Perfection Is The Enemy Of Good

Sep 23, 2021

Perfection is nothing more than a figment of your imagination. Especially when it comes to human endeavour.

I'll admit, there have been times when, to the human eye, a performance can appear flawless, especially in the sporting arena:

  • Torvill and Dean's ice dance performance to Ravel's Bolero
  • Usain Bolt's double-double gold medals in the Olympic sprints
  • Michael Phelps claiming 8 gold medals in Beijing.

Interestingly though, not one of those people would agree that their performance was PERFECT.

Perfection Is The Enemy Of Good

The fact that Perfection is unobtainable seems to elude most people. In fact, I'd say it is the number one reason most people don't start, don't persist and don't finish many of the things they say they want in life.

We live in a world of instant gratification:

  • Delicious food in seconds
  • An exciting date in a few swipes
  • A spellbinding film in two clicks
  • A dazzling new outfit in minutes

Consequently, when something appears to demand consistent effort to become even "okay", it stops many from even taking the first step. They think they need to be perfect, not realising perfection doesn't exist anyway.

A Culture Of Good Enough

I have often shared the benefits of Pareto's Law. The 80/20 Rule which focuses on doing enough to make the most substantial progress is incredibly powerful.

It's most useful when we just need to get something moving, to develop some initial momentum and overcome inertia. Equally, if we're interested in generating lots of ideas in the creative phase of a project, suspending judgement and accepting the ideas are nothing more than seeds, is critical to progress.

However, this approach is not good enough when quality is required. When expectations are high and the bar for completion is set to excellent, we have to give it more than just enough".

Unfortunately, a Good Enough culture has emerged amongst people who resent applying sizeable chunks of time to anything which is not delivering tangible personal benefit quickly.

Redefining Perfection

 Let's do a quick reframe. If we know Perfection is unobtainable, maybe we can shoot for excellence instead. Excellence really is possible because, by definition, it recognizes the effort involved and the opportunity for still further improvement.

In striving for Excellence we open up so many great opportunities:

  • We develop intrinsic motivation for the task in-hand
  • We see it and therefore we can plan for it
  • We eliminate competition and comparison and focus on what personal excellence looks like
  • We establish why we're doing it and keep ourselves honest.

The Integrity Test

If all we are doing is striving to be better today than we were yesterday then the only person we need to convince is the person who looks back at us in the mirror.

It is easy to kid ourselves we have gone all out on something when we know, in our hearts, there was more in the tank. Integrity is doing what we say we will do, even when no-one else is watching.

We really are only undermining our chances of achieving excellence when we guarantee a better performance tomorrow by doing less than we are capable of doing today.

Now, I'm not talking about burning ourselves out by pushing it to the max every minute of every day. The 80/20 Rule still applies. What I am saying is, when we set our sights on excellence in any area, we are constantly challenged to be the best version of ourselves when we are engaged in that activity.

Sometimes it is easier to keep our commitments when we feel accountable to another person. If you'd like an accountability coach to help keep you honest, get in touch.

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