photo by David Wheeler
I have been spending a lot of time working with the idea of perfectionism lately. We all want to be the best, but sometimes that can get the better of us. Recently one of my clients, “Jane”, bumped into this issue when building a website for her business and she was unsure how she wanted it to look.
She was building her website with WordPress which allows users to change the look and feel of the entire website quickly and easily with the click of a button by switching from one theme to another. If you do a search online there are thousands of free WordPress themes and in just a few seconds you can update your site by using one of them.
Jane had become overwhelmed with the choices. She wanted the website to be just perfect.
What Is “Just Perfect”?
I find the concept of “just perfect” interesting. What exactly does that mean?
Often we believe that “just perfect” means that it has to be top of the line. It means that it needs to be in the top one percent. It needs to be better than everyone else.
But is that really the case?
I don’t think it is.
Often “just perfect” means that it is doing its job. In the case of building a new website in order to provide information to a possible client base “just perfect” means that the site is easy to navigate, easy to understand, and isn’t distracting in the way it looks.
It is perfectly acceptable to have a logo that only cost $40 vs. $4000.
It is perfectly acceptable to have everything in easy-to-read plain text and not some super-fancy Flash animation.
In this case the website is a delivery system of really good content. Jane’s readers will come to the site because of what they want to learn, not because it is designed beautifully.
This is not to say that beautiful design is bad or that no thought needs to be given to the look and feel of the web site. What is important is to understand what good enough is. Especially when we are starting out, good enough is what we are shooting for.
When Not Perfect = Failing
It is amazing that many of us feel like we have failed when something is just good enough.
We have been taught to strive for better. We have been encouraged to dream. We long for a richer life. Because of this we believe that if it is not perfect then it is bad.
But this is not the case. Many times good enough is good enough.
My father is a perfect example of understanding this. In order to sell a new product at work he needed to pass a test. Over the course of a number of weeks he studied a great deal. To pass the test he needed a 70. When get got home from the test I asked him how he did. He said, “I received a 74…I studied too hard.”
He knew exactly what good enough was. He wasn’t looking for an ego boost of getting the best score in the region. He wasn’t thinking he needed to prove anything to himself (or anyone else). He just needed to pass the test so that he could move on to the next thing.
Being Perfect At Being Good Enough
I was talking about the idea of “good enough is good enough” with another client. She said, “How do I master the idea of ‘knowing good enough is good enough’?”
I paused for a moment.
And then she laughed at herself as she understood how ridiculous her statement was.
The key to transforming our sense of perfectionism is first to be easy with ourselves, and to be easy with the process of not being so hard on ourselves.
When struggling with the need to be perfect when good enough is just that, we can tap on something like this:
It is important that I continue to strive in my life…There are parts of my life that I would like to be richer…There are relationships that I would like that are fuller…I have gifts and talents that I want to share with the world…But this doesn’t mean that everything has to be the very best…It is important that I keep all of my goals in perspective…Just because something can be done better doesn’t mean that it has to be done better…My laundry needs to be folded well enough…My bed needs to be made well enough…My car needs to be parallel parked well enough…It is possible for me to do all these things better…But nothing would be achieved by the extra effort…There are so many things I would like to grow into…That I need only spend as much time as is necessary on each task…I don’t want to do less than is necessary…But it is important that I keep everything in perspective…What is essential is the final goal…Not each of the pieces…I give myself permission to be comfortable with good enough…And know that good enough isn’t settling…But instead by achieving good enough I am giving myself time and resources to do other parts of what I am trying to achieve…I am going to keep the big picture in mind to understand what is good enough in each situation…Good enough is not failing…It is good enough…And that is just perfect.