Why you should aim for improvement — not perfection
Perfection is a futile goal. It imposes crippling superhuman standards that paralyze the pursuer into inaction under the weight of unattainable expectations. Meanwhile, the aim for improvement is a noble endeavor that respects the natural process of human growth. Improvement is always rational. It is comprised of a series of chronological thresholds that are always within reach, one foot in front of the other.
Perfectionism is a mirage in the middle of the desert.
You think you are getting closer and closer only for it to disappear, leaving you dehydrated and exhausted and in the middle of an empty desert. It imposes unreasonable pressure—every attempt inadequate according to perfectionist standards. You are suffocating your progress by blurring the worthy, underlying goal with an always discouraging measure of perception achievement.
Progress acknowledges step-by-step growth
Progress allows you to measure incremental improvements, satisfying a feeling of accomplishment necessary for sustainable momentum. This momentum helps us keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you are trying to leap from point A to point Z you will burn out when you realize that you landed instead somewhere around point C.
Perfection does not leave room for growth
If you ever feel you have in fact achieved perfection you cut yourself off from the unending potential for growth. If you feel you have reached the pinnacle, you have in fact reached a dead end. You will never revise or improve yourself or your work because you feel it is already perfect. With this pride, you stagnate, feeling there is nothing left to improve so nothing else to do.
Perfection comes from a place of vanity and fear
Perfectionism is hyper-obsessed with our own ego. It is a species of fear. Perfectionists are terrified of not being good enough. It is far too proud to fall short even if falling short is part of the progress process. The obsession with perfection is strictly a mission in the preservation of self-image. It doesn’t care about learning or improvement.
It only cares about appearances. Progress is the pursuit of high standards while perfectionism is the pursuit of ego. Pursuing progress is more concerned with the longevity that continual improvement supports. It comes from a place of humility, admission that we are a human riddled with flaws and mistakes. It comes from a sense of purpose. Methodical progress is more sustainable to the overall goal than the pursuit of shallow but, perhaps, prettier appearances.
Know that quality exists outside of perfection
In fact, quality is only induced by quantity, as the pursuit of quantity is literally the pursuit of progress. And quantity is laden with wrong moves and ugly lessons. But quantity is a pursuit of progress and learning, of correcting, failing, and correcting again. This is the stuff of, not just good, but great work.
Sure it could be better. Arguably, everything ever could be better. But striving for better respects a sequential process, while striving for best is failing from the beginning.
Perfection is the mother of procrastination
Perfectionists are wasting time over analyzing, re-analyzing, second-guessing, self-doubting. This behavior creates a body of drafts rather than a body of work. A body of drafts that stares you in the face with your own perceived inadequacy.
This stifling evidence of inaction only serves to weigh down each step forward until you completely stagnate under the pressure of not-good-enough that turns into never-good-enough.
Give yourself credit
You will always be your own worst critic. This critic can be your friend or enemy. You are better than you think, even when you are not the best. Recognizing this reality in a positive light allows you to positively approach your work with an intent to flexibly improve rather than to rigidly perfect.
Authenticity is better than perfectionism
People appreciate flaws and imperfection. Imperfection is relatable and endearing. People like to be able to be a part of the journey, to follow along with your progress. There is a compelling story of the journey to improvement. Perfectionism is boring, robotic and isolating.
Done is better than perfect
Your worst case scenario is not failing. Rather, it is not doing at all.
What is the worst that could really happen?
Go through this question when you’re hesitating to press ‘send’ or ‘publish.’ And should this worst case scenario occur, is it not simply another brick to add to your house of improvement? Would it not be another constructive lesson to progress your journey? Rejection, failure, mistakes are immensely powerful. Whether this power is destructive or constructive is entirely up to you.
Self-imposed or otherwise, constructive criticism is the vessel of humility one needs to sustain progress. It provides a narrow analysis of where to focus your energy for improvement.
Remember you can always adjust
Your body of work, your goals, your expertise is dynamic. It’s the digital age—nothing is carved in stone anymore. Adjust as you go. Press send, publish, launch and then resend, republish and relaunch. You can revise as you go. Just go.
How do you aim for improvement?
Lauren is based in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to writing here on Pursuit of Daydreams, Lauren’s daydreams consist of all forms of design: Graphic, Fashion, Web, Interior, Art. On any given day, she can be found preoccupied with at least one of the above. She is happiest with a bowl of ice cream in hand.
Also published on Medium.