Today, I was going over our Krav Maga Martial Arts forms with my kids, and one of them starts to cry. I was taking great care to be kind when correcting, and get down on their level when explaining this foot, that hand, rotate like this, make it flow, etc. All of my children like this when I do it, but even so one of my kids takes the correcting so painfully. She cries and I can see her holding back her tears. Her face is pulling to the center and her eyes are filling up and trying their hardest to not let a single tear fall to her cheek.
So, I call attention to her and ask why she's crying. She just shrugs. So, I have her step close to me and I tell her that I'm going to give her a secret that will change her life forever. I'm going to let her know something. I'm going to whisper it in her ear, just for her. Ready? - and she nods.
"You are not perfect. You will never be perfect. I love you without you being perfect. I always will."
She nodded and let the tears fall. They were no longer being held back by her impressive strength. Don't try to be perfect. No one can be perfect, and that's perfectly ok. Excellence is what? She follows up what I've been teaching them to say:
"Excellence is the pursuit of your best, always."
Excellence is the pursuit...It's a pursuit. At each mistake, we make corrections and move on to the next best mistake. We consistently move from making our best mistakes in this moment to making an even better mistake as grow. Each time, moving from mistake to mistake. Excellence isn't arriving at perfection. It's understanding that there is no perfection, and taking each step as I move forward as a better step than before.
She laughed, and dove back into our practice of the universal form. We practiced for another hour and a half. Later, through a bright smile (and a pulled tooth that happened during the exercise as well) - her eyes glowed. She was free of tears, and rolling through mistake after mistake and correcting herself each time and we got better together.
I think that a lot of people give lip service to perfection being unattainable, and then proceed to aim for perfection. I think that's a grave misunderstanding of life and a misapplication of the concept of striving for excellence. It's almost as if they're saying, "Perfection is not possible, but that doesn't mean we don't strive for it."
Actually, yes it does. You've just defined and designed the perfect self destructive box from which there's no escape but the realization that perfection is impossible. Otherwise, keep torturing yourself. So, am I mincing words? Am I saying the same thing? Actually, no.
See, "Excellence" is the pursuit of your best always. Meaning excellence is pursuit of the process of improving. Improving takes into account my current status, and considers the next best step. It is not concerned with the final form. Because if the final form can be improved, then it also is not perfect. The idea is making peace with where you are in terms of it being the reality of your starting point. Then also making peace with stepping up one notch.
Ok Ok...but doesn't that mean that when you do that and you're all done, you'll find perfection? No. Anyone who has ever built a website, written a book, told a joke, etc. can tell you that there is constant revisions happening while life continues to simultaneously move onward.
So, I encourage my kids to redefine their goals away from obtaining perfection and on to pursuit of excellence. From one well earned mistake to another. Moment by moment, experience to experience.
Excellence is the pursuit of your best, always.