I recently happened across an essay that I had written during my freshman year of high school. I was astonished to find that even as a 14-year-old, I was ideologically committed to what I now understand to be "the growth mindset." People often think I'm a perfectionist. I have the symptoms of being meticulous, driven, goal-oriented, and high-achieving. But, I do not want to be perfect. Perfection is constricting, stagnant, suffocating. Success as a product of learning, not performance, is what I believe in. Excellence is not perfection. Learning is essential. Focus on growth and aim high. In my opinion, perfection is final. It is an absolute cap on achievement. But, if you are a perpetual learner, there is no limit to how far you can go, how high you can reach. Anyhow, here is my writing from a much younger me...
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”–Aristotle
To me, there is a great deal of truth in these words of
Aristotle. Raised in a world of wrong and trying to live a life of right is no easy feat. It seems that everywhere you turn there is some impurity threatening the beauty of life. In that sense, Aristotle’s words ring true to me. People put on a happy face, fake innocence, or simply live a double life. At school, they may be smart and friendly, but what do they say and do online at night? To their coaches they appear driven and dedicated, but
how do they treat their bodies? To their parents, they appear to be charming when in reality they make everyone’s lives miserable. Aristotle is saying that excellence is achieved by practice, much like other things in our lives. When preparing for a test, you should put your full effort into your studies and homework so that when you get to the test you are prepared to do what is being asked. In sports, practice the same way every day and you will play that way in your game. In life, practice kindness and
character consistently, because what you do and say will reflect who you actually are. It is fine if your parents think you are nice, if that is all that matters to you. But if you really want to be nice you have to practice
kindness everywhere. We all make mistakes and may say a mean thing or two every once and a while, but it is repetition and correction that shapes
excellence. Aristotle isn’t demanding perfection, but a pursuit for perfection. Never can perfection be reached, but you can try and the result will be great. In my life, I am surrounded by many two faced people. I love
many of them but they simply aim to look good on paper. They have good grades, awards, community service, athletic participation, and have a group
of smiling friends. However, when you see their actions after school and on the weekends you realize their true character. My goal is to be genuine. In
no way am I perfect, even on paper. I have many flaws and make many mistakes, but I try to practice what I preach. I want to improve in volleyball, so I practice the proper way. I want to get good grades on my
tests, so I study for them instead of cheating. I want to make the right choices so I hold fast to my beliefs and avoid people or situations that
would influence me otherwise. Aristotle is simply saying that you play how you practice. Excellence is simply decision making. You control your actions and what comes out of your mouth. Given the opportunity, only you can choose to make someone’s day or break it. In the end, if you make good decisions they will add up. Your consistent actions will become your habits, and soon enough you will not have to think to be the person of character that you want to be.