Perfect versus Better

We tend to define perfection as the absence of flaws, which is inherently wrong, since flaws are part of the reality. Too often, our perception of perfection as a flawless situation or individual proved to be not only difficult to learn, but plain wrong and deceivable. Striving for perfection causes more harm than good, leading into a land of frustration, weariness and misery.

Defining something by the absence of something else is a mindset of incompletion, a hedonistic and fearful approach. It’s hedonistic because we try to isolate only the “good” things from the whole, and it’s fearful because we do that by fear of the other, “bad” side. Choosing only one side of the coin is useless and ineffective. You can’t have a full coin if you chose only one side of it.

On the other hand, being just better assumes you know your flaws and accept them. You’re just getting better, not perfect. You’re embracing your whole structure. Not seldom, what you considered to be “flaws” are just violent pointers for a path you refuse to see or to take. What you may call “flaw” is in fact just an open window for another reality, usually much better than the current one.

Dry Future versus Rich Present

When you move your focus from your current reality and projecting it into a future, flawless reality in which you are perfect, you are depriving yourself from the only precious tool you have: your present time. When you step out of the living second and project yourself into a dry future you’re not actually living to the full. Whenever you strive for perfection you step out from the current time space continuum and try to insert into another, illusory one.

Whenever you strive for getting better, you’re in the present moment. You have to continuously assess your progress, you have to keep your focus on what you’re doing. If you had goals, you have to constantly check if you reached them. And if you did, you have to evaluate your options and set up the next goals. When you chose to become better, you never get out of your current time space continuum. Your present is real. And is rich.

Destination Oriented versus Traveling Oriented

When you strive for perfection you’re destination oriented: your goal is to attain a certain state, a flawless situation in which you are perfect. When you strive for being better you’re traveling oriented: your goal is not so much the destination, which changes continuously, but the travel itself.

I find much more joy by traveling than by arriving to a certain destination. As long as the current destination is also the departure point for my next trip, I can understand and I enjoy it. But if my final destination is reached, that means it’s the end of the travel. My trip has to stop. Which I simply don’t want to happen. I enjoy the trip much too much.

Focus On Bad vs Focus On Good

Striving for perfection is such a wearing attitude, it really drains you out. In fact, striving for perfection is quite a negativistic approach, if you look carefully. Since we define perfection as the absence of flaws, when we strive for perfection we focus on eliminating our flaws. Hence, we focus on flaws, instead of things we can improve.

Striving to be better is a fulfilling attitude, it fuels your body and mind. Striving for the better is focusing on the positive side. By accepting your flaws as part of your inherent nature, focusing on becoming better forces you to focus on your positive qualities and start enhancing what you already have an can grow.

The Dumbo Paradigm

I guess you all know by now the famous Dumbo cartoon. For those living on planet Mars in the last  50 years, Dumbo is the touching story of a baby elephant which had a big problem: huge ears. So huge that it actually had integration problems in his environment, a circus. His mother had to defend him from picky boys saying bad things about it, the other workers in the circus were also bothered by the little cub which only use seemed to be a very dangerous leap into a bucket filled with water, and nothing more. That little elephant with those incredibly big ears was no good even in a circus. Dumbo was tainted by his flaw: those huge and almost obscene ears.

But after the little elephant touches the bottom of his sorrow, with a little help from his friends, stumble upon a great discovery. His ears are so big that it can actually… fly! Right, those ears are so big that it can become a flying mammal just by flipping them. His biggest flaw has become the trampoline for his biggest success. The cartoon ends with a happy image of Dumbo flying all over the country above its personal tour train.

There is much to be learned from this story, and I do intend to write another blog post about it, but for now I’ll just say that Dumbo became better not because he tried to eliminate his flaw, but because he accepted it and made the best out of it. Dumbo focused on becoming better not perfect. If Dumbo would have been a perfect elephant, I really doubt that Disney would have made a cartoon about it.

Perfection is boring. Getting better is where all the fun is.

