“I’m just ready to hit the perfect golf shot!” As I processed this comment from one of my golfers, I sarcastically but respectfully responded, “Well, I’m not holding my breath until you or any of these other elite pro golfers that are out here does that!”
It is a quest that has no end; a journey without a final destination. We all strive to be perfect at something. I have seen this trait in a lot of the people I coach across the domains of sports, business, and life. Elite performers falsely believe that every shot, every word, and every action should be perfect. And when it is not, they begin to question and doubt their talent. Sometimes, it lasts only for a split second moment. Occasionally, it can endure for what seems to be an eternity.
Determination and striving to be our best at something can be a powerful force in our lives. The notion of perfection, however, very often leads to pressing, which involves increasing the importance of a given moment. Your life has enough stress and pressure in it without you mistakenly thinking you have to be perfect. As I tell my golfers, sometimes accomplishing the goal is as simple as getting from point A to point B to point C.
What makes us arrogantly assume that we can be perfect? Even in Michael Johnson’s greatest race in the 1996 Olympics when he won the gold medal and shattered his own world record – a race many of us would have called the perfect race – he stumbled the first few steps out of the blocks. Bob Rotella, the guru of sports psychologists, wrote a whole book about this topic entitled Golf is Not a Game of Perfect. Bill Walsh, the Hall of Fame football coach of the San Francisco 49ers taught his players to strive for perfection knowing that excellence was within their grasp.
Perfection is what we all seek but will never achieve. We can only hope to strive to do our best moment by moment. I teach my golfers as well as my other athletes to be outcome-driven and process-focused. Every one of them is graded and judged by a metric, so we work on developing an inner will and determination to pursue that outcome. But then, we let it go, and focus on the process to achieve the outcome by:
- Playing shot to shot/moment by moment
- Playing to their strengths
- Recovering well when setbacks occur and things don’t go as planned
- Being resilient and responding with your best effort in the very next moment
- Focusing on the little things that can make a big difference
What about you? Are you striving to achieve something that will never be conquered? Are you placing unrealistic expectations on yourself? Are you basing your performance on perceived expectations? Are you trying to be perfect?
Don’t let the perception of perfection keep you from being the best you can be in every role that you play. Choose today to focus on the process to achieve the outcome you desire, and enjoy the journey!
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