The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough’


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    Entries in productivity (41)


    Choose satisficing over maximising

    When we're working on a task or activity at some point we need to say, ‘Enough. It's satisfactory. That will suffice.’ 'Satisfactory’ and ‘suffice’ were cleverly combined in Nobel Prize–winning economist Herbert Simon's Theory of Satisficing.

    This decision-making theory says look at alternatives and go with the best. Make a choice. It will do, it is good enough.

    In my book ‘ish: The Problem with our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough’, ish means somewhat, to some extent. Ish is about satisficing.

    Maximising is not good for us. Perfectionists (called ‘maximisers’ by Simon):

    - exhaustively seek the best options

    - compare everything against others to an unhealthy degree

    - expend excess time and energy, and

    - end up unhappier with the outcomes.

    Ish is the opposite; it's about being a satisficer. We:

    - accept good enough

    - not obsess over the options

    - move on after deciding, and

    - end up being happier with outcomes.

    It's good enough!


    All that effort, unhappy with the outcomes

    On the topic of ‘maximising’, this week’s posts highlight the damaging effects of striving for more, better, perfect.

    Maximising isn’t as good as it sounds. It means we put in extreme, herculean efforts trying to make things better, tick all the boxes, cover all the bases (and other metaphors!) to cover every question, topic or query. We work back late, take work home, stay up late, do ‘all nighters’, come in early and put other priorities aside to focus on doing still more on this task or project.

    We expend excess time and energy. Excess. More than is required. We know it’s not required because of economic and mathematical laws and principles like the Pareto Effect (the 80/20 rule) and the Law of Diminishing Returns.

    Effort is not equal. Some effort is useful, giving us a good return and progress; some of our effort ends up being a total waste of time!

    And then ... maximisers don’t tend to be as happy with the outcomes as if they'd called ’time’ sooner on a task. It's a big 'no' to maximising

    Do you apply the 80/20 rule in your world (20% effort brings 80% of the reward)?


    Comparing against others to an unhealthy degree.

    I'm posting on ‘maximising’ this week; the unhelpful activity associated with perfectionism, making us overthink, stress, doubt and be paralysed with inaction, stuck (of course) in comparison.

    You know that quote: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ ... well, it does indeed make us miserable. The perfectionist (the maximiser) keeps comparing everything, thinking it's the way to a better solution or more perfect answer. We even try and use comparison as a kind of 'evil motivation'.

    Comparison itself isn't bad. We are taught to compare and contrast as part of growing and learning. It's how we know an apple is an apple, not an orange. This is identification and sensemaking. So we can't really 'kill comparison' as some less than helpful inspo quotes suggest.

    The problem then is not the comparison ... it's the not stopping, the endless and ongoing nature of the act. Enough with berating and being unkind to yourself!

    Compare, sure. But then decide to move in to action; action that's in your world, on your stuff, for you. Not them.

    Are you in unhelpful comparison on something right now? Like or comment below. 


    Exhaustively seeking the best 

    This week’s posts are on maximising. It's not a good thing.

    Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon talked of ‘maximising'. As a political scientist and cognitive psychologist he knew plenty about how we make decisions.

    If we keep working on something - think a presentation, report or document - we can end up wasting a great deal of energy, time and effort. The result is we create stress, worry and unnecessary overthinking.

    We can find ourselves overworking, over-researching, checking and rechecking or endlessly gathering information. It’s a painful choice to keep chasing or seeking better or best. And yes, better and best belong where standards of excellence are required and achieved.

    But that report, presentation, article, post … it’s time to stop the endless search for the best. It's exhausting. Not just for you, but for the people you work with (and live with). They might be waiting on you to deliver, finish, send or hand over something. Or be there.

    Go check with them: is what you’ve done so far good enough for the task at hand?

    Do you feel exhausted? Might you be seeking 'the best' on something you're currently working on? 


    The danger of more 

    Buying popcorn at the Apollo 11 doco recently (incredible music by Matt Morton btw) the attendant asked if I’d like to ‘supersize it’. The opportunity to upgrade, add more and make bigger is everywhere. When is enough enough for you?

    ‘Maximizing’ is a perfectionist behaviour. We think we need more, better, different or just more.

    ➕More research, data or insights before we present

    ➕More consultation, more people, more topics before deciding

    ➕More searches for more options before choosing

    ➕More editing before posting.

     The drive for more is habitual, hedonic. We gain pleasure, reward and satisfaction - first from desiring more, then seeking it, getting it and knowing that we have it. Only to start the cycle again when we don’t feel better about the more we just got.

    To go without is a fear. There's the rise of FOMO (fear of missing out) as a feeling but the JOMO (joy of missing out) fans affirm that life is OK with less.

    Be aware of your drive for more, more than you had when you thought it was enough. Don’t be fooled by it. Enough can be good enough.