Barton Goldsmith: Don’t Let The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good

By Barton Goldsmith
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As therapist Barton Goldsmith points out, “it is far better to strive for appropriate improvements than to put the pressure of being perfect on anyone, including yourself.”

Tribune News Service

Orlando Pescetti created an aphorism that was popularized by Voltaire in the eighteenth century. I recently heard it reworded as “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

It really makes a lot of sense. So much of the time we want things to go exactly the way we think they should go, and if they fall short on any level, we are disappointed. This is allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

If you and your partner are working on some improvements in your relationship, for example, you have to give each other room to be imperfect. Say you want to divide the housework more equitably. Each chore has to be discussed and divided up according to time, energy, and proclivity.

For example, my other half would rather dine out than have me cook, so I clean up after dinner. At least that’s the deal, but some nights we are both too tired to do either task, and we have come to accept that not every evening is going to be perfect. Thank the gods for pizza.

Many people push themselves to be better. That’s why we exercise, study, and watch YouTube.

Wanting your relationship and your partner to grow along with you makes sense, but if you become judgmental or impatient with your partner’s progress, it will halt your growth in other areas as well.

This is because resentment leaks out and affects our relationships at every level. As long as there is a small sign that things are headed in the right direction, and your mate states that he or she is still on board, just keep going.

Throwing a monkey wrench into the works by telling the one you love that he or she isn’t doing well enough on any task, especially with personal development, is a recipe for uncomfortable dialogue and perhaps future interactions.

Here is the simple answer. Let those you love move at their own pace, and as long as you both have agreed on the goal, a little extra time won’t make any difference.

If you are a perfectionist, this could be more difficult for you, but understand that no one is going to meet the expectations you have of them, simply because no one is perfect.

It is far better to strive for appropriate improvements than to put the pressure of being perfect on anyone, including yourself.

Look, you are not trying out for the Olympics, and your relationship is not part of the NFL, so lighten up. You may find that allowing yourself to see the beauty in being on the same page and growing with someone who adores you (despite your flaws, like perfectionism) is a lot more comforting than beating yourself up about where you think you or your other half ought to be.

There’s a saying from the 1980s: “Don’t should on yourself, or others.” I think it fits here.

I guarantee that following this advice will make your life more enjoyable than having to be perfect all the time.
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.”)

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