Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Which is Better Question: What to Do? or How to Contribute?

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good

This quote, attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire is more valid today than ever. This is so much so that I have found that those (perfectionists) who ignore this quote rob themselves of a great deal of health, sanity and satisfaction in life. As a born, and further raised "perfectionist", I have spent most of my life beating myself and being beat by others because I did not perfectly execute a task. This inability to achieve (perceived) perfection has, and continues to be, the cause of more tears, lost sleep, anger, guilt, bitterness, worry, doubt, fear and procrastination than any other other in my life.

One of the greatest gift I have been given in life, by a former boss of mine, Stan Woodland, are the insights that:

1) there are 4 levels of performance that are possible in life: perfection, excellence, adequacy and inadequacy
2) perfection, or penultimate performance, is futile to expect because the definition is narrow and ever changing
3) excellence, or above average performance, is a better performance goal than perfection because it can be achieved more consistently. Also more people agree on its definition.

As I have worked to adjust my expectations of myself and others to these insights over the years I have become less anxious, overbearing, vindictive, stressed, angry and procrastinating. This has been replaced by greater patience, calm, balance, perseverance, resilience, ability to forgive (let go) myself and others and satisfaction with what I achieve. This has, indeed, bee one of the greatest transformations of my life. So much so that I teach these insights in all my classes, whether at my church or at the university.

All this said, I work in environments where this is not often convention wisdom and so I have to continually bring myself to a remembrance of the truth and benefit of these insights. I offer these insights hoping you will use them to gain more satisfaction from what you are getting done and be more forgiving of, and educated by, that which have not yet gotten done.