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Why Progress, NOT Perfection, helps us find Common Ground for the Common Good

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‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.’ Voltaire

‘The world is becoming very black and white with people striving for perfection where only the best is acceptable. If we continue down this road, then we will lose everything that is human.’ Madeline Stuart*

‘Perfection is the enemy of progress.’ Winston Churchill

Our relationship with perfection and progress can be rather fraught.

In the human world that often promotes perfection or the idealised state, i.e.

      The perfect body

      The perfect marriage/relationship

      The perfect career

      The perfect mind

      The perfect way to be sustainable, and so on…

We can be forgiven for thinking that perfection is actually attainable.

However, anyone who has strived for perfection in anything finds they often end up leading a life of misery because they soon discover that achieving a perfected state is unrealistic on an individual and societal level.

Taking a perfectionistic stand can also lead to limited or no progress, making us worse off than we were before because some people get it into their heads that if it’s not perfect then we might as well do nothing. And that is not good for anyone.

Often criticising people for having a go, these perfectionists sit in judgement of those of us who are trying to progress, move forward and work out how to do things better. These people often question our motives and intentions and call us out for not doing it properly in the first place for whatever deranged reason.

Let take the case of Waitrose & Partners in the UK as a classic case.

Waitrose & Partners are best described as a responsible sourcing supermarket chain that supplies fresh food, groceries, flowers, cellar products and so on.

In a recent opinion piece in the Guardian, Tony Taylor, a Manchester based journalist, had a crack at Waitrose & Partners for going plastic bag free and called it a ‘PR move that will change little’.

The backlash from this article was quite something.

Waitrose & Partners are committed to responsible sourcing and reducing/removing unnecessary packaging. In this case they were experimenting with packaging-free shopping that became an obvious win for the supermarket chain. It decided to sell around 200 loose lines to shoppers at its Oxford store. This meant that shoppers can now use their own containers to take home rice, pasta, lentils, cleaning products and so on – a growing trend called “unpackaged” which is about zero-waste shops and the rise of refillable wine and beer.

What’s the kerfuffle I hear you ask?

It was the criticism by Tony Taylor saying this change is a PR move and is so insignificant why bother that got people really riled up.

Well Tony, every little action counts and thousands and millions of people taking millions of little, positive, imperfect actions of change every day make a huge difference to our collective future.

At least Waitrose & Partners and their customers are trying to do something constructive for our environment and our communities. It’s certainly better than nothing.

As Sali Hughes** pointed out in the comments section, ‘Perfection is the enemy of progress. I can’t stand this constant whinging that doing nothing is more righteous than doing something imperfect’

Everything and everyone is imperfect by nature and it is in our nature to move forward and progress.

It’s all of us who can make a difference every day.

Waiting on governments and corporations alone to prefect the necessary changes will limit or halt our progress towards a better future.

With the advent of social media and speed of connection and communication we can call rally together and do our bit. We can show people how they can act locally to make a positive difference.

Ask what you can do now

Your actions don’t have to be perfect to make a positive difference.

Many of the significant changes and innovations in the world came about by accident or making mistakes.

Forget about perfection and focus on progress because we can all be agents of positive change.

Get out there and do your bit for the common good by finding common ground

“If virtue promises happiness, prosperity and peace, then progress in virtue is progress in each of these for to whatever point the perfection of anything brings us, progress is always an approach toward it.” Epictetus

* Madeline Stuart is young Australian woman and a worldwide phenomenon. She is a powerful advocate for inclusiveness and diversity in modelling. At just 21 years of age she is already a household name around the world, with over 850,000 social media fans following her successful campaign to become the first professional model with Down syndrome

** Sali Hughes: Columnist, broadcaster, event host, author, Beauty Banks co-founder


Finding Common Ground: it’s about exploring shared interests, beliefs, or opinions between two people or groups of people who may disagree about most other subjects.

Our common ground in Social Foundations: Water, food, housing energy, health, education, income and work, peace and justice, networks, gender equality, social equity, political voice

Our common ground in Ecology: climate change, ozone layer depletion, air pollution, biodiversity loss, land conversion, freshwater withdrawals, nitrogen and phosphorus overloading, chemical pollution and ocean acidification

Author: Sue Barrett, 


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