I’ve been trying my best lately to address my perfectionistic tendencies – something I discussed in the second episode of my (brand new!) podcast. Yesterday I had an interesting experience which really put me to the test and I think it’s worth sharing.
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve returned to uni this year to complete a postgrad qualification (the reason for my less frequent posting lately 🤯 ← It’s kind of hard to tell but that emoji is supposed to be a brain explosion!). Over the Easter long weekend, I put in a hard slog and submitted my first assignment! It was a big one, too. I had to record a ten-minute conference-style presentation, write a literature review and design a learning activity along with lesson plan, teacher instructions, student handouts, worksheets and homework sheets, and provide references to support all of the above (For context, I’m studying teaching English to foreign learners.).
I was so proud of myself because I really focussed for the whole weekend and managed to submit my work more than a week before the due date so that I could allow extra time to get started on the first assignment for the other subject I’m taking. So I submit the thing, then yesterday I’m doing a reading for next week’s lecture and I come across a paragraph in the chapter that would have been absolutely perfect as supporting evidence for my classroom strategies. So, I had to quickly make a decision. Since the lecturer has allowed multiple submissions, I could go back and edit my work, or I could sit tight.
Knowing I had put my absolute best into the assignment and had stuck to the criteria carefully enough to pass (and perhaps even do well🤞🏼), I finished reading the chapter with not a single pang of regret and didn’t redo the assignment. This tells me that I’ve come a long way in the last little while! In the past, I would have dropped everything – taking valuable working time away from my other assignment – just to perfect something that was already more than adequate.
My decision reminded me of Barry Schwartz’s wisdom in The Paradox of Choice (he also has a TED talk, which is a very quick overview of the book but worth a watch), and it’s partially thanks to this wisdom that I’ve become committed to recognising ‘good enough’ in my everyday life. I like to think of it as a kind of minimalism in action.
‘Good enough’ is not an excuse for laziness or half-heartedness. It encourages effort, perseverance and determination, but it also sets clear limits and encourages self-compassion. It doesn’t mean we can’t go above and beyond – I think it’s good that we sometimes do – but it keeps things in perspective so we can go easy on ourselves when we don’t have the time, energy or resources to go that extra mile. If there were a formula behind this approach, I think it might go something like:
(EFFORT + PERSPECTIVE) – PERFECTIONISM = HAPPINESS
In the case of my assignment, I put in my absolute best, maintained perspective of what was adequate given the circumstances, then resolved to simply not pursue the mental treadmill of perfectionism. And at the end of the day, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome – regardless of what my mark ends up being!
Do you live by a ‘good enough’ kind of approach?