Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. – Vince Lombardi

Even if you recreate the work of a master, it's still just a copy. This might be good for learning, but to pursue perfection, you must forge your own path. (this is an Ansel Adams tribute photo)

What does that mean?
Perfection is one of those words we use too lightly. Almost nothing is perfect. We look at something we like (perhaps a great work of art) and call it perfection. A pitcher throws a perfect game if no one gets on base, but is that truly perfection? Is there such a thing as the perfect wine to go with a meal? A perfect pair of shoes to go with an outfit? To me, the answer is no to all of these. There is no perfect here. Nothing we touch will ever be perfect.

That said, we should still try to attain perfection. We should do what we can to perfect ourselves in body, mind and spirit. We should do what we can to chase after freedom and justice, even if we know that both are flawed here on Earth. However, in our pursuit of perfection, we can become better. As we pursue perfect justice (and while we fail), we come closer and closer to perfection. And in the end, we manage to catch excellence in justice.

Why is the pursuit of perfection important?  
To me, perfection truly is unattainable. It is out there, like the stars. And like the stars, it pulls us, guides us, and inspires us. It shows us the way, but never moves. We move as much as we can in pursuit, but it remains out of reach. But when we look around, we notice that while we have been chasing the star, we have moved, improved and the world is better for it.

While we pursue perfection, we will cover a lot of ground, improving ourselves along the way. These attempts at perfection give us a goal, motivation, direction and drive. These are the things which allow us to move forward despite all odds and in the face of any obstacles. These are the things that allow mere mortals to become legends in their day, and even through time itself.

Where can I apply this in my life?
Why chase something that you will never be able to capture? A good question, but it shows where the focus of the asker is centered. They are centered on the destination. Why take a trip if you will never get to the destination? Would you buy a ticket for a train that took you halfway to your destination (unless that’s all you could afford)? It would seem pointless to start such a trip, if the destination was your only goal, the only thing that mattered.

Instead, I believe we should focus on the journey. After all, life is a trip that you never will finish. Why even start the journey? Because in life, and in chasing perfection, it’s all about the journey. It’s the experience, the moments, and the trip that you experience along the way towards perfection that make life worth living. I hope that it make a bit more sense now that I have explained it in this manner.

Grab some paper and write down a bunch of things you do on a fairly regular basis. Even something as mundane as cleaning the bathroom. Now go through the list and select one thing you want to spend some time doing while in the pursuit of perfection. Write down why you think it would be an interesting journey and what you would get from it when you have achieved excellence. This will he to help you stay motivated when the inevitable setbacks occur.

Let’s take the pursuit of the perfectly clean bathroom. Why would it be an interesting journey? For me, the journey would be about organization and achieving as clean and tidy a bathroom as is possible. What can you gain from this pursuit? Well, the techniques of cleaning and tidying can be used across our lives. Kitchens, patios, even living rooms can use a little tidying and cleaning. At least mine do. And you don’t have to worry about a guest saying “ewwwww!” when they visit the bathroom.

So how does one approach working towards perfection. I would start by defining the perfection I was seeking. In the case of the bathroom, I would want every shiny surface to be shiny, nothing to be stained, wet or otherwise messy, and all the other objects that are in plain sight to be as neat and tidy as possible. Magazines neatly stacked, candles and light-bulbs dusted, bathroom ‘tools’ properly stowed and as innocuous as possible.

All that is left is to practice. Every week, before the bathrooms get cleaned, read the list again so it is fresh in your mind. Then you clean, attempting to get as close to perfect as you can possibly get. And repeat. Until this level of excellence is your automatic response each week to the bathroom.

How close do you have to get to perfection before you declare yourself to be excellent and move on to another field of endeavor? That depends on what you do. If you play professional football, you keep it up until you retire. If you’re cleaning bathrooms around your house, probably a few weeks to help drill in the skills and make the cleaning a routine thing.

I realize that this was a trivial example. But think of how much more compelling it will be when it’s your livelihood or a passionate hobby that’s involved. In the end, it’s up to you as to how much effort you put in and how far you go with this exercise.

If you’re into art or photography, you already know you’ll be pursuing it for the rest of your life. You may want to be Pablo Picasso, Leonardo DaVinci or Ansel Adams, but I would recommend that you focus on being the best you that you can possibly be. Remember, it’s the journey not the destination.

From: Twitter, @thequote
confirmed at :
Photo by Bo47

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9 Responses to Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence

  1. Karen 5 September 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    What about perfection in healthcare? As a patient do you expect your physician, nurse, pharmacist to be perfect?

    • philosiblog 13 September 2015 at 10:51 pm #

      Thanks for taking the time to comment on the post.

      Physicians, nurses, and pharmacists are all human, and therefore (by definition), less than perfect. To expect more from them is both unrealistic and going to result in the potential for great harm. That is why you (for a doctor) get a second opinion before doing anything significant, like have a surgery. That is why in Pharmacies, multiple people (minimum of 2) read and verify what the label says and what the contents of the container are, and that you are the intended recipient.

      Does that answer your question, or did I take it too literally?

  2. Chrisiebean 2 January 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    The saying is ‘Nobody is perfect’
    That is so pessimistic.
    Take this view: ‘EVERYONE is perfect’
    The definition of perfect is:
    ‘Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be’
    But without the bad, the anger, jealousy, you’d be missing emotions.
    Perfection is a bit of everything in balance.
    Everyone on the planet is unique.
    Over 7 billion people all different.
    To be unique is to be perfect because perfect is based on perspective.
    What I think is perfect, you may not.
    But no one can copy you in entirety.
    Even if they cloned you and your clone stood next to you, you would still be unique because your clone cannot occupy the same exact space as you.
    One of you may be on the left, the other, on the right.
    One difference is all that is needed to make you unique.
    Everyone and everything on this planet is perfect.
    Please go into this new year believing it.

    • philosiblog 17 January 2015 at 9:05 pm #

      It is truly amazing what can change when we re-define things, isn’t it? That’s a great attitude. Keep it up, and thanks for the comment!

  3. basant gera 28 March 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    excellent said

  4. sportwetten 26 October 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    Good post, thank you.


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