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Practice doesn't make perfect...

Updated: Nov 20, 2021

Practice makes perfect, right? It's a phrase we've all heard over and over. It's probably a phrase we've all said over and over. Just keep practicing and eventually you will be perfect. Except, we won't, will we? Because perfection is an impossible goal to aim for. And aiming for it will not only drive us crazy, more often than not it will stop us from achieving anything at all.

I am governor at my son's school (there's that value of being part of a community popping up again) and I was recently asked to be an interviewer for a teaching position. During the course of the interviews one of the candidates recounted a story from her classroom. She'd been working with a child when she found herself touting that age old phrase, 'Practice makes perfect.' '

No it doesn't Miss,' the boy replied without skipping a beat, 'practice makes progress.' The exchange, the candidate told us, had a profound impact on her and made her really think about the importance of the words we use and the danger of seeking perfection.

Now, I am the first to admit that I have suffered as a perfectionist most of my life. I love to be good at things and I love to do things well. When I start a task, I want to complete it to the best of my ability. And if that was where it stopped, that would be fine. Doing everything we set out to do, to the best of our ability is a worthy aim. But the problem is, that deep down I wasn't ok with just doing it to the best of my ability, I wanted to do it perfectly. And that is not a worthy goal. It is a fool's goal. And it's a goal that's held me back from doing things. Because I couldn't start a coaching business unless I was going to be a perfect coach. Or I couldn't go to art classes because I am not a perfect (or even a reasonably competent!) artist. Or I couldn't go to the gym because I wasn't perfectly fit yet. Can you see how crazy that is? Not doing something because you're not yet perfect makes no sense when someone else tells you they do it. But as crazy as it sounds, it's something a LOT of us do, often without even realising we're doing it.

Fortunately, as with most things in life, acknowledging that this is a problem is the first step to a cure! I am always working on myself, and this is an area I have worked on a lot. So now, when I feel the subconscious perfectionist in me rearing her head, I consciously tell her to take a break. I thank her for trying to keep me safe from getting things wrong and I remind her that I will do the best I can and that is good enough. I point out that done is better than perfect and that practice does, after all, make progress.

Ultimately, it would be wonderful to be perfect but even Mary Poppins had a little room for improvement so it goes without saying that I do! If we all just keep on going, keep on working, keep on practicing, then we will also keep on improving, keep on learning and keep on growing. Thank you to the 5 year old at Badgemore School for reminding me of this very important message. I'm happy to say that it's stuck.


If this resonates with you then take some time to acknowledge that whilst perfection as a concept is a lovely idea, it is not achievable even if we are absolutely top of our craft, there is ALWAYS still room for growth.

Acknowledge the feelings you've had around perfection, recognise that they're not serving you and release them. Any time you feel them surfacing, do the same thing. Acknowledge the feeling, recognise it is no longer useful to you and release the feeling. Then consciously make a commitment to yourself to seek for progress not perfection.

And if you need a little more help and some accountability, then give me a shout and we can have a chat about what more I could do to support your progress.

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