Practice makes perfect….no it doesn’t!

“Practice makes perfect!”  Oh yes indeed, we’ve all heard it and probably countless times. For years and years, teachers, coaches, and yes, parents have used that expression, Practice makes perfect to hopefully inspire higher levels of achievement. But I have to ask, what is this obsession with perfection?  

Perfection, especially when it comes to one’s pursuits in life, is an unachievable goal. None of us are perfect. Our parents were not perfect. We are not perfect. And, our children/grandchildren are not, or will not be, perfect.  Each and every one of us is a flawed individual. Even scripture (Romans 3:23) supports this – All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  So why do we continue to use this pursuit of perfection as a goal when we know that ‘perfection’ is unachievable? Practice makes perfect is a lie. 

Now, I am NOT saying we adopt the ‘participation trophy’ way of life for our future generations. Young people as they grow and develop need to understand that in order to improve at any “skill”, they need to practice, practice, and yes, practice. Improved skill comes with repetition and sometimes what may seem like endless repetition. But I certainly do not want my grandchildren to grow up feeling the stress and anxiety that comes with being told they have to achieve PERFECTION.  

Today’s world, even when normal, is much different than what young people were experiencing 20, 30 years ago.  For the last 10+ years, adolescents in the U.S. have found themselves dealing with numerous mental health issues, many of which are life-threatening. Today, for example, suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents. Now to complicate what was already a tenuous situation, our children/grandchildren are experiencing something NEVER encountered by previous generations – they find themselves living through a pandemic that has changed everything that was ‘normal’ about their lives. Being home schooled by their parents and/or taking online courses, wearing masks and practicing social distancing wherever they go in public; today’s young people find themselves living in a world of total uncertainty. 

And yet, if we as adults step back from it all, take a deep breath and look at the world for what it has always been – hasn’t it always been a world of uncertainty? We just didn’t ‘get it’ before, did we?  We just didn’t think about it all that much because, after all, we thought we were the ones in control. And now, we are reminded that we are NOT the ones in control. This is God’s world. So, what is it we should want for our children and grandchildren? To achieve perfection?  No. Not going to happen.          

How about a better world? A world where we all treat each other with respect; a world where we practice civility and decency with one another; a world where we truly love one another. A world where we choose to do three things, love God, love people and do our best in all that we do. How hard would that be? When we act out of love, when we truly think of what is best for our children and grandchildren and pray for one another, for ALL people, for God’s world, isn’t that when we see the very best in ourselves? Isn’t that when we become a vision of HOPE for our children and grandchildren?

Life is an ongoing process of learning. And yes, while practice is always an important part of the journey, let’s remind ourselves that perfection will never be the destination.  Almost 20 years ago we learned from 9/11.  Now, we must learn from the pandemic. In 2001 after 9/11, we changed who we were and stood together as one. Nothing else mattered – we were united in our humanity and love for one another as Americans. In doing so, we made it a better world. No, not a ‘perfect’ world, a better world.  Isn’t it time we did it again?   

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Harold “Bud” Boughton is a husband, father and grandfather who is often referred to as “the teaching coach.” A former senior executive, published author and professional speaker, Bud currently works for Shine.FM radio, a community-supported, not-for-profit Christian radio station affiliated with Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. He will continue to work for Shine.FM in conjunction with his responsibilities as Co-Director of Team Focus – Indiana. You can reach Bud Boughton by calling 317-258-6372 or click here to leave him a message