told, I was really trying to be perfect.
That attitude extended to every part of my life. I wanted to be perfect at everything I did or attempted to do. When I fell short of my goal which happened every time, I was not only angry with myself, but I was also disappointed that I was obviously not such an awesome person after all.
I’m not here to be average…I’m here to be AWESOME.
Perfection is not awesome. Perfection is unattainable. Being excellent, on the other hand, is not only awesome, but it is attainable.
Excellence Is Satisfied
When children are learning something new, good parents praise their efforts constantly. Although they have not yet mastered the skill, we want our children to gain confidence so they will continue to strive for excellence. The key words are “strive for excellence” not “strive for perfection”. I certainly don’t expect my daughter, mother, other members of my family, friends, or anyone else to be perfect, but somewhere in the back of my mind I feel constantly pushed to try to be perfect.
Just when I think I’ve convinced my brain to be happy with excellent, it suddenly wigs out on me and tells me that I’m not doing something good enough. Sometimes my brain can actually be quite aggravating.
“A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.” ~ John Henry Newman ~
Often people don’t try new things because they fear ridicule, criticism or being harassed. Have you ever known an artist that didn’t paint until he could paint a masterpiece? No one can reach excellence without first practicing and making mistakes.
Since perfection cannot be attained, the goal should be towards excellence. Once reached, what next? I think this is where many people get hung up. Once you have excelled and reached the goal, be happy and satisfied!
There’s two different levels of excelling and being satisfied. The first is with things. If you are baking a cake, building a table, or knitting a sweater, once the task is completed excellently, your feelings can lean towards being happy and satisfied at a job well done. You will always be open to ways to get a little better, but it isn’t supposed to be an overwhelming pursuit for perfection.
In relationships this concept works a little differently. When you have a partner or friend, even though they are not perfect, you still care for them. You don’t discard those relationships because they are not perfect and keep looking for a better partner and friend. There is a point in time in any relationship that you’re either satisfied or you leave them behind because they only bring unhappiness into your life. Not being a perfect person or having relationships with perfect people are not a reasons to be unhappy. That is just messed up thinking.
“To escape criticism — do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” ~ Elbert Hubbard ~
As much as I would like to say that my obsessiveness for perfection is in my past, I just can’t tell that lie. This is something I constantly work on and try to temper in my personality because it is detrimental to my happiness. I don’t expect perfection from other people and am quite happy with them regardless of their flaws. However, when I become extremely critical of myself, I begin to forget that I do anything right. I even start to question my value as a human being, so obviously a perfectionist attitude is not good.
Patience and tolerance with yourself is as important as it is with other people. Accept your own inadequacies and flaws. Don’t wallow in them, but accept that you are doing your best and strive to be better. “Strive” not “obsess” and there’s a big difference between the two attitudes.
“Unless I accept my faults I will most certainly doubt my virtues.” ~ Hugh Prather ~
Since Alyssa has been gone, I have found it hard to get excited about anything. I force myself to laugh when I don’t feel like it, talk when I have nothing to say, and mingle with people when I just want to hide. I not only feel fat, but I feel old, used up and not needed. It has been a real struggle. I feel so vulnerable.
One of the things that I have been working on is my online store. There are so many details to get aligned as well as products to create. I’ve made a rather comprehensive list and slowly I’m starting to see progress. The whole process is keeping me very busy and at times I start to feel overwhelmed because I want it finished now. Well, not only finished now, but done perfectly. When it hits me hard, I step back and either clean my home, buy groceries, cook something yummy, exercise with the women on the television, or take a nap.
To help you not give into the perfection trap, there are several things you can do…
- Be present. Remain in today. Now is the only moment you can enjoy. You can’t go back and you can’t go forward.
- No one is perfect. Don’t feel rejected because you’re not perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist.
- Set realistic goals. Steadily progress toward excellence. Take it one day at a time while practicing patience with situations, other people and yourself.
- Be happy while you strive for excellence and when you attain it.
- Remain keenly aware of your self-talk. I often share my self-talk with you so that you see how I get to the point I’m writing about, but also so that you don’t feel so alone in your head. When your mind runs away and discards your positive thoughts, it helps to know that other people have the same problems.
So, today I will continue working on the details of my online store, drink plenty of water, catch up on my blog and social media comments, make/take a few phone calls, and take a nap in the sunshine. The one thing I’m pretty sure about is that if it requires pants or a bra, it’s not happening today.