What is perfect anyway? People throw this word around constantly, talking about the perfect day or perfect shoes, in a way that many people feel takes the meaning out of the word. Yet even used whimsically, it indicates when something feels just right in that moment. It may not seem perfect to anyone else, but to you, in that fleeting moment, it is perfect. But the conflict arises out of the subjectivity of perfection. Even various Greek philosophers and mathematicians were unable to come to a consensus on which number could be called perfect, one proposed ten, some others the number six, and another 3, based on the harmony that the number seemed with ratios and measurements seen nature. A perfect number looks different to everyone. Just like different vacations feel “harmonious” to different types of people. The perfect essay, piece of art, job, partner, house… its astonishing how diverse perfection can look.
Perfection is a powerful coaching concept because it is something we can easily manipulate within our own subjectivity, to experience what we already have as “perfect” for this present moment. This means feeling at peace with who we are or what we have, a feeling of harmony with what is. With this new perspective, we can choose to see many difficult situations with appreciation and acceptance.
My 99-year-old grandmother recently explained this concept rather eloquently. She said, “Honey, wherever you are, whatever you are doing or saying, it is exactly what is best for you. So remember that I’ll always be there with you, helping you to enjoy it.” Every decision we make, is the best decision we can possibly make in that moment, given our resources and everything that has led up to that moment. It is transformative, as a coach, to show that these decisions are perfect because we do our best and then create an opportunity to learn and grow when we make mistakes (not if!). It can also be said that every time we are irritated by something, it teaches us something about ourselves—about what is important to us, or what makes us feel scared or vulnerable. From this perspective, these negative reactions are also opportunities, perfect for learning, and accepting as part of the normal comings and goings of emotions.
So why do I bring up perfection? Besides the fact that our perception of perfection is a powerful coaching tool, it is helpful to be aware of our perceptions in transition periods. When everything is turned upside down, we shake up our perceptions and subjectivity too. It is an important time to become aware of our tendency to look back and glorify the past as perfect and to see what’s ahead as the perfect solution to all our disappointments and failures. And when we focus on the past and future, we don’t notice what is perfect here and now. When we move to a new country, everything may seem perfect at first, as it is new and exciting. Later we may look back mournfully on something we never appreciated before, but now, through rose-tinted hindsight, it seems so much better! So why not try on the rose-tinted glasses now, instead of later, and actually enjoy what we’ve got?
Experiment with thinking about something that is right in front of you, right in this moment. Notice what your judgments and criticisms are, and see if you can think about it in a new way. Those criticisms will still be there for you when you get back. But just for now, can you see something that is good about it? That makes it acceptable to you? Is it something you can learn or grow from? Connect with someone over? Is it a challenge for you? Or a new experience? In a coaching relationship when goals are not met, it is not a failure, but an opportunity for us both to learn what works and what doesn’t, so more effective steps can be taken. When we have misattunements or misunderstandings with someone, that is how we learn about them, and build the relationship. We can change our focus from what is wrong with it, to what is just right about it. And what does that shift in mindset do for you?