In Pursuit Of Perfection

Around the time I sold my company I started a foundation called the IPOP Foundation, which stands for In Pursuit Of Perfection. I was recently asked why I chose that name. Here’s my answer:

Perfection.  It is an intimidating word for sure.  One which can be the cause of discouragement and anxiety for many who might feel they are constantly falling short of achieving it.  I know because there was a time in my early adult years when I was one of those many feeling intimidated and discouraged that I would never be able to achieve perfection in my life.  I was a single working mother with two small children to care for.  I was constantly feeling the guilt all day at work of not being home with the kids, and then coming home at night to my kids and feeling the guilt of everything I needed to get done at work.  I felt like no matter how hard I tried that I was failing in every aspect of my life because I didn’t know how to be everything to everyone that needed me.  It was a difficult and discouraging time for me because I felt I was giving everything I had to give, yet it was never quite enough.  Perfection was the expectation that I was trying to live up to.  It was a word that I judged my every action against, and when I fell short of it, which was every day, I found myself feeling like a constant failure and totally inadequate.

You have to understand that I was raised by parents who constantly encouraged me to live my life in the pursuit of perfection.  I was also taught by my church leaders to be in the pursuit of perfection. And I had a strong belief in God and believed that God wanted me to live my life in the pursuit of perfection.  So perfection was the expectation I was trying to live up to and it was a word that I judged my every action against, and when I fell short of it, which was every day, I found myself feeling like a constant failure and totally inadequate.

A combination of life experiences, reading a lot of self-improvement books, a great deal of self-reflection, and working with a fantastic counselor who helped me after my first marriage ended in divorce helped me come to see that the problem was how I was interpreting the challenge to live my life in the pursuit of perfection.  I had been so focused on trying to achieve perfection that I failed to see that I was measuring myself on a literally impossible scale.  None of us are, or will be, perfect during our lifetime no matter how hard we try.  So by holding ourselves to that standard would be setting us up for failure. And God would never set us up to fail. Nor would He want us to feel inadequate. There may have been a lot of things I didn’t know back then, but what I did know for certain was that God loved me and wanted me to succeed. I needed to reconcile my belief that we are all meant to pursue perfection with my belief that God wanted us to succeed.

That’s when I figured it out…I had misunderstood the teaching to live in pursuit of perfection.  I had focused in on the “perfection” and completely overlooked the “In pursuit of” portion of that sentence.  All those years I had been interpreting it completely wrong!  Neither God, nor my parents, nor my church leaders had been trying to tell me I had to be “perfect” – they had all been trying to tell me that “perfection” is all about just living “In pursuit of” it – there was no expectation that I achieve it – only that I pursue it to the best of my ability each and every day.

That was the first point in my life I got it – All God expected me to do was to pursue perfection each day of my life, and then when my time on this earth was completed, if I had done all I could do to live in pursuit of it that God (through the Atonement of his son Jesus Christ) will make up the difference for my shortcomings, allowing me to achieve perfection.

That realization was like having a blacked out window suddenly opened and it allowed the sunshine to come pouring in.  “The pursuit of” was something I could control.  “The pursuit of” was something I could succeed at.  “The pursuit of” was a measurement scale I could totally live up to.  Coming to realize the correct interpretation of what I’d been taught all my life made all the difference.  I no longer had to feel inadequate or discouraged – I could feel capable and strong and empowered.  I could do this.

My life has been very different since that time when I finally got it.  I became happier, more successful, and at peace with my life.  Getting rid of the impossible measurement scale and replacing it with a measurement scale that made far more sense and was far more in line with what I knew of a loving Heavenly Father’s desires for my life made me a much happier person.

I hope that sharing my story will help those of you out there who might have misinterpreted the expectations just as I did and who have been feeling inadequate and discouraged.  I hope that you will recognize that all you are expected to do is to live “in pursuit of” perfection and know that the “pursuit of” is enough.  YOU are enough!

So there you have it – the story of why I named it the IPOP Foundation. I did it as a reminder that excelling in life happens through the “pursuit of perfection”, not perfection itself.

~Amy Rees Anderson

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