Deep within the nature of every human being is the desire to better our lives and experiences. Growth is as natural for individuals as it is for seeds and nature.
This desire for growth goes beyond self and leads to actions that serve and bless others. Parents want a better life for their children. Teachers want their students to learn and grow. Mentors want those that they lead to seize opportunities and make a difference.
The call to “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48) is a call to better ourselves. It is a grand vision and perspective of our potential as human beings and our ability to be greater than our challenges, our weaknesses, and our emotions.
In the quest for a better life of success and significance, perfection or “the ideal” can be our downfall if not understood and utilized effectively.
UNHEALTHY USES OF PERFECTION
If you were to start walking toward the horizon how long would it take you and when would you arrive? The answer is never. No matter your speed the horizon will always be quicker than you are. Why? Because it is a moving target.
Years ago, when my wife and I were just starting our family, we were living in Colorado Springs, Colorado where I owned a health clinic and was a natural health coach and advisor. We had the chance to “adopt” a cadet from the local U.S. Air Force Academy.
One of the conversations we had with this young man still sticks out to me as he was describing the culture of the academy. He described one of the ways in which new cadets were molded, both physically and mentally.
He shared how they would often go running as groups but wouldn’t be told how far they were going to run. Some days it would just be a couple of miles but on other days it would be for ten plus.
When you are focused on perfection it is like going on a run where you will never stop. For some that may seem like fun but even Forest Gump had to stop at some point.
THE TREADMILL OF THE UNACHIEVABLE
Running toward the horizon, with no specific measurement tools or benchmarks along the way will lead to unhappiness, burn-out, frustration, and fatigue. For short periods of time this may be acceptable (like a morning run) but when this thought pattern and habit persists it can be detrimental.
These early warning signs of frustration, worry, and stress can easily turn into patterns of burn-out, anger, alienation, and resentment. It will eventually decimate your confidence and effectiveness as a leader, spouse, friend, and influencer.
If you are intensely focused on the moving horizon, no matter what you achieve and the accolades you accomplish, it will never be enough. You’ll find that your achievements, awards, and the profits you earn will leave you empty and hallow, always dissatisfied with your destinations.
Impatience often rules in the mind of someone focused on being perfectly perfect. You may also feel an increase in frustration and a decrease in productivity as you look back at the end of every day and find that the necessary steps to achieve a better life never occurred.
When you judge your own success by unachievable perfection you’ll find that in your down moments you’ll judge those closest to you by those same standards. You’ll notice what they didn’t accomplish and why what they are doing isn’t enough. Instead of seeing progress and experiencing joy on your path, you’ll see walls, barriers, impossibility, and lack of fulfillment.
PERFECTION IN ITS PROPER LIGHT
The target of perfection can be both inspiring and daunting but to see it in its proper light is imperative to your happiness and success.
Perfection needs to be channeled into a specific vision for something better. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s impossible to get there. When a vision is specific and focused it:
- Fills you with inspiration and motivation
- Unleashes your passion, especially when you mix it with your past hero’s journey (struggles and successes)
- Guides your thoughts and actions
As you get specific about your destination find ways to move toward it every day. In reality, there is no tomorrow. Your future is created in the actions you take right now; the actions you take today.
Measure your progress by listing your wins that have moved you toward your destination daily. This little habit has the power to transform your mind and heal your self-esteem. It is a small lever that has the leverage to move the “heaviness” of change.