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The Perfection Factor

The art of perfection. It is something that gets deeply ingrained into us as musicians. We strive for perfection in everything we practice and perform. The familiar motto of “practice makes perfect” gets repeated over and over again throughout our developing years. As creative artists, we strive for flawless performances and recordings and when we reflect after a performance, there are always things we can pick apart, things that would have been “nice” or that we wish would have happened differently. Alas, we move on and think about the ways we will approach that same music in the future should we get the opportunity to perform it again.

But does this habit of perfection carry over into other areas of our life? Can perfection become something that consumes us? Do we seek to have the perfect job, the perfect family, the perfect neighborhood, the perfect life? Maybe it’s smaller things like the perfectly clean office, kitchen, yard, or the perfectly written article. Do we end up just spinning around in a cyclical existence seeking perfection?

Whether or not our perfection efforts concern music or other areas of our life, we need to take a step back and assess. Are some tendencies toward perfection better than others? Does our definition of perfection mean good quality and something we are happy with? Or are we working on things to be “perfect” because they never seem good enough and we are never happy with the result? There is a difference. For instance, it’s one thing to care about making our best effort and to take pride in our endeavors, like preparing for an important presentation, but it’s another thing to obsess and drive ourselves crazy over what shades of blue to include in that presentation. Of course, things that some consider minor might be a major concern to someone else. The point is, we need to decide which things are most important to us and which things are less so, keeping everything in perspective as we work through our day-to-day moments. We just need to let go of those things that can really zap our valuable time and are really of no consequence.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that “perfect” is not even “perfect” in itself. We’re all human and it is impossible to be perfect with everything all the time. Even those top professionals and talented celebrity artists we think of as “perfect” have imperfections or imperfect performances. To be human is to be imperfect and we have to find our own comfort level within that. If we find ourselves spending too much time trying to make every little thing perfect in our lives, are we missing out on the joy of life and the simple pleasures we can find when we stop to smell the roses?

Yes, persist. Strive. Do your best. Don’t be a slacker. But don’t obsess over everything needing to be perfect in your life. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection paralyze your ability to move forward. Life can be messy at times and things can be slightly amiss, but never let it make you feel unsuccessful or like you are failing at everything you attempt. There are beautiful things we can find that exist in imperfection—the visual arts teach us those lessons all the time. You don't have to embrace imperfection in a way that is compromising, but try making friends with it rather than considering it an enemy.


Share an example of something you no longer worry about perfecting and why you decided it was time to let it go.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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