Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
Or something along those lines. This is another quote I stumble over every once in awhile in my readings, and as you’ve come to expect with posts here that start with quotes – it resonates with me. It also reminds me of this one:
“Often times people strive to be perfect just so they can ‘fail’ and give up.”
– Rob Wolf
We (in the US anyway) have a culturally based obsession with ‘perfect.’ Whether it’s the ‘perfect’ body, or the ‘perfect’ job, or the ‘perfect’ partner. As with most culturally based obsessions, and to use yet another favorite quote, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”*
What we have are assumptions based on what we THINK society means by it. We’re inundated with imagery and content that’s designed to make us feel less-than-perfect and unworthy – generally with the intent of getting us to buy some new shiny bauble that’s guaranteed to make us more perfect -er.
And when that one doesn’t do it’s magic, we’re encouraged to buy a different, more better version that is extra super-duper guaranteed to do it.
Guess what? It won’t work.
What is missing from all this marketing jargon and doublespeak is any sense at all of what ‘perfect’ means. What is the actual, fact based definition they’re working with? Who developed it? What culturally and societally based assumptions are they seeing the world through? Because we’re going to need to reverse engineer some filters through which to view these things in order to remove these other people’s filters.
So what do we do when none of these things lead us to perfection? Do we redefine that word? Nope. We consider ourselves failures and we sulk, generally losing ourselves in an alcohol/drug/food induced stupor until we find the next silver bullet and put all our hope in it – our hope that any one thing can or will lead to a sense of perfection in any one area of our lives. More society/culture based assumptions at play here.
Maybe it’s time to give that first option another look? Redefining a word we don’t actually have a working definition for is a tricky endeavor – and frankly all this filter/reverse engineered filter-removal stuff is starting to sound like a real downer.
So how to go about changing how we see ourselves and how we use the concept of perfect?
Start with the idea of Satisficing. This is a concept initially put forward by Herbert A. Simon in the 50’s, and brought up to current more recently in psychological research into happiness. Satisficing is a heuristic that many people inherently use to comb through the available options and land on the first one that will serve their purposes. They pick the first one they come across that is good enough for their needs.
Then they stop looking.
Compare that with the constant search for perfection and you can see why happiness researchers are looking into it. How much misery is caused in our society by this never ending hunt for the perfect body/job/partner? What if you could learn to love your current job by making some small changes in your perspective on it? Is it serving your needs right now? Maybe that’s good enough, for the time being.
Look at that, another way shifting your perspective can help.
Making this sort of shift can let you refocus your energy on other, potentially more life changing areas. Maybe it’s time to start that side hustle as a graphic designer you’ve been dreaming about. Or to devote more time and focus to your hobby of…I don’t know…building lifesize lego reconstructions of famous battles from the War of 1812. Whatever it may be, you can use the focus and attention you’ve freed up on it, rather than dwelling on the negativity inherent in not being ‘perfect.’
And being able to focus on those things may be just what you need in order to see your work situation/love life in a new light.
Start the Conversation.
*It’s from the Princess Bride. If you haven’t seen it, go. Now. See it. I’ll be right here when you get back.