Perfection is Our Enemy

In Essays, Minimalism, Philosophy, Productivity, Self Improvement

Perfection sounds like a great ideal to aim for. After all, who wouldn’t want to be perfect, or achieve perfection is some aspect of their life or work?

However, striving for perfection can also have some negative consequences, like the inability to even start on something, for the fear that we won’t be able to achieve perfection.

The other big issue I have with perfection, is that it puts the focus on the end result, when I think a much better strategy is to focus on the process, and especially on doing the best we can. As will often be the case, doing our best will not lead to perfection, and we should accept and even embrace this fact of life.

One problem that we face when trying to reach perfection, is that a lot of the components that come together to make the end result of anything perfect, are not in our control.

So aiming for perfection is like aiming for a bull’s eye when someone else is throwing the dart.

You don’t need me to tell you that this is madness.

A Better Strategy

So if we admit the fact that we will never reach perfection, this releases a lot of the stress associated with starting a daunting task or project, and feeling that even the first step needs to be perfect.

With that in mind, we can then do just one thing:

Just Start.

It’s really that simple, starting on a task, for even as little as thirty minutes, can be extremely beneficial towards actually reaching the final end result.

It was Hemingway who famously said:

The first draft of anything is shit.

We should be comfortable with this idea, and remember that in most cases it is better to finish something and then edit it to a high quality, than to simply not start at all due to the paralysing effect of perfection.

This, however, is not an excuse for shoddy work, and for an attitude that “we can fix it later”. Whatever it is you are doing, should still be your best effort, but you are just releasing yourself from measuring that best effort against a mystical ideal.

How Perfection Can Be Inspiring.

Many of the world religions and philosophies employ the idea of the “ideal”. A person who was perfect, and who we use as example to learn from.

Examples of this is the concept of the Buddha in Buddhism, and the Sage in Stoicism.

While people like to bash religions, this is actually a really smart way to use the concept of perfection.

We can contemplate what a perfect person would do in a given situation, and then try to emulate that to the best of our abilities.

Again – focussing on the doing, not the end result.

How Just Finishing Can Work.

I often employ this when I write on this website. I could spent months agonising about creating the perfect essay, and explore a topic to twenty-thousand words at a time, but I feel it’s much better to get into the habit of releasing early and often, and then going back to add to and edit essays as I see fit.

Of course, this means I’ll never cover a subject in depth like an author who is writing an entire book, but I am also thinking long term, and so writings hundreds of essay that all have interlinking themes, will eventually create my (imperfect) life philosophy, and will constantly keep me on my toes about how to life a better life.