Progress Not Perfection


If my understanding is correct, this gem comes to us from the world of 12-step recovery. As someone who was raised to relentlessly pursue perfection, this phrase has been so important for me to grasp onto.

In a paradoxical way, when I strive for perfection, I make less progress than when I let go of perfection. The stress of being perfect paralyzes me into inaction. When I work, instead, to get better, I can reach smaller milestones which snowball into tremendous progress over time.

In poking around for the exact source of this idea, I came across the original quotation from the book called Alcoholics Anonymous (sometimes called The Big Book by those in recovery):

“No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”

I love the idea contained herein. “We are not saints.” I need to remember that. I need to give myself a break. NOT AN EXCUSE…a break. I’m not perfect. I won’t ever BE perfect! And if I accept that, I can work on growing. On improving. On doing my best without the pressure of perfection. Good stuff.

Progress Not Perfection