One of the absolute toughest questions I’ve had the opportunity to answer is, “Should I try to live my life perfectly, or endeavor to live my life by doing my imperfect best?”
Living my life perfectly has huge appeal because it would mean that I wouldn’t have to deal with messy things like mistakes, failure, confusion, and not getting everything right.
Given the seductive appeal of living the perfect life, I attempted to walk down this path in 7th grade. To my horror, I discovered this path didn’t lead me to the golden land of feeling perfect inside and out. Instead, this path led me into a miserable darkness that I’d never felt before.
In this darkness, I attempted to take my own life. Fortunately, I discovered in my heart that I wanted to live, so I called for help.
The experience of such deep darkness opened me up to considering the life-giving benefits of doing my imperfect best, although I wouldn’t have the words “Imperfect Best” to define what I was considering until decades later.
At the time, all I knew was that trying to get my life perfect had proven too painful and unsustainable for me.
Thirty-some years after junior high, I’m pleased to report that I’ve found not only great joy from doing my Imperfect Best, but also a high degree of consistent productivity that I once only dreamed of.
Even though the practice of doing my Imperfect Best saved my life and made it spectacularly abundant; sometimes the term “Imperfect Best” still rubs me the wrong way.
How can doing our imperfect best be a good thing
when it’s, well, not perfect?
At first glance it just seems like an absolutely awful substitute
for “Doing Our Perfect.”
Something within us wants our surgeons, our vacations, our children and our own lives to be perfect.
This something is deeply wonderful. What a beautiful thing that we can even conceive of our lives being perfect. This vision keeps drawing us into becoming all we are capable of becoming.
Yes, AND….when we harden this beautiful vision into razor sharp expectations of how life SHOULD be, this beautiful vision quickly darkens into something else.
For example, consider this story about an imaginary guy named Fred,
Imaginary Fred had an affirmation taped to his bathroom mirror:
If I’m perfect,
it means I can live my life
So I’d better be perfect!
For, if I fail
at my own perfection,
I’m definitely worthless.
Well, Fred was very clear that he didn’t want to spend his life being worthless, so he decided to make an IRONCLAD COMMITMENT to himself to take action on ONLY the things he could do PERFECTLY.
Before Fred had made this decisive decision to devote his life to being perfect, he had loved to draw, play the banjo, be the life of the party, go on adventures, tell jokes, go fishing and try new things.
Fred soon realized he had to QUIT all of these things because, while he was good at most of them, he was by no stretch of the imagination perfect at any of them.
Shortly after this, Fred realized he couldn’t even do simple things like brushing his teeth, walking his dog, talking to his neighbor, or vacuuming because, while these things came easily to him, he was be no means perfect at any of them.
Fred started to become sad and bored with his new life, but he kept telling himself that he would be perfect no matter what.
The only problem was finding what he could actually do 100% perfectly…
One day as he was pouring himself cereal, he had an epiphany.
“I DO THIS PERFECTLY!”
He almost peed his pants and shouted from the rooftops, he was so excited!
BUT OF COURSE, he didn’t because that wouldn’t have been perfect.
Instead he said to himself, “All I will do all day, every day is pour myself bowl after bowl of cereal and eat them one after another. I’m an absolute genius! I’ve figured out the absolutely perfect way to be absolutely perfect.”
Did Fred the Imaginary create the perfect life for himself by eating endless bowls of cereal each day?
I think not.
Imagine the life Fred could’ve lived
if he had done his imperfect best
to do the things he loved
instead of quitting them
out of THE FEAR
of doing them IMPERFECTLY.
Full disclosure- I’ve trademarked the term Imperfect Best, which was very imperfect on my pocket book.
I didn’t go to all this expense only to let you or me off the hook. After all, I didn’t trademark the phrase “Imperfect Imperfect!”
“Imperfect” is the first word
in the phrase “Imperfect Best”
BECAUSE it allows us the freedom
to learn from our mistakes
and then keep doing our BEST
at all the things we want to do in life,
instead of quitting
out of frustration and disgust
because our results
aren’t precisely perfect.
Right now at 44, I’m living more fully, abundantly and joyfully than I ever have before. I’ve come to this place by doing my own imperfect best.
I wholeheartedly urge you to dream BIG and nourish your vision of perfection, and, at the same time, to do YOUR OWN IMPERFECT BEST day in and day out. Do it so much that it becomes your default setting. You might just realize that possibilities, beyond the limitation of perfection, are endless.
JASON FREEMAN is a Professional Speaker and the proud owner of a Speech Impediment. He is also the author of “Awkwardly Awesome: Embracing My Imperfect Best” and a Perseverance Coach.
He excites and encourages his audience to break through the barriers of their own limitations using a method he created, called “doing your Imperfect Best ™”.
His Imperfect TEDx Talk can be viewed here.