We all make mistakes. It’s a fact of life. It’s part of the human condition.

So why do we obsess so much about perfection when we know it’s simply not achievable? How is it that we are always punishing ourselves when we screw up? What causes us so much shame and guilt when we make a mistake?

Apologies in advance–I’m taking you back to school here… Specifically, Aristotelian Ethics. (Or at least my half-remembered interpretation of it.) Aristotle’s teachings say that the character trait of modesty, for example, lies somewhere between shyness and shamelessness, with neither of the true extremes ever really attainable. That is, no one can be 100% shy or 100% shameless. What we should strive for, though, is that moderate area equally between the extremes.

That’s the way I think of perfection. True perfection is an unattainable extreme, coupled with true imperfection (for lack of a better word) on the opposite side. Neither extreme state is achievable. What we really should be aiming for is the mean between the two. So what exactly sits between imperfection and perfection? Well, I’m not sure we have a word for it.

But, maybe this comes close: The English word “perfect” comes from the Latin word perficere. That seemingly obvious Latin word has an unexpected meaning: “to complete.” So, I say let’s quit trying to be perfect. Instead, let’s strive for the middle-ground that lies between imperfection and perfection: Completion.

If all that stuff is too philosophical for you, think of it this way…

If “practice makes perfect” but “nobody’s perfect,” you might as well stop practicing… and just get it done! 

About the Author: Despite what his classmates thought, Ben Klopfer was actually listening all those years ago in his philosophy and ethics classes. When he’s not striving for moderation and waxing philosophical, Ben is Vice President of Sales at eimagine, a software development and consulting firm. His writings may not be perfect, but they sure are complete!

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