Giving up on pefection

Wurstchen by Casy Hugleflink

I don’t know why I was thinking about perfection. Perhaps it was after spending three hours trying to get a new template for this website to work, before giving up on the idea.

I had a design for the site in mind and the more I reached out towards it the further away it got. In very similar situations in the past this would have left me feeling frustrated and that I had wasted my time.

But I found myself measuring my work by the energy I had put in, rather than the outcome, and ended up feeling satisfied.

When I returned to the work later I could sense the frustration waiting to edge in, but instead of battling on looking for something unreachable I changed my design to something simpler and managed to get it working. There are no fancy sliders or parallax effects on the new website but it works, and that’s good enough.

On late afternoon on Monday I spent a couple of hours in the garden. We have several hazel saplings that have appeared spontaneously (the squirrels planted them). I wanted to move the hazels to the back of the garden and start a hedgerow. If I had managed to do that in the autumn it would have given them the best chance of surviving, but I didn’t.

I moved some other plants to make room for the hedge, and it was only when I stepped back at the end of the day and looked at the big picture I realised that they weren’t in the right place and I’d probably have to move them again.

But like with the website, I found myself feeling relaxed about the not quite perfect job.

There is a drive that seeks perfection. It longs to change the world to reduce suffering, or to make everyone happy, or to make everything neat.

When I really investigate life I get the sense that we can sometimes move closer towards this, but that it will always be just out of reach.

We will never eliminate suffering, or make everyone happy, or make everything neat. I’m not even sure that last one is something we should be aiming at.

That drive is fuelled by the fear that we won’t be okay unless we get a particular result.

But life has taught me that we can be okay when things are falling apart around us. And that paradoxically the drive for perfection often causes more problems than it solves, as that feeling of insecurity is taken forward into whatever action we are taking.

Being okay with things been good enough seems to make it more likely that things will be good enough. When we’re relaxed, we’re more likely to flourish and to let others flourish around us. That might be a bit wordy for a motto – but I like the sentiment.

So I’m giving up on perfection, and looking for good enough instead.

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