46 thoughts on “Perfect versus Better”

  1. Hi dragos,

    I must really say a big thanks to you for all these articles because i often read them (and bookmark them to read it again during down times) and it always helps me get through a particularly rough patch in my life. Im the type that tends to get unmotivated and upset easily and reading your advices really make me grow as a person and realise many times that im just too hard on myself by trying to create a ‘perfect’ me. Thanks again for all the great articles!

    • My pleasure. By the way, there’s a book now which has more than 70 articles (including this one) so feel free to check it out: Brilliantly Better- The Ebook.It may come in handier than browsing the web, sometimes 😉

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  5. hey Dragos,

    great stuff, I really like your approach.

    just wondering, where are you getting your inspiration to write these articles.

    all the best!
    .-= jeromakay´s last blog ..jeromakay: can you recommend a good self-training course on oracle 11i? =-.

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  10. I get your point, but there is a flaw in your rhetoric 😀

    Getting better is indeed enhancing your “good” side, but is also diminishing your “bad” side. And it’s not that flaws are necessarily bad, but getting better means also reducing your flaws. The better you get, the lesser flaws you have. (Anyway, perfection is something greater than flawless.) And if getting better should always be the process, perfection should always be the goal. Be cool though, stay sane 😉

    Anyway, congrats for making it into the Hacker News!

  11. @Jeremy Day Welcome here, Jeremy and thanks for the comment. Perfectionism is so overrated, not to mention it can be really dull 🙂

  12. Hi Dragos,

    Great post and great blog. I am glad I found it. You bring up a lot of good points. Striving for “perfection” can be very stressful. I’m a self diagnosed perfectionist and sometimes its hard for me to say to myself,… “This is good” rather than “This is perfect.”


    Jeremy Day’s last blog post..How much is your overall health worth?

  13. @Celes interesting take on perfection as perfectibility. We’re crunching words here, but I know what you mean 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  14. Hey dragos 🙂 To me, perfection is a perception of the mind. All this harping on imperfection, human flaws and sins etc by society/religion/etc are very fear and ego-based. My perception is we’re perfect as we are and yet we can keep getting better. There is a little difference in terms of semantics, but we basically hold the same stand on this matter 😀 Great post!

    Celes | EmbraceLiving.Net’s last blog post..How To Overcome Fear Of Loss And Pursue Your Dreams

  15. @elena diaconnu so, you don’t have curtains for all your windows too? 🙂 I had this experience when I moved two years ago into our new house. If only for curtains and we had a tremendous fun with this move, but it was so much more than that. Thanks for your insightful comments 🙂

  16. @Laurie thanks for the nice words and for sharing your insight here. You’re right, trying to be “perfect” is not even close to be perfect 🙂

  17. I can totally see the point, especially in the travelling paragraph; i keep asking myself what would i do if i had curtains for all the windows of my new house, if i had my walls filled with paintings and all the shelves filled with all the books i want; what would my project be then? what would i focus on, then? i take my house as a journey and i find it better to focus on the spaces that are yet to be filled than to come back to those that have already been filled. improving upon is much more fun indeed than declaring a finished state.:)

  18. This post is inspiring and motivational. Thanks, Dragos.

    I’ve found that when I focus on being better, I’m happier and more satisfied with myself and my life. It opens the door for growth, development and is personally rewarding.

    Trying to be perfect is a never-ending battle of reprimands and criticisms…so being ‘perfect’ isn’t actually perfect.

    Thanks for the great post!

    Laurie | Express Yourself to Success’s last blog post..Thoughts of Happiness

  19. @Mike King that one side effect I haven’t touch in the post and you’re so right about it: striving for perfection ultimately leads to lies. Great point, Mike 🙂

  20. @BunnygotBlog totally agree. Nobody is perfect, but even more, striving for that is something useless. Hard to decide on that, because is so much pressure on being perfect from the outside world, but it’s healthier to give up and just try to improve.

