The Bigger Picture: Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good
Every night, without fail, I map out the following day in my calendar. I block off time for exercise, errands, family responsibilities, seeing friends and working on various projects. If I want something to happen on a certain day, I fit it into my calendar.
I like doing this, and the nerd in me likes looking at my calendar the night before. Not yet disturbed by heavier than expected street traffic, an emergency call from the elementary school nurse, a canceled meeting or feelings of laziness and inertia, my day still has the potential to be “perfect.” It’s the fantasy; I am organized, focused, productive, patient and full of energy and drive.
The flip side of this is that the bubble of perfection is popped many times throughout each day. I often end up feeling disappointed in myself, wondering how a given day dissolved into chaos, went off track and became so completely unproductive. Outside events easily interfere with my best laid plans. Internal events do as well; I can be derailed by sleepiness, frustration and a general lack of motivation.
Last night I set my alarm for 5AM so that I could have some quiet time to write this post before the day began. As I sit here writing, I am tempted to crawl back into bed. I am exhausted because I could not fall asleep last night after a Sunday night swim party. I am distracted because a delivery that was supposed to have arrived on my doorstep last night is not here. I keep getting up to check the front door, check my email confirmation of the delivery and check the tracking online. (Postscript: as my perfect day progressed, my daughter called from school to say she had forgotten her volleyball gear at home, my 3PM appointment was canceled, a key member of the SBC team let me know she needs to take a leave due to family health issues and there was fraud on my checking account which resulted in hours on the phone with the bank.)
My fantasy of this morning was a super intense, adrenaline fueled, undistracted work session. The reality is that I wrote a mediocre draft in a tired, distracted state. As for the rest of the day … real life quickly obliterated that perfect schedule.
In truth, this is a typical day: not perfect, rarely productive enough and never, ever unfolding as planned. However, when I reflect on my whole life—I realize that despite daily imperfection, I have built something great. My business, my family, my home, my community: it’s a big, happy life that grew by living and doing with consistency, every day for many years. And of course, it continues to evolve.
It’s refreshing to me to realize that pretty-good is good enough. I want to set the bar high, but perfection isn’t necessary. I love the expression, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Sometimes, crossing that one tedious task off the list is all we can muster, and that’s ok. It’s something. When we put a lot of something’s together, we get somewhere. We can get somewhere very good.
By the way, here’s a peak at what my fantasy calendar looks like the night before, when it’s still “perfect.”