Perfectionism: Just not good enough for You

No matter our ages, perfectionism can be as ugly, mean, and nasty as procrastination. Why? Because even when we do 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? (She asked, raising her hand.)

If yes, perhaps you too bear the heavy yoke of perfectionism, with the lure of the “perfect” 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 box, the enterprise can grow stale.


Done Beats Perfect, Baby!

So, what if you were to consider a new standard (as in B or B+ instead of A or A+) for noncritical projects. Now, you focus as lease as much upon completion as upon perfection. No, you don’t slop through your task just to get finished or race heedlessly toward a poorly thought-out destination. But you also don’t tinker endlessly in a quest for perfection. [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 look what sometimes happens when we don't...

  Perfectionism Running Amok

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 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, see.)

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, along with the suggested peanut-butter crackers and bag of chips, 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 probably don't get much homemade stuff. And so on.

Although said to be much enjoyed by their recipients, the enhancements to those lunches added quite a bit to the time and effort involved. So, in trying to make them "better," I also limited the number of lunches we donated for their actual intended purpose. Mea culpa, right?

  Dealing with the Urge

Should you find yourself in relatable circumstances, what might be some ways you could deal with perfection-creep more effectively than I did? For example, had I not been a newish resident, I might have found a brownie/cookie baker from the community to partner with...and perhaps someone to help assemble (or deliver) the lunches. That way, the lunch quality could have remained high, but with less "production" pressure. Or, I could have remained within the suggested boundaries and thereby provided more lunches.

These days, with any project(s) not vitally connected to individual welfare, I remind myself that (a) I'm not in a race and (b) good may actually be "good" enough. Perhaps those reminders might work for you too, now and then, and maybe you'll develop some others, as well. I say we drink to that!  ;-)

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