Strive For Progress, Not Perfection (3.5 min read)
To really understand why progress is more important than perfection. I think first we need to understand that progress is more important than outcome.
I learned about this importance from a 12 year old client of mine a few years ago. She came to me because her mother was concerned about how her daughter was handling stress at school and really wanted her to feel supported and be proactive if there was anything that would cause distress.
When I sat down with her, I asked her why she thought she was coming to see me. She was not sure other than she had told her mom that she was feeling stressed out and that she let like she needed some help and they agreed to book an appointment to see me.
After that, I then asked her a different question, ‘what would make this time we spend together feel like it was really awesome and helpful for you?’ She went on to say that she was stressed out at school and she wasn’t exactly sure what would make the session great, but that she really needed to make some ‘hard decisions’ about things that were happening in her life. I asked her what those may be and her answer was, ‘I really need to decide if I want to play volleyball next semester or not.’ This was a big deal for this young woman as it meant a big decision around friends’ expectations, her own desire to participate or not, letting others down, and what she wanted to spend her time doing. I responded with, ‘I can understand how that is a big decision and certainly something that would be helpful to find an answer for. Tell me about volleyball for you.’
We had a great conversation and worked through what the blocks and barriers were for her knowing what choice she desired to make and she eventually arrived at her decision that playing volleyball wasn’t something that she wanted and that she would play soccer instead. I then asked her a follow up question, ‘what are you taking away from our time today?’
She took a moment and reflected on that and replied with, ‘decision making!’
And that truly captures the essence of process being greater than outcome, that progress is more important than perfection. For her, she was unable to access the skills within her to formulate a decision on her own. She needed to work through her own thoughts and process that with me as a way to understand what her desires were and what was ultimately most important for her to do.
The most exciting part was that this young woman actually taught me a lesson and one that I have shared with many other clients in my practice since.
When I first meet with my clients and go through all of my paperwork, consent, and outcomes, I will often iterate, ‘ultimately,