Monday 12 July 2010

Who Needs Perfection?

My ol' mum had a hard life, but, with a special strength of character, she learned to make the best of the little she had.

In the first house I can remember living in, the internal walls were not plastered - you could see the brickwork behind thick dark green paint. She couldn't afford to plaster, but she stuck layers of newspaper over the green paint, then painted it - poor man's plaster - not perfect, but better.

Some years later, we reached the dizzy heights of affluence with our first fridge. It was very rusty, but - mum's solution? She wallpapered it! Not perfect, certainly not permanent, and II can't really award any style points either, really - but it was better.

Decades on, when her grown-up children would come to visit her, we used to joke that we'd better keep moving - if you stood still long enough. mum might wallpaper you.

Unfortunately, in childhood, I acquired the opposite tendency - moving towards dichotomic or "black-and-white" thinking. If a thing wasn't perfect, it was useless. I cut off vast swathes of opportunity, thinking in that mode, and it took me a long time to get rid of that style of thinking.

In my earlier management career, and now as a consultant and coach, I see it in my clients. In the middle of a difficult, complex situation, people cast about for a solution, but they reject most or all because they can be faulted - they are not perfect. That's a shame because in real life, perfection is seldom an option. So the name of the game is making things better, not making things perfect.

So the tip is pretty straightforward (most good ideas are) but the secret it to go beyond nodding sagely, and apply it in your own life - often.

Don't sit waiting for perfect - if you see better, go for it.

This is almost universally applicable. You may not have met Mr Right, but why not risk a meal with Mr. Pretty Good? Maybe you can't find the ideal house in your area at a price you can afford, but is it worth upgrading anyway - to something that's better, sooner? Are you waiting to throw that dinner party until you've lost weight? Do it now. Embracing fully what's available is likely to be far more rewarding than sitting where you are lamenting what's not.

Go forth and compromise!


  1. Excellent advice Chris, as always. I think often we don't really know what our perfection is and base it on false perceptions and expectations. No wonder it so often goes tits up!


  2. Thanks Chris, this has really made me think about my current situation and how I am stuck because I'm looking for perfection instead of just moving towards better.


  3. Thanks for your comments Bonna and Kiki.

  4. This was lovely, thanks for sharing