Progress, Not Perfection

by Bill

Many of us were brought up to think that we must always finish what we started.  We were told, verbally and in other ways, that “anything worth doing is worth doing right,” and “practice makes perfect,” and “eat every bite on that plate,” and “no dinner until you finish all that homework,” and on, and on.  

The search for completion and perfection in all we do has been the downfall of many an addict.  

The pressure of trying to be perfect, to finish every project, to measure up to the unrealistic expectations of others — well, hell, if you had to deal with all that pressure, you’d drink (or drug) too!  The fact is, it isn’t necessary to do everything perfectly, and only rarely do we get extra points for doing so.  Workable, in most cases, is good enough.  Chances are things will have to be changed around later, anyway.  And as far as finishing off that plate of food goes, most of us eat too much.  

And you want to know the truth?  Practice very seldom makes perfect.  If it did, there would have to be multiple first prizes awarded at every competition of every kind.  Finally, being second — or fourth, or sixth — best will usually get the job done well enough to take home a paycheck, and Daddy isn’t looking over our shoulders any more.

Famous artists like Leonardo, Picasso and Degas were known to leave a bit of something undone in each of their works.  It was their way of admitting that no human can attain perfection — that only God is perfect.  Similar traditions exist in other religions.  In fact, this is a good discipline for addicts.  It reminds us we are human, and that since we don’t have to be perfect, it’s okay to ask for help if we’re having a rough time.

We need to be able to embrace the world the way it is, and it isn’t perfect either.  It’s full of things like appendixes and tonsils and sharks and tsunamis.  The sooner we grasp that, the sooner we can stop worrying about it and let go of control.  We can’t have our lives tuned and welded, there will always be changes that we can’t anticipate, so obviously we can’t be perfect, and we need to get over it.  

In our programs, we strive for “progress, not perfection.  We strive to do “the next right thing,” and do our best.  That’s all we can do, and that’s all any reasonable person can expect.

Including us.

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