Progress not Perfection

We were running late as always.

But my teenage son Connor needed a snack before his martial arts class, so we ran into the grocery store to grab something quick.

As soon as we went to pay, two cashiers abruptly turned off their “open” signs. Everyone was being diverted to a single aisle with a line six customers deep.

“So everybody’s closed?” I snapped. “You’ve only got one aisle open in the whole store?”

Connor intervened.

“Dad, stop. It’s embarrassing. Besides…” he said, pointing to the seven-items-or-less line where there was no wait.

The irony was that earlier that day I had published a blog post about why we all need to stop complaining. And I was preparing to write another post about the difference between complaining and advocacy.

I snapped because I was worried about getting Connor to his class on time. But clearly, my behavior was about complaining not advocacy.

The things I write about in My Instruction Manual are lessons I’m learning, not ones I have mastered.

And that’s okay.

Like most things in life, self-improvement is not about being perfect. It’s about trying your best, and identifying and self-correcting when you slip up.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying: Progress not Perfection.

The AA philosophy is that that once alcoholics stop drinking, they still need to address other character flaws. And in this, they are taught to focus on trying to be a little better each day, rather than expecting to be a new person right away.

It’s advice that is good for all of us to hear.

Perfection is the enemy of progress. When we inevitably fail to meet our own rigid standards, we are liable to just give up.

It is much better to set reasonable expectations and focus on becoming a little better each day.

What about you? Have expectations of perfection — from yourself or someone else — been a stumbling bock to your progress?


  1. Great post. You reminded me of my about page where i say i write to inspire me and anyone who might be interested. Which indirectly says i am a work in progress.

    When i was younger i was, it has to be perfect, but life over time has taught me otherwise. Also patience and calmly approching life is sometime mum has taught me and life and work collegues. In a rush we are quick to forget what we say.. but in a rush is the time we must be calm. In the same when we stressed and busy we day we have no time to meditate..but thats when we need it most.

  2. Really refreshing and just what I needed. I am really quick in picking out my faults these days. Being a student, I am working on my habits and my concentration. And I expect so much from myself, it’s exhausting. I needed to remind myself of this. Thank you.

  3. Very true. Pure perfection is, in my opinion, an unattainable ideal; however we can all strive for tiny perfect moments and that helps life become a small collection of perfect snapshots

Leave a Reply