Don’t Let Perfect Be The Enemy Of Good

Why do we often find ourselves tangled in a net of perfectionism? Because we’re afraid to fail. 

The Stoics reminded us of the perils of focusing solely on the destination and not the journey itself. Marcus Aurelius said, 

“Progress is not achieved by luck or accident, but by working on yourself daily.”

This black and white path, ‘all or nothing’ mentality, has undoubtedly trapped many of us. It’s like standing on the edge of a cliff; either you take the perfect leap, landing exactly where we want, or you don’t jump at all. But this binary thinking is blind to the vast number of possibilities that lie in-between. And often we blame the circumstance before we blame our own lack of responsibility to ourselves. Sometimes, a leap is required. And if you do it once, chances are you can do it again.

Imagine a budding writer aiming to craft the perfect novel. Obsessed with flawless prose and plot, they may never even complete the first chapter. Their fixation on perfection inhibits them from experiencing the learning curve that comes with writing, revising, and improving. Not everyday is going to give them three uninterrupted hours, but instead of writing a page on the train car coming home from the day job, they tell themselves that their circumstances need to be perfect to work. And of course, they never are.

We become so paralysed by the fear of failing to meet the ideal, that we become its opposite. We risk not starting or achieving anything at all. But If we see each day as an opportunity for progress and build consistency over perfection, we can take pride in laying one more brick just like we did the day before. This is good, but far from perfect. And if you’ve ever met another human being or the circumstances we inhabit, you know perfection is a myth.

So if we modify our perspective to celebrate the slow and consistent pursuit over the singular burst of genius, we’ll develop the skills, habits, and mindset that will lead to a more virtuous, and fulfilling, life. Daily simple action.