Is Perfection Really the Ultimate Goal?

The Olympics have given me some food for thought–the Olympics and a small calendar on my desk containing quotes from women. This last weekend, this was the quote: “In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism.” – Hannah Arendt

Perfectionism is an issue I’ve struggled with in a negative way for years. It has caused me to be impatient at times, both with myself and others. Recognizing the willingness of others to share their gifts and talents is pretty easy–but when they’re not offered perfectly, sometimes I’ve cringed.

Of course, in the Olympics, perfection is what is sought for–that’s what wins the gold. But is that really the ultimate goal?

I think one of the things that made me wonder is an article by sports writer Joe Posnaski in The Kansas City Star yesterday. He was writing about Shawn Johnson and her gold medal on the balance beam. She’d been doing her warmups–and making mistakes she hadn’t made in years. I can’t even imagine what must have been going through her mind! Then suddenly her coach–who grew up in the Chinese gymanstic system–told her to quit practicing…to forget about the judges, the scoring, medals…everything but just performing. It wasn’t worth getting sick over–balance in life was more important!

So what did she do? Went out, had fun…and won the gold!

Is it wrong to aim for perfectionism? I don’t think so. I believe that’s a valid goal…but I think the ultimate goal has to be doing our best–in whatever endeavor we’re involved in. Sometimes it will be perfect–but often it won’t be. But as long as we’ve done our best, I think that’s what allows us to “go on living” as Hannah Arendt said.

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