The Foolish Pursuit of Perfection

thLast time I went to train in West Palm, I had quite a unique experience. In the beginning of my 4 hours of training, I did a movement that was perfect. Not 99% spot on. Not even 99.9999% on. I mean 100%, Grade A, nearly Vlad-like perfect. Not only did it surprise me, it surprised my teacher who is not known to compliment often.

I was excited, feeling on top of the world. My internal dialogue was something like, “After all these years, I finally got it.” (Imagine about 12 exclamation points after the sentence, while trying to still remain calm and look cool and you have the idea here.)

Then, for the next 3 hours and 59 minutes, it was a total and complete disaster. A slow, steady slide downhill. I spent the entire session chasing after perfection and of course, failing miserably.

Normally, I dislike the drive home as it is long, dark and boring. The sweet sounds of Iron Maiden and Russian language lessons are the only things that seem to keep me awake for the 3 hour jaunt home. The irony here is that during this period, I typically learn more about my Systema and thus, myself compared to the prior 4 plus hours of training. Tonight was no different.

I wondered what went wrong. How could such a session that started off so promising, slide downhill so quickly. The answer became quite obvious over time – the foolish pursuit of continuous perfection. 

Upon arriving, I was relaxed and present. As such, my movements reflected this state of being. There was almost the complete absence of conscious thought. Being in the Now will do that.

Then I started to compare and to notice some errors in movement as I was doing them. I was going into the next movement while still analyzing the prior ones. Tension starting building. Movement became awkward and forced. Perfection was the goal and this was never going to happen.

Great movement in Systema comes from years of experiencing the cycle of Error-Correction-Repeat. Yes, there will be times when we “nail it,” but more often than not, it is a never-ending learning process. The goal is not perfect movement, but enjoyment and being in the moment. When this happens — regardless of what the movement looks like — all is right with the world. Genuine progress is made.

Perfection is a concept that has caused more problems then virtually anything. We want the perfect job or business, the perfect mate, the perfect location for our school, the perfect students and so on. We, who are imperfect being are looking for perfection in an imperfect world.

There are certainly moments of perfection. We score a “100” on a test or win a particular event or something along these lines. Moments like this are both memorable and fleeting. The problem comes when perfection is the sole goal. When we set up a scenario like this, we are bound to live in “failure” most of the time. Upon closer introspection, the problem is not the failure, rather it is the concept of perfection.

I find that letting go of this notion that we have to be perfect at all time, especially Systema class as it is the most important thing in our life (yes, this is an attempt at humor), magical things happen. We enjoy the moment. We remain present. We appreciate our experience. We love being around the people who are sharing this moment with. We laugh and at mistakes, dust off, correct them as best as we can and do it again.

In other words. . . . it is just Perfect.