Excellence vs perfectionism
I had Sophie’s high school orientation evening on Monday.
[Side note: I’m trying not to freak out. High school?! How did that happen?]
Anyway, one of the teachers spoke about the difference between excellence and perfection, and I’ve been thinking about that talk ever since. We can all learn something from it.
If you’ve read my blogs and newsletters for a while, you’ll know that I am a perfectionist. If things aren’t *just so*, my anxiety kicks in and I go into a frenzy. This serves me well in some areas. It serves you well, too. If you’ve ever been in a Pilates class and heard me barking, “Tummies tight! Slow and controlled! One vertebrae at a time! Smile!”, then you’ve felt the force of my perfectionist personality.
In my personal life, being a perfectionist means I never give up on my goals once they’re set. I keep pushing until I reach – and exceed – them.
But perfectionism is also my worst enemy. And that’s because perfect is an illusion. It’s subjective. And because it’s subjective, it’s something that we can never achieve, no matter how hard we try or how many goals we set. It’s simply not possible to be perfect in everyone’s eyes.
Getting 100% on a test might be a perfect score, but it’s not perfectionism. Tests are marked by people with their own standards – even if they have a score sheet. No two people will mark one paper exactly the same.
Rather, I’d say that scoring 100% is excellent. And excellence is something we can all strive for and, more importantly, achieve! I know I will never execute all Pilates moves perfectly but I can certainly strive for excellence to reach my goals and make a difference in my clients’ lives.
There will always be someone better than me, someone prettier than me, someone stronger than me, but not one of those people are striving for the same level of excellence as me. Their desire for excellence will never be the same as mine, or yours. What’s excellent to me might be shoddy to someone else. And that’s ok.
But perfectionism? That implies that we’ve reached our potential. That we’ve hit the glass ceiling and there’s nowhere else for us to go. And if that’s the case, I don’t *ever* want to be perfect. How boring. I want to be better. I want to set new goals all the time. I want to strive for excellence.
One thing I’ve learnt from Pilates is that excellence, unlike perfectionism, is not fixed. It’s always moving, always changing. And that makes life interesting and challenging!
What does excellence look like to you? Do you need helping finding your target? Let’s chat.
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