perfect vs. good enough

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Good morning! I hope you had a great weekend. I myself took a few days off from blogging and reading, and spent Saturday at Macy’s for a trunk show and ran my long run on Sunday morning. So this weekend was a bit off for me in terms of rest and relaxation. But I did manage to get a great brunch with Erwin for ‘date night’ on Saturday morning at the Bongo Room downtown. I’ll be sharing more about that later this week.

Perfect vs. Good Enough

Today I want to go back to the book I’m reading, The Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar. I mentioned his suggestion about taking breaks every ninety minutes last week. Now I’d like to talk about another concept be brings up which often hinders perfectionists to varying degrees. As a former perfectionist, he had extremely high personal standards, and he held himself accountable at all times. But his intention to be perfect in every area of his life was obviously stressful and unrealistic. Impossible even. Nevertheless, he considered anything less than 100% in his life roles as a failure.

Once he addressed the flaws in his all or nothing approach to life, he attempted to become an “optimalist.” In his new paradigm, he recognized that there was not enough time in the week to reach 100% of his goals in every area of his life. And to try to attempt the impossible inevitably left him discouraged. So he chose to write out his goals for each role in a perfect world. After this list was made, he looked at the entire list and determined what was “good enough” in each area of his life. Below is an example of what might be my perfect and “good enough” standards.

“Perfect World” Exercise Weekly Goal

Run 5 times a week. Lift weights three times a week. Do yoga once a week.

“Good Enough” Exercise Weekly Goal

Run 4 times a week. Lift weights twice a week. Stretch after runs.

Though it seems counter-intuitive, he found by downsizing his lofty goals he not only achieved them more easily, but he also felt less stressed, happier, and more present in each area of his life. By acknowledging the limits of his time in each area of his life he devoted more focused attention the task at hand, rather than multi-tasking and spreading himself too thin.

I am going to take a look at this concept in my own life. I have a feeling that I might find some areas I naturally do this pretty well. But in other areas I can definitely improve. How about you? Anyone else feel like they might benefit from this exercise?

PS- In the spirit of “good enough” I will post last Friday’s End of the Week Exfoliation later today.

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  1. Sarah @ In A Dream

    Thank you so much for sharing more insight from this book. I really need to read it. The exercise example was perfect for me because I am a perfectionist who got into working out at least five times a week last fall, but now it just isn’t realistic, but I’m still holding on to that and feel like a failure if I don’t get five workouts in. I am going to try this “Good Enough” goal planning and see if it works for me. Thanks again!

  2. Jess

    @ Sarah: It’s a great book, I’ll be sharing a few more ideas here on the blog, but if you like what I share, the book is definitely worth checking out.

  3. I need to read this book. Like, now. I just sent this post to my client who is getting freaked by her Big Goals. Having a Perfect World Goal & a Good Enough Goal is way less scary!

  4. Jeremie

    This is an interesting approach to getting things done versus constantly tweaking them and never moving forward.

    I use a system myself that has a similar reasoning behind it: each week when I set my actions for the week (I don’t work with goals on a daily/weekly/monthly basis they are too big and scary) I always set twice as many as I want to accomplish. So if I want to get ten actions done I will set 20, but if I complete 10 of them I have had a successful week.

    I do this for the same reason given here: I know I won’t necessarily have a perfect week, so if I give myself twice the options on what to work on I can always get at least half done. However, by having twice the options, if I have a really great week I have more actions on my list to strive for and complete.

    It works well for me as I usually end up achieving at least 80% of my actions and quite often I get all of them done.


  5. Carolyn

    I am currently addicted to this book b/c of Jess – such an amazing suggestion :). Thanks, Jess!!

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