According to a doctor friend of mine, there’s a saying in cardiology:
“Better is the enemy of good.”
Here’s my layperson’s understanding of this concept: When a heart doctor gets 80% clearance of an arterial blockage in a cardiac catheter procedure, sometimes it’s tempting to go back in to clear the remaining 20%.
That attempt at perfection can cause the blood vessel to blow, creating a life-threatening situation that could have been avoided if the doctor had accepted that 80% clearance of a blockage is, indeed, good enough.
I recently tested a non-life-or-death version of this theory. Last June, I wrote and edited an article in about two hours.
I decided it could have been better.
So, I messed around with it for another two hours. In doubling the time I spent on it, had I doubled the quality?
Not even close. I liked some of the changes, but, in reality, I had probably improved the quality by 10%, at most.
When Is Good Enough, Good Enough?
Let’s start with something you may do that requires a lot of effort (an example: Planning and preparing Thanksgiving Dinner.)
How much effort does this require? (on a scale of 1 to 10.)__________
How much time compared to other meals your make? (Scale of 1 to 10)__________
Money? (Scale of 1 to 10)__________
If any of the above answers are at 8, 9, or 10,
imagine if you cut it back to a 5, 6, or 7 rating.
What happens to your stress level?____________
What are some steps you can take to make it “good enough”?
No matter what you get done every day or how many things you cross off your list, if you focus on all you didn’t get done or how much more you should be doing, you will always feel a sense of apprehension, uneasiness, or even dread.
With my clients, I often invite them to play with this.
What does it look like if you do something at 70% effort instead of 100%?
Often the results are the same. But the level of energy used is much lower, the angst experienced is reduced, and general well-being held onto—it MUCH higher when my clients dare to cut themselves a percentage break. Perfectionism is a sneaky place fear of inadequacy hides out.
I’m not encouraging you to stop all improvement or the drive to be better in your life. I’m just encouraging you to be far more selective about where you intentionally use it.
Letting good enough be good enough can be a powerful tool for living a better life.
This was adapted and excerpted from Chapter 4 of my book, “There’s Not Enough Time… and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves”
Available on Amazon.