Have you ever heard the quote “perfect is the enemy good?” It was actually popularized by Voltaire in the 1700’s so this idea has been around a long time!
I thought of this famous quote during a coaching session with a my typical working mom client a few weeks ago. She described her frustration with her lack of exercise. She had formerly been a triathlete, high school sports star and college athlete. Currently, she was working full-time and had a house full of young children. After the birth of her youngest, she found that she wasn’t able to find time to get to the gym. Her goal was to participate in a triathlon in one year but, meanwhile, she wasn’t doing ANY exercise at all because for her it felt like all or nothing. She believed that if she couldn’t get in her full one hour workout 5 days per week she was a failure. She kept planning and planning to get to the gym. She had even invested in a rather expensive gym membership to motivate herself but she still hadn’t set foot in the gym. She told me “I just have NO time to go.” We looked at her schedule and discovered that she had 30-45 minutes 2-3 times per week. I asked her if she would be willing to plan exercise during those times and she said “that will never be good enough to get me to my triathlon.” I quickly pointed out that at the moment she was doing ZERO exercise and asked her if that in any way was going to help her get to her goal and, of course, she had to say no. As we spoke, she realized that she had set her goals at such an impossible high for her life right now that she set herself up for failure.
Perfection: the state of being completely without mistakes or flaws
Even if this were possible – is it something to be striven for? I LOVE mistakes. Full admission that in the moment that’s not always true – I might feel ashamed or embarrassed but upon reflection I realize they help me grow and discover amazing things. So maybe it’s more accurate for me to say that I’ve learned to embrace my mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn, how we discover new things and overall how we experience life more deeply. When I was studying painting in college, mistakes led to some of my finest paintings. Mistakes I’ve made in my personal relationships, my mothering and my work have led to some of my deepest and life-changing revelations.
Setting your goal volume all the way to perfection can be paralyzing.
You are less likely to take action at all for fear that you will never measure up. Also, it can be incredibly overwhelming to even start. And, even if you do take action, when is it ever good enough? Isn’t the process of attaining our goals just as incredible an experience as reaching them?So, if perfection is a state of things being so flawless that they cannot be improved why even set goals at all?
What to do
Like that famous commercial once said JUST DO IT. Set reasonable goals and take action every day. Reasonableness in goal setting is a very personal thing. Only you know what is possible at any one time in your life. If you aren’t exercising at all because you used to go the gym 2 hours per day and you think if you can’t do that why bother, what about 30 minutes a day or even 10 minutes a day? If you feel overwhelmed by meal prep because you think you need to create 21 perfect meals for the week, why not try prepping 5 meals (easy recipe idea here).