Saturday, May 12, 2007

Reflecting on the principle of "Pursuit of Excellence"

I had a lovely visit yesterday from a dear Baha'i sister from Montreal. I have known here for more than 10 years now and she has the amazing knack of coming back into my life at turning points in my life. I listened with intensity to her words of wisdom to guide me through my next phase of career and life transition.

One of the things that dawned out of my introspection with her was that there is a very subtle yet strong difference between pursuit of excellence and pursuit of perfection. I realised that all my life I have been struggling with trying to achieve perfection in everything I did and hence often being disappointed with my achievements, even though some marvelled at what I had achieved.

I also found myself not fully enjoying the moment as I was always wondering what I could have done to make that moment even more perfect. This was the way I was raised, and I don;t also know if my being a woman and a minority had also attributed to my needing to overcompensate and prove I was able to achieve perfection. I read a book on women empowerment recently, where it stated that this was a common trap that most women fell into. Asked to do a lot with so much less resources, a women will say yes and get so burnt out achieving what she set out to do. On the other hand a man will most likely say that the task required more resources or renegotiate a more achievable task. Woman and minorities are often too keen to show they can do it and afraid to show weakness if they were to make similar demands.
This does not mean we just sit back and just do the minimal. I think it is important to have the right attitude and try to do your best. I realised that the Baha'i writing on the pursuit of excellence, if also read together with the writings on "work is worship" then the spirit of "putting your best foot forward" and doing it with the right attitude is what counts. Not getting it perfect but doing your total best and leaving the rest to God. Having faith and letting go of the results. In other words, the pursuit of perfection is quite different from the pursuit of excellence.
Think of it, Abdu'l Baha always asked "Are you happy?".
The pursuit of perfection I realise takes that feeling of happiness away, as life can never be perfect. Only God is perfect or can create perfection. It is egoistic of me to think I can create perfection.

So henceforth, I shall endeavour to remind myself "excellence- not perfection" and I am sure I will soon unlearn these habits of my past. With it I hope to learn to be more content and satisfied with what I have achieved and contributed.

So if you ever see me stressed out to achieve perfection again, please just give me a nudge and remind me of this difference :> After all it takes time to unlearn bad habits from the past.


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