Achieving Perfection

The perfect is the enemy of the good [1]

What a problematic sentence!

On one hand, I know that at times perfection is either impossible or not worth it – when releasing a product the difference between 80% and 100% might increase effort and diminish returns. At work we quote the Pareto principle (the 80-20 rule), and product demands and deadlines make us not achieve that perfection.

I know that it makes sense, but there are a lot of scenarios that I cannot comprehend not at least trying to achieve perfection. For a lot of tasks (work, personal life, but I think currently mostly work related), I need to be the best, the one that everyone can depend upon, the one that has no mistakes in his work, that completes his work fast and thorough. This obviously leaves me burning the midnight oil, not paying attention to the other aspects in my life like I should.

I feel bad if I don’t achieve perfection, I feel bad if I achieve it and the cost is high, making me tired, grumpy, feeling not appreciated and other people in my life are mad at me for not paying attention to them.

So just get rid of this need for perfection, right? Because I don’t know how. There’s this tingling voice in my head telling me that I can do better, that I can achieve whatever I want and do it perfect. If I have a task to do, and I don’t deliver it in a fast and elegant manner (or in other words, perfect), I feel like… I’ve failed? disappointed? didn’t do the best that I can? Either way, it’s a horrible feeling, making me feel less secured, worthless.

How can I feel satisfied in doing things just ‘good’ and not ‘perfect’, and not feel like I’m not ‘letting myself off the hook’, like I’m not doing it out of laziness?

[1] Attributed to Voltaire, who quoted an Italian proverb in his Dictionnaire philosophique in 1770 [Source]

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