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last updated March 3, 2021

Perfection does exist…kinda

by Rob Arthur

Last week we discussed how consistency matters more than perfection – so long as over time our actions move us closer to our goals more than they move us away from our goals – and wrapped things up with a few questions for you to consider:

  • “Am I prioritizing consistency or perfection?”
  • “Is the idea of perfection keeping me from being consistent?”
  • “What habits do I have that might be shifting my curve away from the outcome I’m looking for?”
  • “What small change to these habits to shift my curve just a little bit more towards my goals?”

I’d originally planned on typing this week about the third and fourth questions, but realized that if you’re not ready to move past the first two, you’re not ready for the third or the fourth.

So I switched up my plan and began to write a bit more about how “perfection” doesn’t exist.

Once I got to typing, though, I realized that the statement that “perfection doesn’t exist” isn’t exactly accurate – as badly as a fitness blogger might want that to be the case.

So let’s talk a bit more about perfection, and why it DOES exist, but how we might want to look at it a bit differently than we have been.

What is “perfection?”

Dictionary.com defines “perfection” as:

  • “the state or quality of being or becoming perfect”, with “perfect” defined as “conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type.”
  • with “ideal” being defined as “satisfying one’s conception of what is perfect; most suitable.”

See the circular reference to “perfect” here?

Not only that, but you might also note the phrase, “one’s conception”.

That’s right – perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

Now, intuitively, you might be thinking this is obvious, but how well are you applying this in your own life?

How many things do you consider “perfect” – or less than?

Ever thought you had a perfect haircut?

Chances are, somebody else thought it sucked.

But that doesn’t matter to you, does it?

Nope – because YOU thought it was perfect.

For example, I shave my head completely bald twice a week and I love it.

To me, it is perfection – especially contrasted with this perfect brown beard peppered with red and silver.

However, believe it or not, every once in a while I get swept to the left!!!

I know, some things in life make absolutely no sense.

But this is a good example of how different people have different ideas of perfection (some of whom are obviously wrong…)

Perfect health

One of the most popular reasons we make changes in our lives is to pursue improved health.

Very rarely, though, do we take a step back to attempt to define what “health” even means, much less “perfect health”.

Doing so isn’t so straightforward, either.

For example, the World Health Organization defines “health” as:

  • “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

But that’s not our only option for how to define “health”.

Dictionary.com defines “health” as:

  • “soundness of body or mind; freedom from disease or ailment.”

So, which definition do we choose?

Already, the concept of “perfect health” is dependent on personal preference.

Do we go with the dictionary.com definition?

If we do, we have to accept that freedom from disease or ailment is impossible.

Our bodies are always subject to disease processes – it just so happens that our immune systems are constantly keeping them at bay.

Do we go with the World Health Organization definition?

If so, there’s a key word that we might need to dig into a bit more – “well-being” – which is defined as:

  • “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.”

Comfortable…

Happy…

These are both dependent on how our conditions meet up to our expectations.

Who or what determines our expectations?

We do – nobody and nothing else.

So you see, perfect health is largely subjective, and our metric for perfection is dependent on what we expect “health” to look like.

Perfect looks

Maybe health isn’t what you’re looking for.

Maybe you just want to look awesome with your clothes off.

Does perfection apply here?

Well, I guess it could, but again, “perfection” is in the eye of the beholder.

Some people look for leanness and muscular definition in an ideal mate; others look for a larger, more filled-out frame.

Some people prefer blonde hair; others prefer brown.

Some like thinner, longer faces, while others like shorter, rounder faces.

The number of potential traits considered “ideal” vary from one person to another, and even if we were to settle on an average idea of what a “perfect” person would look like, that average would still only be just that – an average, with plenty of variation and outliers.

Perfect performance

Some of us DGAF how healthy we are or how we look – we just want to perform.

Is there such thing as a perfect performance?

Let’s consider a few examples.

Score of a perfect 10 in gymnastics?

Were any of the spectators bored?

I know I probably would have been.

Not perfect.

Favorite football team shut out its opponent?

Perhaps, but was every offensive play a touchdown and every defensive play a safety?

Not perfect.

Baseball pitcher throw a “perfect game”?

Could his pitches have been faster?

Not perfect.

The perfect diet

Sometimes, we know we aren’t going to see perfect outcomes, so we just want for our outcomes to be as good as possible, using the perfect strategy.

But do perfect strategies even exist?

How about a perfect diet?

Did every single meal…

  1. Taste amazing
  2. Leave you perfectly satisfied, not wanting any more or less
  3. Provide the perfect amount of nutrients per your goal:
    1. Support maximal muscle growth without fat storage
    2. Support maximal fat loss without muscle loss
    3. Promote maximal performance gains
    4. Provide all the micronutrients your body needs to function optimally, with no nutrients that might support disease processes

Do any of these criteria even align with your definition of what makes a diet “perfect”?

Chances are, the answer is, “no” to at LEAST one of these criteria.

The perfect training program

The effectiveness of a training program is determined by how well it moves you towards whatever adaptations it is that you want to see.

While there are lot variables we can play with in terms of shaping a training program, here are some of the biggies:

  • Training frequency
  • Sets & reps
  • Rest periods
  • Tempo
  • Movement selection

There are an infinite number of options for each of these variables, and they are all interdependent, so “perfection”, from an effectiveness standpoint, is a statistical – if not absolute – impossibility.

Also, effectiveness isn’t the only thing that might matter in a training program.

Some of us might value other factors more than efficacy – time efficiency, novelty, routine, stress relief, or endorphin rush to name a few.

How about just plain old enjoyment?

Could you ever achieve any one of these factors “perfectly”?

I’m not so sure that you could…

Let’s wrap this up

So, it turns out that perfection does exist – kinda – but it isn’t as clear-cut as we sometimes like to think it is.

It’s up to us what exactly “perfection” means, which means that “perfection” doesn’t really mean much at all.

Really, it’s no different than “good enough” in a lot of cases, since it can be achieved by simple living up to a set of desired or required traits.

Perhaps we shouldn’t just trade, “perfection” for “consistency”, as suggested in my previous post.

Perhaps we should trade “perfection” for “consistently good enough”.

We might also want to spend some time exploring what exactly, “good enough”, might mean.

For now, though, you might ask yourself a few questions:

“In what areas am I pursuing a perfection, when I haven’t yet taken the time to define what perfection even means?”

“For those areas in which I have defined perfection, is it defined according to my own expectations, or according to somebody else’s?”

“In what areas might I have the opportunity to trade ‘inconsistently perfect’ for ‘consistently good enough’?”

“In what areas am I already being “consistently good enough” but just not recognizing it?”

Until next time, have a most excellent day!


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