  21. Hey there,
    great post with much appreciated essence. It can be easy to fall victim to dry posts these days with the blosphere constantly producing.

    I am glad I stubmled across you SU account, you seem to have a good vibe coming here.
    Looking forward to future posts.

    @Agent_Luke’s last blog post..Agent_Luke: Sorting through all short sales, foreclosures and reo’s in #Wicker Park.

  22. I think that striving for perfection is the primary cause of lies. To oneself and to others.

    Bunny’s point that it is different to each person as well is certainly true and the only way to even come close to perfection as you said, is to hide the flaws. And that’s just not very fun. Flaws make everything more interesting, whether it is something you make, say, do, or live. The flaws need to be worked into life in a way that allows you to get better and voila, progress by working around flaws, using them differently, letting strengths overcome them, etc, etc.

    Mike King’s last blog post..Book Review: Purpose

  23. You seem to be hitting very sensitive subjects this week.This always is interesting.
    I think one needs to get a grip on reality when it comes to perfection.

    No one or anything is perfect. It is a self determined state of mind. You can work on something for hours or maybe days before you are satisfied with the results. Where someone else was may have already thought you could not improve it. We feel the need of doing and being the best. Contentment with in.

    Perfection is different to each of us but I think we all want to improve and become better people but there is no one who is perfect.

    BunnygotBlog’s last blog post..Listen To Your Gut, Part 3 – Edith Luchins

  24. @Stacey thanks for your comment and for using the word “authentic”, I think it was rolling on my mind form some time but never had the chance to get out. That’s the word that best describes this blog post topic: being authentic. 🙂

  25. Perfection is boring… that makes sense. You would never have goals to fight for, challenges that would make you a better person. You would just be kind of stagnate, never changing, never growing, never learning. Plus, trying to be perfect will ultimately drive you insane.

    ~ Kristi

    Kikolani’s last blog post..Tennis Practice Photos

  26. @Jonathan seems like all the people who are commenting on this / like it, have suffered with this syndrome. I know for sure I did 🙂

  27. Well said Dragos,

    There is not much satisfaction in striving after perfection, it’s like striving after the wind. On the other hand, knowing that you are making steady improvements is very satisfying on many levels. I suffered with perfectionist tendencies for much of my young adulthood, what a relief when I finally let it go. Doing your best is always good enough.

    Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills’s last blog post..There is No Overnight Success

  28. @Ian Peatey Thanks again for commenting here. I am a big fan of Dumbo (my daughter know the cartoon by heart, of course) and I’m really inspired by the story itself. Striving for the absence and making the destination better than the journey, we’ve all done that, and maybe still do. But we’re getting better at other things every day and that’s what really counts 🙂

  29. @Steven Roll thanks for the comment, and your Spanish speaking level is a great example. Loosen up on something, assess the importance of it and do as much as you have to keep going on. Is the journey to Spain that counts, you don’t have to wait until you speak perfectly that language 😉

  30. Great Post Drago. We will never reach perfection, so we should stop being so tough on ourselves. The key is to simply be better today than we were yesterday. I am miserable with getting around on the road. I can get lost easily- it is a part of the brain I am missing, but that never stops me from driving!

    Jay’s last blog post..Inner Noodle’s Guide to Dream Analysis- Step 6

  31. Love the post, Dragos! Captures many recurring themes I find in my own life. Striving for the absence of things (how crazy is that!), spending more time waiting for the destination to arrive and completely ignoring the journey. I’m getting better though!

    And describing Dumbo as an elephant with integration problems. Now that’s inspired!!

    Ian Peatey’s last blog post..You don’t have to do anything

  32. You’re post captures the idea behind a favorite quote of mine from Voltaire: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

    Giving myself permission to be “bad” at some things, has really helped trigger growth in my personal and professional life. For example, I’m pretty bad at learning languages, but that hasn’t kept me from studying Spanish. If I expected to be proficient at it or compared my abilities to others, I would have quit long ago. I may speak Spanish like a caveman, but that’s more than I could do a few years ago.


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