Someone asked me a simple question yesterday:
'What is perfect?'
I think it is fair to say that this question struck a nerve because I felt defensive before I even considered coming up with an answer. This is amusing to me today because if perfect were actually perfect, why would it need me to defend it in the first place?
Turns out that I felt the need to defend my ego's misrepresentation of perfection, but more on this later. As I see it, perfection does exist all around us, consider the beauty of a flower, the flight of a hawk, curling waves rushing shorelines across the globe or perhaps the majestic Rocky Mountains alive with sunlight. Also envision the perfectly executed golf swing, yoga asana or piano concerto. Perfection exists.
In human terms, perfection seems to be a state of grace that favours the prepared. I have found that the projection of perfection as a goal outside of myself to be a frustrating no win game. I have also experienced its arrival in states of surrender on many occasions. I conclude that striving for perfection is a sure fire way to miss out on its appearance. Perfection is not a destination but a state of grace that happens through me. I can be a conduit for perfection but I cannot lay claim to it as it belongs to the larger picture. I can prepare for its arrival by doing my best work moment by moment. This preparation through practice may be viewed as the very journey to excellence. Perfection cannot be owned or insisted upon, just like the beauty of a rose opening with the flow of life, it arrives in its own time. It does not come to those who wait but to those who have prepared the way.
Back to the ego. I have been known to blur the line between excellence and perfection to my own detriment. Perfectionism masquerading as the pursuit of excellence is a perfect excuse for inaction because fear of coming up short may morph into an unwillingness to try anything at all. It is a major cover up for insecurity and a big contributor to getting stuck. So what exactly is the difference? The honest pursuit of excellence can be recognized by the willingness to let go of perfect. One becomes willing to fail and take the journey of imperfection in order to excel. Excellence requires learning and growth that in turn demands identifying shortcomings and declaring them growth edges. It is the work of closing the gap, it is the carefully designed practice repeated until mastery requires a larger more visionary practice to replace what has been transcended.
Bruce Lee, once said:
' I fear not the man who has practiced 10 000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced 1 kick 10 000 times. '
I believe him to be an icon of perfection yet his words reveal that he had firsthand knowledge of the connection between practice and the grace of perfection.