Strive for Progress and not Perfection- An essay by our student Sylvester
“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
When addicts are released from rehabilitation centers, they are told to follow a mantra: “Take one day at a time.” This means that, they just have to spend the day at their hand without succumbing to the temptations of the addiction. And by doing that over and over again they would have learned how to live addiction-free. When they are under recovery, they are not told to stop the addictive habits all at once but are told to gradually reduce the frequency of it. One day at a time, they make progress and they keep repeating this process, until perfection is attained. On the other hand, if they are told to stop their habits suddenly, all at once, it could have undesirable repercussions. So, there is a procedure to get to the desired goal and that is continuous progress.
We have learned the story of the hare and the tortoise in our childhood itself. It demonstrates how the tortoise could beat the perfectionist hare with its strategy of continuous progress.
Japan, the country which was completely devastated by 2 atomic bombs quickly rose up to become one of the top 3 economies in the world. No wonder, the philosophy of ‘Kaizen’ originated and was practiced in Japan. Kaizen means continuous improvement. In organizations, the Kaizen approach encourages small and continuous change rather than radical all of a sudden change. It is more pragmatic and easy to apply. For eg, a person who wakes up at 6am everyday wants to wake up at 5am henceforth. He may set the alarm an hour earlier than usual before going to sleep. But chances are that he may dismiss it in the morning as his body is not used to waking up so early. Or, he may wake up at 5am a few days and eventually get fed up of having clumsy start in the morning. But a better approach would have been to try to wake up only 5 minutes earlier than the day before until he is able to wake up at 5am. So, in 12 days he will be used to waking up at 5am, without wrecking his body or mind. This simple concept upholds progress over perfection.
The word atom came from the Greek word ‘atomos’ which means uncuttable. Atom was earlier believed to be a single unit of any substance which could not be further divided. But, J.J. Thompson, with the discovery of electrons, overturned the belief that atoms are the indivisible, ultimate particles of matter. Had, Thompson too believed that atoms are the perfect particles; we would not have progressed to discover the various subatomic particles that we know today.
Also, Perfection is a relative concept. What is perfect for you may not even be close to perfection for someone else. For example, for a daily wage earner, a single room would be perfect home. But for a millionaire businessman, even a mansion may not suffice. Psychologists claim that perfectionists are usually people who are too afraid to fail. They just cannot bear with failures and hence unnecessarily spend a lot of time running behind perfection. On the other hand, the one who aims continuous progress does not hesitate to try out new things as he is not afraid of failing. It is said that if you are not making mistakes, it means that you haven’t tried anything new in a while.
Perfectionism can also lead to procrastination. People who wait for the perfect moment for starting a new task usually never find that moment. On the other hand, the one who starts anyways, without thinking much about the perfect starting point achieves more.
In order to achieve something, one must set a goal and then work towards it. Only continuous progress can lead to the attainment of the goal. Each drop makes the ocean. Until the goal is achieved, it may seem to be a perfect one. But once the goal is achieved, one must strive to make it better. One should set even bigger goals, goals that are closest to perfection and then start working towards it.
Just as it is said that we must focus on the effort we put and never worry about the results, we must never worry about attaining perfection but must make sure that we are in progress.