I recently saw this tidbit of advice posted in a meeting room to define the rules for meetings in that room – “Don’t let the perfection be the enemy of the good.”
I thought about how often it is true that the pursuit of perfection gets in the way of doing just the good. Mercedes uses the slogan, “The best or nothing” and their rival Lexus uses “The pursuit of perfection.” Somehow, it makes more sense to me to constantly being in pursuit of perfection than to constantly do nothing if one cannot do it perfectly. That, after all is what hard work and practice is all about – the constant pursuit of doing better, with the goal of perfection. What a sad world it would be, indeed, if we all just quit and did nothing, if we couldn’t be perfect at whatever we were attempting.
In our religious beliefs, perfection is a heady target to tackle. We have the example of Jesus to point to and many people wear little bracelets with WWJD on them, which stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” I find that to be somewhat presumptuous for anyone to think that they can somehow channel Jesus into their daily decisions or actions. Hopefully they can learn from His actions and the stories that He used to teach His disciples and instead think of the question, “What would Jesus have wanted me to do?”
The answer to that question is likely to be something less than perfection and would focus around doing the right things, the good things, the things that you might hope someone else would do for you in the same situation. That is why it should be enough to stand on the line and serve food to the hungry who can make it into the shelter; rather than to do noting because you cannot solve world hunger. It is enough to tutor one student to improve their reading skill and not sit and do nothing because you cannot solve the education problems of America. The solution (the pursuit of that perfect world) starts with the first person that you serve food to that day or the person that your tutor. There is no failure in the fact that millions of others may have gone hungry or cannot read. You did your best that day and did not give up and do nothing.
The real trouble with seeking perfection is that is so easy to let yourself slip into the role of loser when it is not achieved. Rosalynn Carter put it well – “You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don’t win, at least you can be satisfied that you’ve tried. If you don’t accept failure as a possibility, you don’t set high goals, you don’t branch out, you don’t try – you don’t take the risk.” Failures are just a part of the process of getting to success. Even Warren Buffet, whom many believe to be the best investor ever, has had his share of failures.
So maybe the secret is to just focus upon doing your best at whatever task you have set out to accomplish and not worry about perfection. Don Miguel Ruis put it this way – “Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.” At the end of the day the question that you should be asking yourself is not, “Did I achieve perfection?”; but, rather, “Did I do my best?” If you can honestly answer yourself that you put the best effort that you could into the tasks, you will sleep well.
The Special Olympics uses the motto – “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” In the end, one should reward oneself for being brave in the attempt and doing your best at what you are trying to do and not get down if you did not win. If you have given your best and honest effort to the task, you have already won. In that private little victory you can be at peace with yourself.
Have a great day and give your best effort at whatever you decide to do.