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Why You Should Strive for Progress, Not Perfection?

Why You Should Strive for Progress, Not Perfection?Updated on May 1, 2021 | Published on December 9, 2019
Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD, Certified Psychiatrist

Progress Not Perfection Is The Right Approach

Ever since we were kids, most of us were taught to be perfect. This perfection meant working hard to get the best marks, be the best dressed in the class and so many other things. The competition starts when you are kids and only continues until you realize that progress not perfection should be your focus. Perfection is a journey, and progressing in this journey is the best way to live life to the fullest.

As kids, many of us are often burdened with the pressure to live up to the expectations of our parents, friends, and peers. It is normal for people to expect things from us. Problems begin to arise when we burden ourselves with these expectations and begin to assume that it is our duty to fulfill them.

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Why You Should Strive for Progress, Not Perfection?
Why You Should Strive for Progress, Not Perfection?

‘Strive for Progress Not Perfection’ Meaning

Everyone aspires to be perfect. After all, who does not want a good job, a big house, great friends and maybe even a chance to travel the world. The idea sounds so tempting, doesn’t it? But ask yourself, why do you want all this? Is it because you want others to be proud of you? If that is the case, you are missing out on all the fun in life. This is because you are investing efforts to please others. In most cases, the end result of these efforts will be failures.

Needless to say, the failure will pinch. Instead, focusing on progress not perfection will help you make the most of the opportunities in life. There is no need for others to be proud of you. Your focus should be to lead a life that you are proud of. Implementing this simple philosophy will bring about a positive change in your life.

Progress not perfection : The attitude difference

We all set out to achieve our goal with great gusto. Our determination is at an all time high. We are raring to go towards our goal. The first few attempts are all good and we do not let the outcomes affect us. But gradually as you keep trying, you realize the goal is hard to achieve.

Somewhere at this point, you start losing faith in your abilities. You reconcile to the fact that the goal is out of bounds for you. In some time, you are struggling to recapture the lost zeal. A lot of us have faced this situation at some point in our lives. 

Now take a step back and try to figure out what could have gone wrong in this situation. For starters, this is the outcome when an individual starts with the aim of achieving perfection. A common misconception is that the perfectionist attitude will lead to success. But this is WRONG! Perfection is relative so one can never truly achieve it. 

There is a simpler way for achieving your goals-strive for progress. Promise yourself to put your best effort and look at it as a learning experience. Strive to achieve excellence at every stage instead of limiting yourself with the idea of perfection. 

How perfectionism stops you from achieving your goals?

Here is a look at 5 reasons how perfectionism can be a dangerous road block in your journey to achieve success: 

1. Slows you

Those who aim for perfection end up waiting for the ideal time and the ideal circumstances. This can lead to procrastination of tasks. Additionally, people with the perfectionist attitude evaluate every action in detail. Little do they realise that this zaps them of the energy that they require to achieve the goal. As a result, the urge for perfection will often slow you down. 

2. No new ideas

Your focus is solely on achieving flawlessness so you would refrain from taking risks. Such people are rarely up for new ideas. After all, they are worried that the outcome may not be perfect. 

3. Self criticism

To some extent self criticism is good because it motivates you to improve. But for those obsessed with perfectionism, self criticism is dangerous. The minute such people fail to get the desired results, their inner voice starts criticizing the approach. The constant criticism gradually demotivates you. 

4. No room for failure

Those who believe in perfectionism prefer to look at every outcome as a win or a loss. There is no gray area that evaluates progress achieved. As a result, such people often find it difficult to accept failure. The roadblock prevents them from learning and improving. 

5. Mental health issues

People obsessed with perfection often end up with health issues like depression. Their rigid attitude makes them focus on the flaws so much so that they find it difficult for them to see the brighter side in life. Hence they end up as victims of mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Progress not perfection helps

The progress based approach brings back the fun element in your journey to achieve your goals. Needless to say, when you start enjoying what you are doing, you are likely to be more successful at it. Here are 5 reasons how believing in progress can help you.

1. You learn to learn

Those who strive for progress develop a mindset to learn. They are not let down by failures. In fact, they look at failures as an opportunity to learn and improve. They always strive for excellence. 

2. Motivation

Belief in progress keeps you motivated. Each time you face a challenge, you look back at the progress that you have achieved. This gives you the determination to keep going. 

3. More success

With progress, you celebrate every milestone that you achieve in your journey. However, if you are focused on perfection, nothing ever satisfies you enough. 

4. You move forward

Perfection focuses on reaching the destination. But progress teaches you to keep moving forward and achieve more. Simply put, progress and improvement go hand in hand. 

5. It’s a sustainable plan

Life is unpredictable. The plan that you set out with may need to be modified to suit the situation. If you are a believer in perfection, you will be hesitant to make this modification. But if you believe in progress, you will be happy to change and move on.

Reasons Why to Strive for Progress & Not Perfection

1) It is okay to be imperfect

We are all born with unique capabilities. You may not be able to do what your friend does. But that is okay. However, this does not mean that you should compromise on the standards that you set. Of course, you need to set high standards and strive towards achieving them.

Your focus should be on progressing towards your goal and not achieving perfect results. The thing is, if you keep perfection as your goal, the end result will most likely be a failure. Simply because, each time you attain your pre-defined standards of perfection, someone somewhere would have altered the definition.

