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Progression, not perfection

>> 26 May 2009

Say you're not very fit and you want to start running. So the first day you are completely out of breath after 100 meters. But you're not giving up. The next day you run again and your lungs feel like bursting after 500 m.

Or say you want to loose a few pounds. The first week you loose 5 but the second week you gain 2 because you had a family dinner to attend.

Or say you want to become an artist. You start creating your wonderful pieces of art and you are proud of them. But as soon as you show them to some people you get some constructive but negative criticism.

Instead of acknowledging the affirmative experience of running 300 m further than yesterday, of loosing 3 pounds, or of creating this amazing imperfect art, you may obsess over not even being able to run a kilometer without dying on the way, on the 2 pounds you gained or on never becoming a real artist.

When you focus your attention on what you did not accomplish, you miss seeing the real picture.

If you beat yourself up with 'if only I had not overeaten at the family dinner', 'if only I had exercised more regularly' or 'if only I had used more red and redrawn that face' you are heading straight for disappointment and frustration. And in the long run, you become less brave and creative and unwilling to try again.

Constantly trying to be perfect nearly always ends in a feeling of abject failure.

Progression is not selling short, underachieving or letting ourselves down.

Progression is a journey that leads to accomplishment, to moving on, to developing a better you, a better life.

It is here to teach you your flaws and how they can be beautiful.

Or as Leonardo Da Vinci put it: "An arch is two weaknesses which together make a strength."

So revel in your projects.

Loose weight.
Be imperfect.
Do it for yourself.

Put your weaknesses together and build a bridge.


Tim 27 May 2009 at 16:16  

Great advice. I'm really bad at drawing and recently picked up a book and some art supplies. I hope to dive in before my perfection tendency takes over.

MindFul MiMi 27 May 2009 at 22:25  

@ Tim: the secret with art is to get at it, to do it regularly, to have a daily date with it. Schedule it in like a meeting and just create. Don't look at the result. Just create. The rest will come.

Lance 28 May 2009 at 14:27  

Wonderful, Mimi! I love this piece! It's not about being perfect - it is about making progress. I can think of so many times where I beat myself up because something wasn't just right - and in the process missed out on all the good there. So, this really is great stuff! Imperfect steps are better than no steps at all...

MindFul MiMi 30 May 2009 at 15:09  

@Lance: yes, personal imperfection is a kind of art in itself. It shows who we really are. And I like the idea of two weaknesses forming a bridge...

Dudley,  2 June 2009 at 11:18  

I read somewhere that Thomas Edison failed 10 000 times before successfully creating the electric light bulb!

MindFul MiMi 3 June 2009 at 19:50  

@ Dudley: very true! and he is not the only one. I think that the more you fail the faster you learn and the more 'good' ideas you have.

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