“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough–that we should try it again.” – Julia Cameron
As recently as a few years ago, I used to proudly declare myself to be a perfectionist. Of course, I was of the belief that if we were constantly striving to be perfect that we are setting ourselves up for success. Until recently, I never realized how detrimental this thinking could be.
As coaches, this may be or of our worst traits. Generally, we not only expect perfection, but also demand it. We run plays or coverages over and over and over again. More often than not, we do not take the time to praise the times our players get it right or show signs of improvement. Instead, we choose to highlight the flaws and imperfections in how it was run then demand we run it again. It is almost like clockwork that we see sideline, dugout, or halftime reporters talking with coaches who are never pleased.
What message is this sending our children, our players?
When I was in high school, I remember bringing a report card home one day during either the second or third quarter. When my dad returned home, I proudly went to show him my straight A report card. (For those of you that do not know my dad, he is a man of few words, but loves us unconditionally, is exceptionally hilarious when he does speak, and enjoys joking around with us in a good natured way.) As he looked over my report card, he paused at my math grades, and his smile turned a bit serious, and he proceeded to tell me that I need to work on getting my math grade up because it had dropped (from a 103 to a 101!!!). Then, he looked at me, smiled, and told me that he was joking and was proud of me.
I only tell this story because there are people who hold themselves or their children to this standard of perfectionism. No matter how great they do something, it is never enough. They always find a flaw to make them feel stupid, inadequate, or not good enough.
The very nature of being a perfectionist means we are a failure before we even start. It is something that is unattainable and unachievable. No matter how much we want to be or try to be, we can never be perfect.
Yes, we can still have high expectations. Yes, we can still demand a lot from ourselves and our players. Yes, we can still hold them accountable.
However, we would be better served in promoting from our players, our kids, and ourselves to bring our best daily. We should encourage them to make today better than yesterday. Just last night, I was watching the University of Oregon play in the Holiday Bowl versus Texas. On the inside collar of Oregon’s uniforms read You V. Yesterday. It is such a simple way of exhibiting a powerful message…be better than yesterday.
So, my challenge from a former perfectionist to all of you current perfectionists is this: Stop trying to be perfect. Perfection is a results-based mindset. Striving to be the best we can be is attainable; it is process-based. Start there and work at it every day. Be better than yesterday.
I think you will be more than happy where you end up.
Bring your best today!