Perfectionism: Not good enough for You

No matter our ages, perfectionism can be as ugly, mean, and nasty as procrastination. Why? Because even when we manage to get started, which may have been difficult enough, perfectionistic tinkering can keep us from ever quite finishing. Bad news, if we no longer have all the time in the world to deal with what we want—or possibly must—do.

Do you engage in such tinkering yourself? And does this quest for "just right" drive your colleagues, friends, and loved ones up the wall? Do you sometimes drive even yourself crazy and wonder why you can’t just get it done? If yes, you may bear the yoke of perfectionism—its lure sometimes driving you off the rails instead of to your destination.

You don’t mean any harm. You just want to make the project a little bit better…and a little bit better still...etcetera. Unfortunately, while you're stuck in the Make It Better (MIB) box, the enterprise can grow stale.

Done Sometimes Beats Perfect, Babe

So, what if you were to consider a new standard (as in B or B+ instead of A or A+) for noncritical projects. Now, for example, you give completion a higher "billing" than you may have done previously. No, you don’t slop through your task just to get finished, but you also don’t keep tinkering in an endless quest for the perfect result. [See bottom section for an example of just such a quest.]

Instead, you work steadily toward your goal, step by step by step. And you keep going until you get that sucker done to your reasonable satisfaction. Then, and only then, do you allow yourself some revising...but you also keep it under control, right?

Shortly thereafter, you draw the line: you're finished. And
should the tinkering urge keep falling upon you? Then, perhaps try reminding yourself that “good” (as opposed to "superb") quite possibly IS good enough for many practical purposes. So, if it needn't be the World's Greatest, try wrapping that project up and letting it recede in the rear-view mirror.

Yes, I know it can be Really hard, but see what sometimes happens when we don't...

   Perfectionism Running Wild 

As part of its homeless program, a volunteer organization in the USA Southwest runs a temporary-labor operation. One benefit is a sack lunch for each worker, these donated primarily by community members. While living in that city, my husband and I provided a dozen such lunches monthly.

Not that many, but inside the MIB box, twelve lunches became quite a bit more complicated than they perhaps needed to be.

How It Went Down
Among other items, the agency wanted two meat-and-cheese sandwiches in each lunch. So, I bought "home-style" turkey slices, rather than lunch-meat versions, and added an extra slice of cheese to each sandwich for more protein...suspecting that one of those sandwiches might provide supper, right?

Because we were asked to leave off condiments to avoid sogginess, I bought mustard and salsa packets, which I rolled up in napkins with a *plastic knife for spreading and secured with a rubber band.

Then, besides the suggested chips and peanut-butter crackers, I'd poke in a packet of nuts and a couple of jerky sticks for more protein and jollies
and perhaps to help provide an evening snack. For the requested "treats," I made brownies and cookies (which had to be wrapped), as homeless people likely get few homemade goodies. And so on.

Although said to be much enjoyed by their recipients, the enhancements to those lunches added considerably to the time/effort required of someone already severely stretched. So, in trying to make them "better," I also limited the number of lunches we could otherwise have donated for their actual intended purpose. Bummer, no?

[*Yes, plastic knives were an unfortunate slip; bamboo cutlery would be more available now.]

   Dealing with the Urge

Should you find yourself in relatable circumstances, what might be some ways you could deal with perfection-creep more "productively" than I did? For example, perhaps I could have found a brownie/cookie baker from the community to partner with...and also someone to help assemble the lunches (both tasks my husband in healthier times would happily have undertaken). I could also have remained within the suggested boundaries and thereby provided more lunches.

Maybe some some other ideas are occurring to you as we speak. Meanwhile, though, here's a thought: with any project that doesn't affect the survival of person or beast, perhaps we might remind ourselves that good (okay, Verry good), as opposed to "totally amazing," may be just fine. Ya think?

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If you choose to explore this site, please understand three things: (a) I am neither therapist nor professional coach; (b) my focus here is primarily aging women; (c) my comments are not intended to disparage any women (or men) whose immediate choices may range from limited to nonexistent. To them (or anyone, really), I mean no offense with my remarks.

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