Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dealing with perfectionism

Most of the time I'm a big-picture kind of guy, but every once in a while I will get caught up in the minutiae of a project.

You may have heard of the line, "Don't let 'perfect' get in the way of 'good enough.'" I think that's very true, particularly for something subjective and/or evolving (like writing). At some point you have to say, "it's done."

I try to live a life of purpose with high standards. As a result I've put a lot of extra pressure on myself to ensure that I put out something as close to perfect as possible (or at least not inferior). This mindset has resulted in a lot of extra stress. Stress is helpful up to a point (see eustress), but after that it's unproductive (and it always takes a toll on the body).

Fortunately, back in seventh grade science class my friend, Eli, told me, "Zohar, you're perfect minus one."

It was a line he quickly forgot, but it's stuck with me ever since. I can't tell you how much pressure that "minus one" takes off. It gives me permission and acceptance. "Minus one" is really darn close - definitely enough to surpass the "good enough" threshold. And if that's the way I am when I act naturally, well then...

It means my reputation and past performance is solid enough with people who know me to give me the benefit of the doubt - where they expect good things and tolerate or overlook the minus ones.

What about those that don't yet know me? They'll come around. I didn't know the people I currently know until I met them.

I've found that most of the time people get caught up in perfection they've lost touch with (or never had a clear definition) of "good enough."

When in doubt ask for perspective, get some assistance, and reconsider if what's being attempting is worth doing at all.

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