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Progression vs perfection: How to rethink the way we define success

Success is defined by outcome. It’s a sad, honest, truth but most people today define how they’re doing in life by what they can show.

We must show and prove and if we can’t, we’re nothing. Some blame capitalism while others credit it to social media’s pressure on us to portray our best, but too often do individuals beat themselves up, put themselves down and hold themselves back all due to a mistake they won’t allow themselves to get over.

You either win or you lose. Hit a homer or strike-out. Get the job or get looked over. We’ve conditioned ourselves to unrealistic expectations and, while audacious, it’s ruining our lives.

The curse of ‘having it all together’ is really just a big fat lie. There are tens of thousands of adults who’ve been adulting for a damn long time who’ve yet to grasp the concept. Yet, still, it’s the measuring stick so many of us use to size our lives.

We want a perfect score on every exam and for our business sales to take off the first week and to be discovered by a major label already because we’re clearly the best emcee in our city.

But here’s a newsflash: perfection is a myth and the success we think we’re chasing is buried in the pile of failure we can’t bear.

The problem with always getting it right is that there’s no learning curve. We can’t survive off information alone.  We need the context of experience to complement it. When tough times hit you’re going to want to know you can handle what to do, not just how to do it.

That’s why we should switch our focus on progress, not perfection.

Perfection is a mythological creature that only exists in fairy tales and progression is something you can monitor and modify. And while perfection may paint a pretty picture, the live, real-time look progress gives us is far more useful.

As important as focusing on the finish line and envisioning ourselves where we are in life might be, the truth of the matter is if we’re not taking the necessary steps to get there a vision is all we’ll ever have.

We have to start learning to see things through the goggles of progression, not perfection. When we do, we’ll gain control over our futures the way we always wanted.

Responding to failure

One of the biggest reasons perfection shouldn’t be the aim of our lives is because a standard like that can become depressing.

Failure is inevitable and at times happens more frequently than success. That can become an issue because most of us aren’t used to facing defeat that many times without giving up.

It’s important to be unphased and completely immune to failure. Failure shouldn’t scare us, shake us or make us question ourselves. It’s what separates the ones who’ve mastered their craft and profession to the ones who haven’t.

When we look at our progress instead of how we’re not perfect, we put ourselves in a position to respond more positively to failure. We won’t let shortcomings ruin us and we’ll confide in the work we did manage to do.

Most importantly, we’ll be inspired to jump back on the horse to give it another shot.

Learn the lesson

When we chase perfection we’re not open to the lesson. Instead of going back to the drawing board and assessing where we went wrong, we keep our same methods and behaviors and systems. We’re not open to the lesson because we think we’ve already learned it.

When we adopt progress as our guide we not only look at what we did right but we’re open to changing our approach. That’s what separates the people who excel and the ones who end up stuck in place.

Progress serves as the hyperreal excel spreadsheet to our lives. Once we break out of the habit of judging ourselves with these impossible standards, we’ll give ourselves more shots at what we’re aiming for and we’ll do it more confidently, too.

Success is indeed what we make it. Make sure you choose to compare your life through the gaze of progress, not perfection, and the accuracy in which you’ll see your life and pursue your dreams will never be the same again.