She was a delightful French woman with a charming accent and an even more charming sense of humour. Report by Thembe Khumalo
Stylish and enthralling, she introduced me to the old French saying, “Best is the enemy of well” and helped me understand the startling relationship between perfectionism and procrastination
In this particular encounter, the lesson was related to business actions that should be taken, but are put off till a proposal, or a report, or a process is considered to be “just right”. This results in procrastination which has a knock-on effect on a whole bunch of other actions and decisions and ultimately can cause a business to fall short in achieving its strategy.
Although this lesson was about business, I recognised that it applied to life generally; that one could just as well progress with something adequate as wait for it to be perfect.
Think about something you have been planning to do, but haven’t got round to yet. Perhaps you are still planning, finalising, modifying your idea to ensure it is just perfect when you implement.
Perhaps you are one of those people who have been bitten once too often in poorly-planned and badly-executed assignments and you now need to know that everything has been thought of and tested before you set out.
In planning and perfecting things, one has to realise that something which is not yet done is not done. It doesn’t matter how sincere the intention to do it, how far along the plan to do it has come, how creative the ideas for doing it, it simply isn’t done unless it is, in fact, done – and no amount of willpower or wishful thinking can change this small fact.
When we try to do everything perfectly, we often leave tasks half-completed – these tasks link to other tasks, and other results, which link to others and so on. Before we know it, the pending basket is overflowing! An action point for these victims of their own high standards is to “just do it” or invest in briefing someone else to do it from scratch.
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Having briefed someone else, it is then important to simply back off, unless and until you are satisfied that the person has delivered to a good enough standard, or is not going to deliver, in which case you can and should intervene.
Accepting the idea that a good enough standard is in fact adequate can be extremely liberating, and allows us the freedom to move things along and make progress without soul-crushing guilt.
Perfectionism is an illusion as well as an obstacle and not only makes it difficult to progress, but also make it hard for others to work with you.
Sometimes we feel that if something is not difficult and taxing, it can’t possibly be right. We expect things to be hard, and if they aren’t, we make them so! But we can eliminate the fear of failure and pave the way for progress by not striving for perfection in the first place.
There is no assignment more frightening than raising a human being. I have not yet met a parent who did not fear failure in this area, and this is where fear can paralyse you.
Understanding that your vision of perfect parenthood is not necessarily a realistic one and forgiving yourself for delivering what is simply good enough is a tough lesson to embrace when it comes to parenting.
Here’s what writer Kerry Lonergan Luksic has to say about accepting what is good enough: “As parents, if we remain shackled to perfectionism, our kids lose out. Big time.
When it comes to raising children, life is messy. For all the amazing and joyful moments, they are counter-balanced with tantrums, misunderstandings and tears. To fight this is futile. Freedom from perfectionism opens the door to possibilities.
It unlocks our potential, frees us from our inner critics and allows us to enjoy the everyday moments of life.”
So there you have it. Good enough really can be good enough — and even better!
lThembe Khumalo writes in her personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to [email protected].