Progression Over Perfection

A close up of a trainer shoe on a bench. The shoelaces are pulled up ready to be tied.

Why you should celebrate the ‘little-wins’.

As a young child I always dreamed of being an Olympic Athlete. Watching the likes of Roger Black, Colin Jackson & Linford Christie representing Team GB on the world stage, I would run around the garden in my vest and shorts, emulating my heroes. My goal was to win an Olympic Gold Medal and stand on the highest step of the podium. I would race at the school Sports Day with my parents cheering from the side of the field, and more often than not I would place first. I was inspired to join my local athletics club where I trained weekly and discovered I was pretty good at middle-distance racing such as the 800m & 1500m, and would enter races at both county and national level.

It was at this stage of my young life that I realised I wasn’t the best athlete in my country, or even my own county for that matter. I would enter races and place outside the top 3 more times than I care to remember. Needless to say, I fell out of love with Athletics and my dream was shattered. At 16 years old I ran my last competitive race, and made the decision to change direction and play football, rugby and any other team sport that was on offer.

So why I am telling you the story of my failed attempt of becoming an Olympic Athlete? I guess at around the age of 12 or 13 I recognised I wasn’t quite Olympic standard, but I think it’s fair to say, like most, I still harboured the aspirations to one day be rich, famous and successful. We all dream of reaching our ultimate goal, so that we can look back on our lives with pride, telling stories to our grandchildren of our life’s achievements. But we know life is not all sunshine and rainbows, and on occasions we may face adversity and setbacks along the way. You can be excused for having big extravagant dreams as a child, but sadly so many adults today go through life without a goal – like a puppy without a home – they go from day to day, month to month, and even year to year without real concrete direction in their lives. We must set ourselves goals, no matter how big or small, no matter how significant or trivial, and no matter whether they’re achievable in the short term or the distant future. Setting goals helps trigger new behaviours, helps guides our focus and helps us sustain that momentum in life.

~

Perfection means stagnation.

We all aim for it. We all believe perfection is the ultimate destination. We strive to align everything within our life to finally say “we made it” … but then what? Is there a ‘Perfection 2.0’? Unfortunately, not. And furthermore, what if I was to say perfection isn’t actually attainable at all? There is no idyllic nirvana where all human beings spend the remainder of their days, only experiencing happiness and joy.

 So, in place of perfection we must aim for progression – for this is growth, development and expansion. This is where we discover who we are and what our purpose is. This is the ‘being’ part of human being. Discovery, brainstorming, creativity, hypothesizing, exploration, and wonder would all disappear from our lives if we were to obtain so-called ‘perfection’. If there was no struggle, no tension, no ‘in-between’, we would lose much of what makes life interesting.

The reality is, striving for perfection holds us back. We spend so much time searching, striving, achieving, in an endless quest to get it all “perfect”, we end up missing out on what life is really about: being in each moment and experiencing life. It was Tony Robbins who coined the phrase “Progress is Happiness”. Not perfection, not the end-goal, not the final result, but that journey of which we are all on. Experiencing life’s ‘ups and downs’, celebrating the wins and learning from the mistakes, is all part of the process, and many would argue is some way to finding true happiness.

We can’t change the past, and we don’t necessarily have full control of the future; all we can govern is our thoughts and our actions in the present. Therefore, the next time you receive some good feedback at work, or you run that 5k a couple of seconds faster… enjoy it, feel it, celebrate it. For these are those unique moments that make life beautiful. We are all guilty of getting caught up in the pursuit of achieving the perfect body, finding the perfect partner, landing the perfect job, or just simply trying to be the perfect person; it can actually hinder us from seeing how wonderfully our journey is unfolding.

You may not necessarily even notice progress – those small changes, those subtle new habits, or even those micro-wins, but be rest assured that they are happening to us all when we have set goals and clear direction. It was Plato who said “never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow”. So, continue making a small difference to every single day, carving out your own path and directing your energy to what makes you a better person. This is what progression is. Not thinking three steps ahead, but taking each individual step, one at a time.

And finally, just take a look back at your own life. Think back to 12 months ago, in comparison to now. I can guarantee that you’ve more than likely made some form of progress. You’ve achieved goals, both intentionally and unintentionally. You’ve had successes, and maybe some failures. And you would have most definitely had those ‘little-wins’. But did you remember to celebrate them along the way? Here’s hoping that you begin to, starting from today.