I recently heard a quote by someone I had never heard of. Voltaire. He (I thought he was a she…thanks wikipedia) inspired me so I thought I’d get to know him a bit more. He was a french enlightenment writer, he looks rather nice in this portrait. This is him at 24, no idea why 24 year old men wanted long, grey hair back then but…vanity is a strange thing.
“The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Voltaire has summed up my entire struggle with life. I always want what I do to be perfect. I always get overwhelmed by big projects. I always don’t do anything at all because I am overwhelmed.
Gretchen Rubin summed it up in a quote I like even better, because it makes sense to me and how I roll.
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
As an example, I look at my windows and think “boy I want to clean those, they look awful”. But then I think that if I’m going to clean them then “I should do all of them AND the screens. But before I do that I should probably clean the kitchen because that’s a task that actually NEEDS doing. The windows won’t look that nice if the floor is messy, or if the back yard I’m looking at through them is messy also. I should probably make the kids wash their hands more so they don’t muck up the windows. They really should be done a few times a month.”
Holy cow! I’ve just made a mountain out of something simple, I’m overwhelmed, I’ve put extra expectations on myself and I’m still sitting on the couch and NOTHING has gotten done. Not the kitchen, windows, floors, back yard OR my kids crusty fingers.
I’m letting perfect be the enemy of the good. Would it not be better if I had just cleaned the windows? That would have been good. I would have felt better. I may have been more energized and ready to tackle another task but instead, nothing good came out of it…at all.
So now I’m focusing on just letting good be good. I don’t need perfect and I’m never going to achieve it anyway. When I start to think of doing something, I’m stopping myself right there and changing my self talk. “Leah!!! Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”. Or how about “Leah, just let good be good!”?
I’ve known this about myself for a long time now but sometimes a good quote can sum it up for you and bring it all into light. One night I had my own quote “The goal isn’t perfection, it’s progress”. And that made sense to me too but not quite the same. Progress kinda means that the goal still will be perfection in the end. I needed to get that out of my head.
And on Tuesday Leah created clean windows and she saw that it was good.
I guess it’s all about being mindful, living in the now. Seeing that if this thing gets done now, it is still good. Even if the floors remain un-mopped, clean windows are still good. I’m too set on the big picture and that big picture is just too big. My house will never look like a magazine, but it would definitely look better if I did the little things I felt like doing and just notice how that is indeed GOOD.
It goes for my health too. I think about going to the gym and working out then…”ok so if I work out I should do it like 5 times a week and then relax on the weekend. If I go today then I should probably do this and this and this and it MUST be a full hour. So then all day I need to be eating exactly right and I need to make up a meal plan for the week so I follow it. I should probably be doing yoga at home too, oh then I need to sweep and mop today. I need new runners so I need to start learning how to save money….”
Don’t we all agree that Leah needs to get a grip? I won’t go to the gym if I think like that. If I just think about going to the gym, that one simple act, then I would actually go and get my release of dopamine which would energize me to do other things…possibly. Or I might wanna come home and have a bowl of popcorn and watch a movie. At least I did something good though, right?
Also, looking back on what I did and just seeing that it IS good, not beating myself up about not doing more. Maybe I’ve found a way to break through that brick wall I’ve been talking so much about….here and here.
Voltaire, you are one cool dude, even with the grey mop on your head.
Ok, before I feel like I’m repeating myself too much…I’ll ask you, where are you letting perfect get in the way of good?