The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good

Everyone’s done it. We start out with some fantastic goal in mind. I’m going to save up for a down payment in three years. I’m going to lose 50 pounds this year. I’m going to get all of my financial paperwork straight. I’m going to be frugal.

I’m quite guilty of this myself. I’ll often strive for some sort of financial perfection, but then I’ll find myself spending money on something unnecessary (for example, I think I overspent on Christmas this year) or I’ll forget some important financial task that needs to be done, even if it’s written on my calendar.

I’ll stop by the local game shop to see if anyone’s around for the local board gaming group – and wind up walking out of there with a new game to play myself.

I’ll misplace a bill and be late in paying it, even though I have far more than enough money to cover it.

I’ll put aside a rebate form I need to fill out – then find it three months later.

At those times, it’s really tempting to tell myself that I’m a failure, that all of my hard work is really for naught because I still succumb to making mistakes – and sometimes, those mistakes are pretty sizeable ones. I’ll beat myself up over a mistake, I’ll believe I’m a failure, and I’ll wonder why I even bother.

At those times, I need to just remember one key thing.

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Mistakes are not failures. Mistakes are a step or two backward on a journey of a thousand miles, one in which you’ve already progressed a long way. Even after a mistake, you’ve still made a lot of progress from where you’ve started. More importantly, after a mistake, you’ve learned something about yourself and about the goal you’re trying to achieve. And perhaps most important of all, mistakes are part of life. Everyone makes them, whether you see them or not.

Perfection demands a lack of mistakes, and when you set yourself up expecting perfection, you’re doomed to fail from the start.

Success comes from recognizing that mistakes happen, that you can’t beat yourself up over them, and that you need to step back and learn from them.

When I stop by the game store now, I’ll be on guard against temptation, either by leaving my wallet behind or by judiciously applying the ten second rule.

When I get a bill or a rebate form, I pay it immediately or I place it front and center until I do pay it or fill it out.

I take steps backward all the time and I could use that as a reason to give up and to define myself as a failure. But when I look at where I was then and where I am now, I realize I’ve already come a long way on my journey and that my mistake is just a few steps backward after miles walking forward.

If I gave up after those few steps backward, that would be a real tragedy, wouldn’t it?

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