I screamed out of frustration. I hit another ball into the net. I was taking group lessons after not playing for 10 years. I expected myself to be the second coming of Roger Federer. The tennis coach came over. He scolded me. He said, “You don’t have a right to get frustrated with how you’re playing. You haven’t practiced enough to expect yourself to do consistently well.”
I expect more from myself than I rightfully should. I’m not Wolfgang Puck. I don’t have an professional kitchen. I get pissed if my meal doesn’t turn out to be worthy of 5 stars. I get frustrated when I don’t reach my expectations. This sets me up to be dissatisfied and frustrated while I improve (if I improve) at a new skill. This leads me to not enjoy the new hobby or skill I’m developing. I labor through it.
I battle my frustration and disappointment every step of the way. I spend to little time improving. I improve too slowly. I grow more frustrated. I quit. Is there any wonder why I still can’t play guitar well after owning several and practicing on and off for nearly 30 years?
Perfectionism creates two types of people:
- The person who doggedly seeks perfection and consistently gets close. They’re dissatisfied because it’s close but never good enough. They compulsively pursue the possible peak of perfection; never to be satisfied with the result.
- The person who dances around perfectionism and avoids the risk of needing to be perfect. They find ways to not even try. They’re dissatisfied because it’s not good enough straight out of the gate and it’s never close. They compulsively wander the base of the mountain that perfection sits atop; never to be satisfied with themselves in the process to produce the result.
Neither person produces perfection. Both produce frustration.
Set the bar high. Give yourself a shot at reaching it. You’ll get more wins. You might not be perfect. You’ll be better. That’s a step closer to perfection.
A life of frustration isn’t much of a perfect life. Maybe it’s time for a new standard.