Imperfect Perfection: focus on the current excellent thing

An article by on February 10, 2018

Imperfect Perfection: focus on the current excellent thing, strength and beauty of the whole.

I just returned from leading a workshop in Santa Fe on Developing Creative Leadership by incorporating mindfulness. The travel was long and more taxing that I anticipated, and my focus was compromised through the first half of the workshop. So I came back with mixed emotions.

On the one hand, I found my groove, had beautiful conversations with the educators present, and received a couple of new ideas to make the workshop more useful. On the other, I berated myself for not being better prepared, for loosing confidence and allowing myself to be distracted by thoughts of what the participants assumed about me. “I should be better than this,” I mused, “I’m the expert, for heaven’s sake, lead like one!”

One thing I know about myself is that my standard for perfection is that my performance ought to be perfect from the get-go. For some reason, while I understand intellectually that one must repeatedly perform a thing in order to improve, it is massively difficult to actually go through the initial efforts of not-so-good to get to the better, and still more efforts to get to the good and great.

But the truth of the matter is that I lost my focus, not on the content, but on the true goal I wish to have: an attitude of seeking to understand before being understood, a desire to learn as much as to teach. My goal truly is to know the people whom I travel to be with so that I might better share myself with them.

“Give no offense to the Jews or Greeks or the church, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t look after my own advantage, but for what is best for others . . .” (1Cor10:32-33)

Last night was the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics. The focus for participating athletes is most definitely perfection. At the same time, since the games are held in South Korea, the ceremony centered on describing Korea’s culture and history. The performers described the yin-yang as 2 sides of the mountain peak, both necessary for wholeness, a complete peoples; the circle, or enso, symbolic of unending, perpetual unity around the source of life and sustenance for the country.

Then, there was this Toyota commercial. It followed one person in particular who was born without a majority of her legs and part of one arm. With loving support of family and the resources of technology (some of which Toyota seems to manufacture) this individual grew to become an athlete and compete para-olymics skiing competitions. The bi-line: “When you’re free to move, anything is possible.” The message: People with so-called physical disabilities are given resources and freedom to be – focused, trained, free to be strong, successful physically, empowered to exist as fully human when others consider them incomplete, limited – will.

And the President of the IOC eloquently stated: “United in our diversity, we are stronger than all the forces that want to divide us.” This totally encapsulates the Korean cultural community ethic and the sense that it takes resources and family (in whatever form that takes) to accomplish anything important – and perhaps we have lost sight of what is truly important. I certainly did this week.

One of the educators participating in my workshop shared that she will often remove all of the erasers from her classroom. She views every attempt her students make as important, precious. None are failures. Rather, each attempt, while part of the process toward excellence, is also the current excellent creation. And I would not have received this beautiful wisdom had I not been leading this workshop with these specific individuals!


Each of us has a rich history that shapes us – unique while part of a whole that needs everyone else on our formation field to make more complete. Each of us have disabilities – aspects of who we are that have the potential to limit our efforts – making some tasks more difficult alone, but with infinite possibility when provided resources and support. Each of us is unique – and that is our strength when we unite in that diversity, celebrate the gifts and difference and so-called shortcomings – a beautiful, complete wholeness.

If you are in a space where you can write or draw on something, will you practice a kind of focus with me? You may do this in your imagination for now, but when you are able, please try this:

Take a marker or pencil or crayon – whatever you find at hand. Draw a large circle on a piece of paper. Do not trace. Do not erase. There is beauty in that so-called imperfection!

Take your finger and trace around the mark.

Notice there is no beginning, no ending.

Feel the ridge make in the paper. Perhaps there is a smudge from the pencil, or crumbs from the crayon. Maybe a less rounded part that needed overcompensation in order to complete the circle.

Consider these anomalies, irregularities.

Contemplate how these affected making the circle.

Did you not still join the ends together?

Depending on when in the day you are listening, where in your day have you noticed an overcompensation or veering off the curve a bit?

How does it affect where you are now.

Can you see it as part of a beautiful completeness in your day? (an unexpected connection with someone, an opportunity to consider something you would not have otherwise?)

Trace your circle.

When you are ready, consider a word or phrase or image that comes to mind and sketch it into the center of your circle.

Be grateful.

As always, you can find a transcript of this podcast and resources on my website,

And today, may you walk at the pace of grace.




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About Nicole

Nicole Oliver Snyder’s expertise lies in the areas of leadership, gender issues, and mindfulness practice as it affects both. Leadership, particularly in an urban setting, requires community-relations skills, and an ability to clearly convey justice issues as they relate to felt, spiritual ones. Dr. Snyder is author of Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone, and specializes in teaching mindfulness leadership development, formative spirituality, counseling, and Old Testament theology (emphasis on justice issues). She has a diverse background in international community-relations work combined with volunteer work in multi-ethnic communities, and with local institutions. She is an ordained Clergy; holds a BS in Human Development and Family Studies, w/Education Certificate, an MA-Counseling, MDiv Equiv., holds a Doctor of Ministry and Advanced Certification in Formative Spiritual Direction, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (MI).

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