Tuesday, November 06, 2007

When Perfect is the Enemy of Good

In this context I'd like to consider the word "Perfect" as an absolute in comparison to the word "Good" which can vary in meaning and by degrees.

My backyard- Nov 6th

I read a quote this weekend which said emphatically, "Perfect is the enemy of good". The writer was speaking of food and cooking, but the quote hit me with such force that I re-read it several times- out loud (to the puzzlement of my husband) and found the words wedged into my brain like a doorstop.
I was having an "Ah-ha" moment. Perhaps I was also having an "Uh-oh- Ouch!" moment too~

Thoughts, images, feelings, and principals swirled around me, as if I were standing in the inverted pinnacle of a whirlpool or a tornado- I could SEE dozens of areas in my life floating past me where I definitely needed to apply this new idea, or suggestion, that "Perfect is the enemy of good".

In parenting, marriage, friendships, writing, weight loss, health, my hair (gasp :), time spent, events to be planned, the upcoming holidays, gift giving, religion (I have to think more on that one), exercise, cooking, cleaning (!!!), decorating, communicating...

Ahhh- it was dawning on me...crashing on me actually...of how often I strive for "perfection"- knowing full well that it is usually out of my grasp, and being disappointed with the "good" I achieve.

It is maddness.

Perfection is about CONTROL.

Good is about being at peace and exhibiting grace in less than perfect situations- which are the norm!

It's an amazing thing to see someone act or perform with "perfection"- or as close to it as can be imagined. I think of people like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, or my grandmother's crocheted blankets. I think of Emeril's standing rib roast, poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, and paintings by Ande Cook ;)

Is there anything YOU do perfectly? I make a perfectly wonderful chocolate chip cookie, and sometimes I make the perfect pan of fudge. Some days I have great hair :) --and that's it for my list of perfections. :)

On the more important topics- like parenting and marriage- I tell you honestly I am far from perfect...but not far from Good. My kids, my husband, my home, and most of my friendships are---good.

There are things in my life, of course, that are bad; but "bad" is not the opposite of perfect. Much like the opposite of love is apathy- I think the opposite of perfection is insouciance, or detachment. To simply not care.

I know in some ways and in regards to some people I care too much- and I try too much... because I want to be perfect for them, or to be the perfect friend...or the perfect "meeter of needs". I am realizing (painfully) that in some things, and in some relationships, I must settle for "good"- because in truth- "Good is better than perfect". And, I realize that if "good" is not good enough (for certain people, or situations)- then I have to them let go.

I believe in there are areas in life when we need to perfect the natural skills we were born with- those skills which came to us with ease...those are things that each of us are meant to do- and do well. But those skills are on the short list.

Everything else we have to work for- and I have to stop beating myself up in the areas where I fall short.

I'm not perfect.

But I'm good- or at least trying to be :)

I'll be off line for a while except for a quick post here and there. I'm up to my ears in family stuff at the moment and this might continue through January. I'm not being distant- I promise- I'm simply in over my head for now- and I HAVE NOT RUN OFF WITH PHIL! :) But don't tempt me! :)

You are all special to me- I just had to say it :)


Ruela said...

beautiful images :)

leelee said...

I loved this post and ...let me just say, you hit the nail on the head with this essay...wonderful Cora..and hon..GOOD FOR YOU!!

X. Dell said...

In classical music, there are are "perfect" musicians, musicians that never make a mistake, no matter what. They don't work much. Truth be told, they're really not all that great.

Excellence requires boldness, which in turn requires us to screw up some of the time, or maybe even most of the time. You can't hit a lot of home runs without striking out a lot too--unless you're Kevin Mitchell.

Professionalism, in many fields, is a quest for perfection. In both academia and music I have seen excellence slain on the altar of professionalism, which I consider to be a false god.

Mayden' s Voyage said...

Ruela- thank you...nice to visit your place- thanks for coming to see me :) The photos are of my back yard- or above my house in NC.

Leelee- Hugs for you :) Thank you for understanding- ummm- MORE than understanding- I think! ♥~♥~♥

X~ Ahh- the Michael Jordans of music? lol :) But even with all of MJ's talent- he was disciplined in his sport. I would assume the musicians are equally disciplined?
I love what you said about Excellence here- (and Rush POUNDS on and on about this too!) it does require boldness- and effort- and lots of strike outs along the way. I'm definitely not poo-pooing excellence...excellence is good- but it's not always perfection. And when I have an "excellent" encounter, meal, or cookie- I want to enjoy it- and focus on the good of the outcome, and not be focused on the flaws that made it less than perfect. Does that make sense?
I seem to let myself get hung up on the tiny things that go wrong- instead of delighting on all the big things that go right.

I think we are on the same page about the false gods...killjoys they are!

The Phosgene Kid said...

I always settle for "close enough". Keeps life a lot less complicated!

Anonymous said...

I love your writing and your posts. They are so 'smart'.

And yes, having great hair is definatly your thing!! you know I love your hair :)

This was a very thought provoking piece and I liked reading it.

Hope all is well on the home-front. love betty xx

Anonymous said...

i have struggled to be 'perfect' for years mayden. it is impossible to achieve, i agree.

who is the foxy dude in the black tshirt?


Gnomeself Be True said...

I think you're much better than good.

exskindiver said...

good is enough.

Anonymous said...

x-dell said

and phos, too

your back yard is beautiful...


