Many of my students strive for perfection. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with this PURSUIT.

However, in practice, many people associate validity and self worth with the attainment of perfection.

If you achieve perfection, you are a good, worthy human being.

If you “fail” to achieve perfection, you are somehow “less than” those you perceive to have achieved perfection.

I dislike this way of thinking for the simple reason that human beings are incapable of perfection. Because perfection is impossible to achieve, setting such a goal is not useful and often counter productive.

As an alternative, I prefer striving for excellence (which I’ve written about previously here). One very practical and concrete way to strive for excellence is to do as follows:

Instead of aiming for perfection, set a goal to set a “personal record” (or PR for short).

As the name suggests, you aim to best your previous best outcome.

What I like about this approach is that it’s internally focused. You set the standard for yourself.

It’s all focused on continual self-improvement. If you improve your skill level by a mere 1% each week, within a year you’ll have improved over 50%.

(And yes, I recognize that if the 1% growth is compounded, the growth is much greater than just 50%.)

And then when you set a personal record, the victory is entirely yours and only meaningful to you. You’re achieving for the audience of one — you.

This is better than achieving so someone else can notice and approve of you — which is often correlated with valuing the opinions of others over the opinion you have of yourself.

So in every endeavor in which you seek to improve, consider aiming for a new personal record — rather than aiming for some notion of perfection. It is far more satisfying, far more achievable, and far more self-validating than the alternative.

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