Perfect Is the Enemy of Good: Overcoming Perfectionism and Achieving Your Goals

Perfect Is the Enemy of Good: Overcoming Perfectionism and Achieving Your Goals April 17, 2023

“Perfect is the enemy of good” is a saying that highlights the danger of setting unrealistic expectations and striving for an unattainable ideal.

It means that the pursuit of perfection can prevent us from achieving a good outcome, and that sometimes, settling for something that is “good enough” is the best course of action.

In other words, perfection is the enemy of progress.

This phrase can be applied in many different areas of life, from personal goals to professional aspirations. In fact, this concept is often used in the fields of business, creative arts, and personal development.

But why is it so important for you to understand this idea, and how can it benefit you in your daily life? And what does the Bible say about it? Let’s take a closer look.

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What does perfect is the enemy of good mean practically?

The idea behind “perfect is the enemy of good” is that when we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves or others, we can become so focused on achieving that ideal that we lose sight of what is actually achievable. This can lead to a variety of negative consequences, including anxiety, stress, and burnout.

For example, imagine a student who’s working on a research paper. They may have a clear idea of what they want the final product to look like, with perfect grammar, flawless formatting, and insightful analysis. But as they begin to write, they may become so obsessed with getting everything “just right” that they spend hours obsessing over word choice, sentence structure, and formatting details. In the end, they may find that they spent so much time on minor details that they failed to develop a coherent argument or make any meaningful insights.

Here’s another example. A small business owner may have a vision of the perfect product with all the bells and whistles that they think their customers want. But as they begin to develop this product, they may find that the costs are too high or that the technical challenges are too great to overcome. Instead of scaling back and focusing on a more achievable goal, they may continue to pour resources into the project, risking bankruptcy or failure.

In both of these scenarios, the pursuit of perfection leads to negative outcomes.

What can we do to avoid falling into the trap of perfectionism? 

One approach is to focus on setting achievable goals that are realistic and attainable. This means being honest with ourselves about what we can reasonably accomplish given our resources, skills, and time constraints. We can also try to break down large goals into smaller, more manageable steps, which can help us make progress without becoming overwhelmed.

Another approach is to learn to embrace imperfection and to view mistakes and failures as opportunities for growth and learning. This means being willing to take risks and to try new things, even if we are not certain of the outcome. By doing so, we can become more resilient and adaptable, and we can learn to see failure as a natural and necessary part of the learning process.

The idea that “perfect is the enemy of good” is a powerful reminder of the dangers of setting unrealistic expectations and striving for an unattainable ideal. By learning to set realistic goals and embracing imperfection, we can become more resilient, adaptable, and successful in our personal and professional lives. So, the next time you find yourself becoming too focused on achieving perfection, take a step back and remind yourself that sometimes, good enough really is good enough.

What does the Bible teach about perfect being the enemy of good?

The phrase “perfect is the enemy of good” is not directly mentioned in the Bible, but the concept behind it can be found throughout its teachings. One of the key messages of the Bible is that we should strive for excellence and righteousness through faith, but not at the expense of becoming legalistic, judgmental, or self-righteous.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Micah wrote, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). This verse emphasizes the importance of doing what’s right and just, but also of doing so with kindness and humility. In other words, we should strive for excellence in our actions, but not at the expense of becoming prideful or judgmental of others.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, the author writes, “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6). This verse emphasizes the importance of finding contentment and peace in our lives, rather than constantly striving for more and more.

While it is important to work hard and strive for excellence, we should also be mindful of the dangers of becoming obsessed with perfection at the expense of our own well-being.

What did Jesus teach about perfectionism?

Jesus may not have used the phrase “perfect is the enemy of good,” he did teach about the dangers of perfectionism and legalism. In fact, one of Jesus’ most well-known teachings, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), illustrates this concept.

In the parable, a Pharisee and a tax collector both go to the temple to pray. The Pharisee thanks God for making him righteous and lists his many good deeds, while the tax collector humbly asks God for mercy, recognizing his own sinful nature. Jesus concludes the parable by saying, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

This parable highlights the dangers of pride and self-righteousness. The Pharisee, who believes himself to be perfect, is actually further from God than the tax collector, who recognizes his own imperfections and asks for mercy. The lesson here is that perfectionism can lead to arrogance and judgmentalism, while humility and recognition of one’s imperfections can lead to greater spiritual growth and connection with God.

In another teaching, Jesus warns against the dangers of legalism and the strict adherence to rules and regulations. In Mark 2:27, he says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Here, Jesus is emphasizing the importance of the spirit of the law over the letter of the law. While it’s important to follow rules and regulations, they should not be followed to the point of neglecting one’s own well-being or the well-being of others.

