Perfection’s Tight Fit

How much time do you give to the pursuit of perfection? Salvador Dali had the right idea: “Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.” (link) So why are we prone to obsessing over something it’s likely none of us will ever attain? Whether its our physical appearance or the quality of work we produce, the concept of perfection is one we can’t shake. It’s the spark that keeps pushing people to innovate. It’s also the nonsense that makes us our own worst critics.

The last few days, I’ve been on a mini break. I didn’t have the most reliable Internet connection, so posting wasn’t really an option. Even though I enjoyed the break, part of me fretted over the lack of “perfection” in my posting. I normally manage to do a post a day, Monday through Friday. That didn’t happen this week. Logically, I know that not posting once this week, and twice last week, won’t send my blog into a tailspin. However, when you’ve set your mind to seeing things a certain way, it can be hard to ignore that itch to be “perfect.”

The pursuit of perfection can also make us impatient. We demand more out of the world around us, and if we aren’t satisfied the first time, we rarely return a second. While I applaud individuals standing up and asking for what they want, I do wonder what we miss out on when we ask for and expect perfect results every time.

Throughout history, several “mistakes” led to items we now take for granted. For example, 3M charged scientist Spencer Silver to create the strongest adhesive on the market. He ended up with an adhesive that stuck to objects but easily pulled away. A few years later, a second 3M scientist, Arthur Fry, remembered Silver’s earlier invention when he noticed his notes falling out of his hymnal. Fry added Silver’s adhesive to paper and found that it stuck but could be removed without harming the page. The result? You can stick Post-it® Notes wherever you want. (source)

If Silver had achieved his goal this first time, 3M could have had the strongest adhesive on the market. However, given time, Fry created something truly memorable that has lasted much longer. Maybe instead of pursuing perfection, which technically means finishing or bringing to an end (link), it might help to focus on the experience. Instead of obsessing over matching the ideal we’ve set for ourselves, would it hurt to ask if we’re actually enjoying the trip?



2 Responses to “Perfection’s Tight Fit”

  1. August 1, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    I try to introduce at least ONE intentional mistake into my knitting to help me break my perfectionist streak. Of course I generally have about ten unintentional ones before that…

    I also create a scribble somewhere in a brand new notebook (even a 59¢ composition book) so I don’t have to stress about ruining it.

  2. 2 Britt
    August 1, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    Your knitting habit reminds me of the story I’ve heard about the Amish. Supposedly, they introduce at least one mistake into, for example, every quilt they make. That’s a concept I need to follow-up on.

    I also struggle with marking up a new notebook. It’s a struggle. Sigh. I hate “ruining” it.

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August 2007
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