The Enemy of the Good

Posted by on Apr 25, 2013 in Creativity, Kaizen-Muse, SoulCollage, Ultimate Blog Challenge | 8 comments

The Enemy of the Good

I asked for questions yesterday, if anyone had them, and Diane bravely asked, “I would love to do a guest post on other peoples blogs, but I get shy and nervous. I always feel that my writing isn’t good enough, or that my topic wont be interesting enough. I would love to read more about overcoming anxiety, and trusting in yourself!”

This is such a good question. There are several causes of this sort of anxiety (and a fair bit of the time, they gang up on us), so I’m going to break things down into a few posts, each focusing on a different cause. Today’s? Perfectionism.

The title above refers, of course, to the expression, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” It’s become a bit of a mantra of mine ever since I was in Kaizen-Muse coach training and discovered that, to my considerable surprise, I am a raging perfectionist.

Now, I don’t mean that I run around making sure that the corners of my towels are perfectly aligned or that the cans in my cupboard all face the same way and are just so. Plenty of people are like that, but, well, there’s a reason why I created my Soulful Decluttering course, and it sure wasn’t because my house looked like it belonged in Architectural Digest. In fact, that’s why I always figured, “Well, at least I’m not a perfectionist!” WRONG.

The other perfectionism is much more insidious.

It creeps into your head and says, “Nope, sorry–not good enough. It’ll never be good enough. Why are you even bothering?” It hooks up with its pal Comparison and says, “Seriously? You’ll never be able to compete with So-and-So. Who do you think you are?” And in its strongest form, it keeps you from starting in the first place, because if you’ll never be good enough, or if the work will never be perfect enough, what the heck is the point?

In the words of David Foster Wallace, “You know, the whole thing about perfectionism. The perfectionism is very dangerous, because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. Because doing anything results in–It’s actually kind of tragic because it means you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is.” And yet… “what it really is” could turn out to be better than what you imagined, or go in a different direction that leads you to something awesome. If you don’t try, you’ll never find out.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

The great thing about realizing your perfectionistic tendencies is that you spot them when they rear their heads and try to get in your way. If you can repeat that mantra in those moments, you have a better shot of

Put your work out there. Put it out even if it’s not the ideal you have in your head. What you have to say, and the way you say it, are worthy all on their own, no matter what’s come before or what comes after. (Click to tweet this.)

On a side note, if you’re really stuck in perfectionism, SoulCollage® can be a powerful tool to help you understand why and get yourself out!


  1. I sometimes get hung up on perfectionism, but I always seem to be able to shake myself loose before I get stuck. I hope the same will be true when it comes to my upcoming book.
    Linda Ursin recently posted..Nine Beautiful Little Fairies in a Lovely Little BookMy Profile

    • Glad to hear you can shake off the perfectionism, Linda!

  2. Great post! It is like Guy Kawasaki says in his books “Just do it crappy.”

    Of course, he doesn’t mean crappy, he means get it out there and then proceeds to tell you of all the HUGE success stories of someone who just got something out there and then made it better as they go along.

    I am certainly glad that I have often taken that advice.

    In my long business career, I’ve seen far too many failures of people trying to make every single thing perfect while those of us who get it going skip all the way to the bank and back.

    Perfectionism can kill you when it need not do so.

    Again, great post.


    • Thanks, Kathy!

      “Just do it crappy” is definitely the antidote to perfectionism, though a lot of people still have trouble with that idea. We say “do something small and crappy” in Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching, but we definitely do mean crappy. If you’re stuck in perfectionism, doing something deliberately crappy can break you right back out. :)

  3. “At least it’s done” has become my mantra some days. I want it to be perfect, but I don’t have time to tweak until it is. But at least it’s done. :-)
    Katie S recently posted..Keeping Track: Using Trackbacks to Build Blog CommunityMy Profile

    • Bingo, Katie. I made up a flyer for an event last month, and I knew it wasn’t great, but I didn’t have time to make it better, so I printed it off and up it went, as it was, because something that wasn’t great was still better than nothing at all!

  4. Nicely said! For myself, what helps is to remember that the audience / patient / customer doesn’t know what you Meant To Say or Intended To Do … they only know what you actually did!

    So while I’m comparing, in my head, this disjointed sermon with the inadequately attributed quote and the too-long anecdote to the amazing job done by, say, Norman Vincent Peale or Martin Luther King … the congregation is following along with what I actually am saying. And afterwards someone will tell me what important new insight they got out of it.

    I’m not bragging about my sermons, by the way, just noting that the person who has ears to hear will sometimes find an important nugget in whatever I do … and they won’t get anything out of my ‘getting sick at the last minute’ so I won’t have to do it.

    Or as a long-ago Girl Scout trainer, Elsie Newmarker (may she rest in peace), used to tell us: You never know when something you say may light up someone’s life and become a statement they can live by.

    Like, say, “do something small and crappy, just to be doing it, and see what happens”.

    • Oh, Maggie, you do always know how to make me smile. :) Your point about sermons is a very good one, and of course applies to so many other things. We notice so many more things than anyone else does, and some of what we notice isn’t even really an issue. And Elsie Newmarker sounds like she was a real gem!

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