This week, I heard a phrase that has been used for many years within the self-help/therapy/recovery world: “Progress, not Perfection.” For some reason, even though I’m sure I’ve heard it before, it was as if I was hearing it for the first time, with new ears, and a new understanding of its meaning…..Progress, not Perfection, indeed.
I have certainly been guilty of expecting perfection. In some things, there’s just no gray area for me – until now. If someone says they’ve quit smoking, for example, and they light up again – then they haven’t quit. There’s no gray area. So, to me it would seem that they are not holding up to the expectation of perfection that they or others have set for themselves. By definition, there would be no other expectation, especially if they’ve made a promise to quit to someone else. But here’s the thing….nothing is truly perfect. No behavior, statement, action, decision, etc. can ever be 100% perfect. And if something is perfect – then it’s usually perfect only for the person who is viewing it that way. Why? Because Perfection is entirely subjective.
So, if the smoker, who wants to quit (and says they have) lights up again – it isn’t perfect. But if that same smoker used to smoke a pack a day, and now only smokes a pack every two or three weeks – then it’s progress. Progress, and practice, ultimately leads to individual perfection. What do I mean by that?
Progress, and the steady commitment to progress, is, in itself, the definition of perfection. Among other things, “Perfection” is defined as “the state or quality of being or becoming perfect.” At the end of the day, perfection isn’t the ultimate goal; it can’t be. If it were, everything thereafter wouldn’t be able to exist. It’s more of a process by which we learn, grow, experience, and share ourselves with others, in order to (hopefully) offer them the same opportunities for peace, wellness and serenity.
It’s this process and the progress we make that allows us to ultimately say, “this is perfect, for me,” because we’re never truly out of our own perfect place. We’re always where we’re meant to be, for what we need to learn and experience; and that, in itself, is perfect.
So….when we hold ourselves to an expectation of Perfection – we are destined to never achieve it. But when we hold ourselves to the expectation of Progress, we are, in fact, perfect.
In love and light,