Jesus also criticized the Pharisees for their strict adherence to the letter of the law while neglecting its spirit. In Matthew 23:23, he said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” This emphasizes the importance of focusing on the most important aspects, such as justice and mercy, rather than becoming rigid in our adherence to minor details.

Jesus taught that perfectionism and legalism can be harmful to a person’s spiritual growth and relationship with God. He emphasized the importance of humility, recognizing one’s imperfections, and focusing on the heart behind what’s trying to be accomplished rather than the details of getting everything right.

How to overcome perfectionism and stay consistent when you feel stuck or overwhelmed

Feeling stuck or overwhelmed can be a common experience, especially when faced with a lot of tasks or responsibilities that need to be addressed. Here are some strategies that can help you move forward consistently:

Break things down into smaller steps: When you have a lot to do, it can be helpful to break things down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This can make the overall task feel less daunting and help you see progress as you complete each step.

Prioritize: Make a list of all the tasks that need to be done, and prioritize them based on urgency and importance. This can help you focus on the most critical tasks first and reduce the feeling of overwhelm.

Create a plan: Once you’ve identified the most important tasks, create a plan for how you will accomplish them. Set specific goals and deadlines for each task, and create a schedule or timeline for completing them.

Take action: Once you have a plan in place, start taking action. Focus on completing one task at a time, and use the momentum from completing each task to move on to the next one.

Manage your time: Time management can be a critical factor in moving forward consistently. Identify any time-wasting activities that might be distracting you from your tasks, and eliminate or reduce them as much as possible.

Stay positive: It can be easy to become discouraged when you feel overwhelmed, but maintaining a positive attitude and staying motivated can help you stay focused and make progress. Celebrate small victories along the way, and remember why you started in the first place.

Moving forward consistently when you feel stuck or overwhelmed requires breaking tasks down into smaller steps, prioritizing, creating a plan, taking action, managing your time, and staying positive. By sticking to these basics, you can make progress toward your goals and reduce feelings of overwhelm and stuckness.

How to stop over-analyzing things and changing your mind

Over-analyzing things and changing your mind frequently is a very common obstacle to making progress in one direction of your life. Here are some strategies that can help you stop over-analyzing things:

Set clear goals: Start by setting clear, specific, and achievable goals. This will help you focus on a specific direction and give you something to work towards.

Prioritize: Identify the most important tasks or decisions that need to be made, and prioritize them based on their urgency and importance. This will help you focus your time and energy on the most critical issues.

Limit information: Over-analyzing can often be caused by having too much information or input. Try to limit the amount of information you’re taking in and focus on the most essential facts and details.

Make a decision and stick to it: Once you have gathered the necessary information, make a decision and commit to it. Avoid second-guessing yourself or overthinking the decision. Tell yourself you’ll do the other thing you want to do only after you’ve completed what you’ve already committed to doing.

Bring your attention back to the task at hand: Keep your focus on your goals and avoid distractions. You set the goal for a reason, so stick to it. Bring your mind back to why you’re doing it in the first place. This will help you stay on track and avoid being pulled in different directions. 

And trust your instincts and the plans you made. Remember that you have the skills and knowledge to make the best decision for yourself, and you don’t have to second-guess what you already decided.

Take consistent action, no matter how small: Once you’ve made a decision, take the next right small action and move forward, no matter how insignificant it may feel. This will help you build momentum and make progress towards your goals.

Embrace imperfection: Remember that perfection is not necessary for progress. Accept that mistakes will be made along the way and that they are opportunities to learn and grow.

By implementing these strategies, you can make progress towards your goals and overcome the tendency to overthink and change your mind frequently.

Consistency bonus: Tell someone important to you about your goal.

Research has shown that telling someone you admire about a goal can be an effective way to increase accountability and motivation. A study published in the American Psychological Association found that monitoring your goals regularly makes you more likely to achieve those goals, so it naturally follows that having someone regularly bringing up your goal progress would help to that end.

When we tell someone about our goals, it also creates a sense of social accountability. We feel a sense of responsibility to follow through on our commitments, not only to ourselves but also to the person we shared our goal with. This accountability can provide a powerful motivator to stick to our goals and make progress towards them.

Plus, telling someone about our goals can also provide support and encouragement. Sharing our goals with someone who is supportive and encouraging can help us stay motivated and overcome any obstacles or challenges that we may encounter along the way.

But it’s essential to choose the right person to share our goals with. The person we choose should be someone we trust and who will provide positive reinforcement, encouragement, and support. Sharing our goals with someone who is critical or unsupportive can have the opposite effect and undermine our motivation.

Telling someone about our goals can be a powerful motivator, increasing accountability and providing support and encouragement. And choosing the right person to share our goals with can make a significant difference in our ability to achieve them.

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