208-376-1701 bryan@bryanyager.com

First a quote: “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” – Leo Tolstoy

Good morning and happy Monday!

Are you perfect?

This seems like such an easy question to answer doesn’t it?  I suspect you answered with an immediate, and emphatic, “No! Of course, I’m not perfect!” As for myself, I certainly know intellectually I’m not anywhere close to perfection, by any measurement, or in any category. Not by a long shot. Ask anyone who knows me, who loves me, lives with me, or who has worked with me.

I am, however, also aware that below the surface, at some subconscious level, my ego desires to be seen as very close to perfect. I find it odd, that as a person who is painfully aware of my own imperfectness, I can so easily become defensive when my imperfections are pointed out by others. Why is that?  

Are you aware of those tendencies in yourself? I suggest this is a common human phenomenon we all experience. It is part of being human.

In last week’s article I described human beings as “perfectly imperfect.” Based upon the survey responses and notes I received; those two words seemed to resonate with many of you. (Thanks to all who took a minute to offer me your “gift of feedback.”)

Now, a hard left-hand turn in the direction of this missive. Do you expect your spouse to be perfect? How about your children or parents? How about your manager? Your church or pastor, team, department, or company? The list is infinite… your siblings, neighbors, children’s teachers, HOA board, restaurant servers, doctors, and on and on, continues this list of people with whom we hope or expect perfection.

We tend to expect a lot of people to be perfect, knowing full well, they are not, nor ever will be.

Why is it that most of us can readily admit our imperfect state, and yet, we seem to be so disappointed when others do not live up to our expectations, sometimes our impossible expectations of perfection?

Perhaps a topic for another day: I have often thought we become mature parents ourselves on the day we forgive our own parents for not being perfect or for falling short of our expectations. Most parents, certainly not all, were simply doing the best they could, with what they knew, and what they had.

Someone once offered me this advice, “When seeking a life partner, your goal should not be to find a perfect spouse. That perfect person does not exist anywhere on this planet. The goal should be to find a spouse, or partner, whose imperfections you can live with and accept with love and understanding.”

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect,
you can like them for who they are.”

– Donald Miller

I propose this morning, that we could apply that wisdom against so many aspects of life. In my line of work, I often hear people complain about their boss, job, coworkers, and/or their company.  I come across so many people who hop from job, to job, to job, in search of “the perfect job” with the perfect boss and perfect co-workers. They seem to be continually disappointed and/or discontent.

Maybe the expectations of perfection are getting in their way of finding a really good job, where all can strive for excellence in the direction of perfection. I suspect this also applies to people looking for friends, a church community, doctor, or you name it, etc.

Could your expectations of perfection be getting in the way of contentment, happiness, joy, and fulfillment? As Leo Tolstoy so wisely penned, “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”

All this to add, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for perfection in our quest for growth, improvement, and excellence. This does not mean we should be complacent or even satisfied with the status quo. It does not mean we should not seek to be our best selves in all we do.  As Vince Lombardi once quipped:

“If we seek perfection we can catch excellence.”

Just maybe, as humans, we are all at our “perfect stage” of development along life’s path. For those of us who aspire to greater levels of influence and leadership, we might just be where we are supposed to be at this moment in time… learning, growing, and moving in the direction of perfection.

Think of it this way, a green apple in early June, is just as perfect as that same apple will become in early October, red, ripe, and beautiful. Green and undeveloped is perfect in June! Like that green apple in June, if we humans continue to learn, grow, and improve every day, we might just be perfectly imperfect!
As we each seek to continue life’s journey this coming week, I propose we ponder the following questions:

  • Where might our “perfectionistic expectations” of others be getting in the way of our relationships?
  • When someone seeks to offer us helpful feedback, how can we prevent a defensive reaction and hear their helpful intentions?
  • How can we help challenge people to grow in a way that is inspiring and supportive, not diminishing or demoralizing? In a manner that values their perfect imperfections.
  • I finished this article thinking I may have a few apologies to extend… how ‘bout you?

Related MMM articles:

How will you live, love, or lead differently, or better, this week?

Do you have less than 60 seconds to answer four “radio button” questions?


Bryan Yager
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”

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Bonus Quotes:

  • “When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” – Donald Miller
  • “We have a restless dissatisfaction with the status quo.” – Jewel Concepts, Jewel Companies Inc.
  • “Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi
  • “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Norman Vincent Peale (often attributed to others including Les Brown, Oscar Wilde, Brian Littrell, and others)