TIP
If people around you keep pointing at your imperfection, do not strive to meet their expectations. Instead, become the best at your job and pursue your goals in life!

2) Failure is the new normal

As we said, perfection is a journey. And in this journey, you are allowed to make mistakes. Yes! You should not hesitate to try new things. If you try something new and it does not work out, you have not failed. Instead, it should register as learning. After all, it was an experience and you learned what does not work, even if it was the hard way. Your focus should be on investing consistent efforts, learning and improving your technique to progress.

According to interesting research done on a bunch of students, learning about the struggles of renowned scientists like Einstein helped them pursue their studies with stronger motivation. Interestingly, these students were failing to score good marks in their science exams before they learned about the struggles of the scientists.

3) Moving ahead is important

Many times, people may complain that you are progressing at a very slow pace. But that should not deter your efforts. Instead, you should continue your focussed approach. Remember, as long as you are moving forward towards achieving your goal, the pace should not matter. Of course, if there is an opportunity to learn and improve, go for it.

4) Strive for excellence not perfection

Nothing is beyond your reach. When you are planning, aim for the sky. There will be many people who will discourage you from aiming high. But you should not give up. With hard work and determination, no goal is impossible. If the cause truly convinces you, do not hesitate to pursue it. All you need to remember is that you are pursuing the goal for yourself and not to please others.

5) Progress fuels positivity

Progress is a reason to celebrate. Yes! Every small achievement in the journey is a reason to pat your back. You have worked hard to get there and so you should celebrate. Another important thing to understand is that these little joys in life, fuel a certain positivity. This positivity motivates you to work harder towards achieving the bigger goals.

Aim for progress not perfection: 10 tactics

Here are ten simple tactics that teach you to focus on progress not perfection. 

1. Start with small steps

Focus on making daily progress instead of worrying about the end of outcome. Stop questioning the result or predicting the possible challenges. Just focus on taking one step at a time and completing the task in hand. 

2. Plan

The journey to fulfilling your dreams is never going to be without challenges. Therefore, it would be wise for you to anticipate problems and plan for them in advance. This way the challenges will never become pushbacks. 

3. Self doubt is normal

Just as the novelty of your goal fades you are likely to start doubting your abilities. This kind of self doubt is normal. Just remember you must not lose faith in your ability. 

4. Figure out your next move

Do not look at challenges as roadblocks. Instead, look at them as a breather to plan your next move. 

5. Apply positive quitting

Many of us are often afraid to quit worrying that we may look like losers. But the trick to applying a progressive approach is to stop worrying about losing or failing. Look for newer, lesser walked roads and give it a shot. 

6. Cultivation patience

The one thing that you need in the journey towards progress is patience. It will take a lot of effort and patience at your end, before the belief in progress starts to yield results for you. 

7. Learn from mistakes

When you strive for progress, the journey towards achieving your goal becomes more fun. The mistakes do not deter you. In fact, they teach you and push you to look for new ways. 

8. Do not give up

The idea of progress is to keep working towards achieving your goals. Do not let the challenges deter you. Each time you hit a roadblock ask yourself what is the best way to maneuver it. 

9. Get feedback

Be humble and accept that others may know a better or more effective way of doing the task that you are pursuing. The best way to find out is to ask others for feedback. Analyze their feedback and try to improve. 

10. Track your progress

Last but not the least, track the progress that you make, review your approach and adapt to the changing circumstances.

Progress not perfection: 10 quotes

Here are a few quotes to inspire you on the pursuit of progress: 

1. “Always be a work in progress.”

– Emily Lillian

When you work towards progressing, you learn to improve your skill set and overall personality. 

2. “Delay is the enemy of progress.”

– Eliot Spitzer

This is another beautiful quote that talks about the habit of procrastination for those who are obsessed with perfection. 

3. “Little by little one walks far.”

– Peruvian Proverb

Small steps make a big difference in any journey. It is easier to progress with one small step at a time. 

4. “Failure is success in progress.”

– Albert Einstein

The progress based approach teaches you to learn from your failures not be disheartened by it. 

5. “All progress is experimental.”

– John Jay Chapman

The path of progress is never certain, it is all about individuals willing to take risks and explore new options. 

6. “All creativity is a work in progress.”

– Dean Cavanagh

Creativity stems for striving for progress not aiming for perfection. 

7. “Make measurable progress in reasonable time.”

– Jim Rohn

If we intend to succeed, we should focus on making good progress in a defined time. 

8. “I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Those who work with the aim of progressing never give up in the face of challenges. 

9. “Success is steady progress toward one’s personal goals.”

– Jim Rohn

Another proverb that reiterates the importance of a steady and progress based approach to succeed in life. 

10. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Frederick Douglass

The path to progress is the one with struggles but the idea is to look for ways to overcome these struggles and strive to move ahead.

Concluding Note

Focusing on progress not perfection i.e. ‘Strive for Excellence Not Perfection’ allows you to see the brighter side in life. You learn to appreciate your effort and celebrate the small wins in life. Interestingly, when you start looking at perfection as a journey and progress as the goal, learning improves considerably. You just need to shift your focus.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that perfection is never about doing unique things or putting extraordinary efforts. On the contrary, it is all about doing ordinary things but with extraordinary accuracy. We often end up criticizing our efforts.

But when you start believing in progress not perfection, the self-criticism ceases to exist. Needless to say, this becomes a big positive change that helps you lead a happier life.