¤ ¤ ¤


darkfoam said...

me? but, of course i'm perfect.....

at being imperfect..

who wants perfection anyway.
it's boring and predictable.

anyway, i do think you are better than good.

Mayden' s Voyage said...

Phos- "close enough"...I like it~

Betty~ I'm past due for a visit to your place :) Hugs and thank you for your kind words here- really ♥

Kitty- I was seriously thinking of you when I finished this- because in my mind- your drive for perfection and your passion for end results inspires me- and here lately I've not been inspired or motivated by much :(

Iamnot- ♥ to you :) Thank you :)

Chesca- amen :)

Hugs /t :) I do love my back yard- and yours too! (what I've seen of it ;) (It's so "deer" :)

Foam- you are a perfectly wonderful friend- but never boring or predictable! Hugs :) ♥♥♥

Libby said...

i love this post, cora!! and the pictures! there's just something about trees, isn't there??

Greg C said...

Good food for thought. Is anything ever perfect? It seems we are always striving to be perfect but that is something that can never be achieved. I guess perfection is the mind of the observer. I think we set out goals in life way too high, I ilke you are good but hot perfect. Thanks.

Scary Monster said...

Iffin there be one thing that me gone and done achieved a level of perfection in, it be at makin a mess of things that were workin perfectly.

Creatin mess can be a good thing. It forces others to strive and try to attain a level of excellence they might never have seen iffin me haden't STOMPED through their lives.

sparringK9 said...

so true! a very GOOD post. have a perf...er nice weekend. xo

Ben Harcos said...

Perfection. Done that. Failed. Bound to try and fail again. Only human.

But currently happy to be me. And is that not ... perfection? To be all we are, at any one time, everything included?

Not my thought, originally, Cora. But my words.

Have a good weekend.

Sean said...

one of the jokes that helps me in alot of ways is:

q. what do they call the graduate from medical school with the lowest g.p.a.?

a. doctor.

sometimes i get way down in the weeds and stressed about things not being "just right". but sometimes they're "right enough"

Electro-Kevin said...

We have colours like that here now as well.

I'm off trecking and camping for a couple of days in the wilderness. Yes - we still have 'wilderness' here.


Chris Morris said...

I've realized that if you don't strive for perfection you will never be disappointed.

Works like a charm.

NYD said...

As always, you seem to be able to weave your thought into a beautiful tapestry of sense and emotion.

The good is in the desire of attaining perfection.

? said...

Oh Mayden, I SO identify with this post. It's wonderful!

Most of my heartache in life has come from striving for perfection. It's done nothing but hurt my soul.

THANK GOD I realized (with a ton of help from some spiritual leaders) that I can strive for progress, not perfection. I'll never be perfect. I'm human.

It feels like a weight is lifted from my shoulders when I remind myself of this.

Sure, the perfection still tries to creep its way back into my life, but it has faded quite dramatically. I can only imagine that I'll continue to make PROGRESS in not trying to be perfect.

? said...

P.S. I will miss you! I do hope you spend the time you need to spend with your family and loved ones while you're away from the blog world.

Mayden' s Voyage said...

Libby- I do love trees. I wish it weren't so dry...the drought here is taking it's toll on everything.
Hugs though- :)

Greg- I guess some things are perfect...sunsets, sunrises, thunderstorms? :) It's funny- even in the Bible after God had created the earth- after each day He said, "It is good". He didn't use the word "perfect" at all. That alone should tell me something!

Scary- I laughed out loud when I read your comment- and I could just see you stomping around with perfection. I expect nothing less from you :)

She- Hugs friend...the weekend was long, but it was good. Got some much needed things taken care of at my mom's house. There's more to do- but one day at a time :)
Thinking of you- and one day we'll stop playing phone tag :)
Ben...Oh "Happy to be me"- and isn't that perfection? Yes. I realize I'm not there yet- but I'm trying. I'm really trying. Hope your weekend was beautiful :)

Sean- HUGS! I LOVE the joke! It is so true :) It's just the kind of reminder I needed - my best to you :)

Kev-I hope you had all the fun you deserve and then some. xoxoxo :)

Beefcake- lol...that is certainly one way to look at it :)

BB- Whew- what a powerful statement- "Strive for progress, not perfection"- I'm going to write that down and hang it up in my bathroom. I feel so often that I am a woman of "all or nothing"- balance is always a struggle for me. Thank you for your words here- I appreciate them :)
I miss being here- and reading everyone- but I'm in a season of really being needed elsewhere- Hugs to you :) I'll pop in every chance I can~

Bird said...


the bane of my existence.

yet without it, iknow i wouldn't achieve half of what i do achieve, nor half as well.

yet, i agree - how many times have i missed out on how well something really is because it doesn't meet my mark of perfection?

some things i have completely let go of in the perfection department: (or one,maybe..) my kids.

or rather, my parenting.impossible to be perfect.

though it pains me often that i am not.

my kids, after all, deserve a far better mother than the one they have.

Helene said...

phil was looking cute there! lol

loved this bit... 'Emeril's standing rib roast, poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, and paintings by Ande Cook ' hehehe

I am not perfect at anything. good at many things. communication, entertaining, and procrastination!

Its difficult to be perfect at subjective things.

Hope that you had a great weekend! I owe you a call I think! Happy Monday!

Ruela said...

have a present for you :)