There is a phrase that I have thought about lately – the perfect is the enemy of the good! I heard this years ago, but it didn’t capture my imagination back then as it has more recently, when I’ve come to see how necessary it is for me to use this insight.
How can perfection be an enemy? Ideals and high standards can be important motivators, but demanding perfection from oneself (or others!) gets to be a real handicap. Most often, it is useless to even think you can do it, such as when the person trying to lose weight eats a doughnut, gets frustrated at slipping up, and then gives up trying out of frustration. Or when a smoker can’t appreciate that cutting down from a pack a day to half a pack is a mark of success because he thinks he should stop entirely.
At times, I just dither over things that I want to do well. If it doesn’t work out, I get really frustrated. The wiser side of me will let it rest for awhile and then come back refreshed. The more impatient side will keep driving at it and can’t give up, even if it’s obviously not going to work out.
Lately, however, I am more comfortable with acceptance. You can’t change everything at once. I wish I spent less, but then I find myself buying a book on impulse. Should I kick myself and get really self-critical? Well, that hasn’t done any good in the past and has only made it harder to reach my goal.
The better solution is just to accept that there are occasional missteps on any plan of self-improvement and that that is the normal course of change. But, acceptance doesn’t come naturally to me and now that I am more aware of it, I see how much others have difficulty with it too, and have the same unrealistic expectations that trip me up.
Maybe this post can be a little reminder to anyone who reads it to start aspiring towards more self-acceptance, and more patience with themselves when they side-track a bit when they try moving forward.