Perfect enemy

Perfect is the Enemy of the Good Enough OR Why We Procrastinate

Hi, Dory!

Hi, Dory!

So, here it is, almost the middle of January. Those New Year’s resolutions that looked so shiny and beautiful on December 30 and 31 are starting to tarnish just a bit. You know the feeling - hopes that things will be different this time - I’ll get organized, lose weight, pay off debt, not yell at my kids anymore this year and my life will be amazing! Then, after a strong start and a few stumbles, the resolution gets set aside and life continues, but with an added sheen of failure and disappointment, more pounds, more debt, more clutter and more strife. Sigh.


Why do we get discouraged and eventually quit? Why do we not even get started to begin with? I think it’s because we want to be a 100% success from day one. When that doesn’t pan out or we become overwhelmed before even trying, we lose faith and walk away.


The idea of “perfect is the enemy of the good (or the good enough)” was popularized by Voltaire, a French writer during the Enlightenment period in the 1700’s. Shakespeare wrote in King Lear that in “striving to do better, we oft mar what’s well.”  For example, you’re wanting to reorganize your bedroom and you start with your sock drawer. You can take so much time and effort and worry making that sock drawer look like something in Martha Stewart Living or Better Homes & Gardens, that you make yourself frustrated, unhappy and forget to go to the grocery store.  My advice? Work on the sock drawer until it’s functional. Can you see all of your socks? Are they folded or rolled they way you like them and will continue to do so? Is there some extra space so they’re not stuffed in and crowded? If you want, sort them by color or type. Boom. Done. Move on to the underwear drawer.


I admit, I still find it frustrating to start a new workout DVD and not be able to do it 100% completely correct the first time I try it. What I’ve (finally) decided is that I deserve a learning curve. I’m not ever going to be one of the folks doing the workout behind the instructor in the DVD, right? So who cares if my effort is perfect? Who cares if I can’t keep up? Who cares if I only do eight repetitions instead of 12? I’m moving, aren’t I? So long as I’m using correct form and am not endangering myself, who cares? No one. Why should I? Why not have some fun so I’ll continue to get up off the couch and get some exercise which is the entire point anyway?


A lot of professional organizers tell their clients to get started by setting a timer everyday at the same time for fifteen minutes. Then just start.  All you have to do is fifteen minutes, then you have permission to stop and enjoy your accomplishment. A lot of the times, though, you’ll hit your stride and keep working after the timer goes off. Bonus points!  It’s like exercise - just start! Put on the shoes and get out the door. Press “Play” on the DVD player.


Cut yourself some slack!  Here are a couple more sayings: Done is Better than Perfect! Practice Makes Progress! Or as my favorite blue fish says, Just Keep Swimming! So whatever your goal is, try and try again. Give yourself props for taking those baby steps.


You got this.