Why Practice Isn’t About Perfection

You’ve probably heard the phrase “practice makes perfect.” But you may have also noticed that even if you practice something, you still don’t achieve perfection.

This isn’t because you’re doing anything wrong. It’s just that, as humans, we’re always going to be prone to mistakes. Even if you’re nearly perfect, if you get sick or have a bad day, you can make mistakes much more easily.

That’s why I liked a variation on that saying that I recently heard. “Practice makes possible.”

Perfection vs. possibility

Think about the difference between the two phrases.

Saying that “practice makes perfect” implies that you’ll get to some point where you do whatever it is flawlessly. And that’s a tempting goal, to be sure. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could be “perfect” at mindful eating?

But having that goal places an incredible amount of stress on you. When you strive for perfection, you’re much more likely to beat yourself up if you make mistakes. After all, you “shouldn’t” make mistakes if your goal is to be flawless.

On the other hand, saying that “practice makes possible” simply opens the door for you to learn something new, to recognize that you have the capability to learn. You might not know how to do it yet, but you can learn.

And even once you’ve gotten very good at something, you can still recognize that it’s possible for you to keep learning more and improving. Unlike the idea of perfection, this reminds you that learning is ongoing.

Freedom of possibility

Letting yourself imagine what’s possible is also much more freeing than the idea of perfection.

When you use the word perfection, in most cases, this is a subjective definition. What’s a “perfect” way to eat, or to look, or to behave? That depends on the culture and the day and the individual preferences. What you might call perfect might not be the same for me, and vice versa.

On the flip side, there’s a reason we have the phrase “the possibilities are endless.” When you start to imagine and dream about things, including ways of eating, then suddenly you have so much more flexibility.

Instead of being tied to a narrow definition of perfection, you can explore and practice and find what works for you in different circumstances.

Possibility is inviting

Finally, when you’re just starting to learn something, it can be somewhat intimidating to think of being “perfect” at it. If it’s something you struggle with, you may give up on it altogether because you don’t think you’ll ever be good enough.

But if you’re just seeing what’s possible, you’re more likely to continue. In those cases, you can remember much more easily that mistakes are learning opportunities, not reasons to get upset or give up.

Practice the possibility of mindful eating

If you’ve been nervous about starting to eat mindfully because you’re afraid you won’t get it right, or you won’t be “perfect” at it, I invite you to consider it as a possibility. And once you start practicing it, the more possible it will seem, and the less intimidating it will be when you realize it’s all about the practice, not perfection

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