The Perfect, and the Good

"March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life's path."   — Khalil Gibran

As I sit down to write to you today, it is exactly three weeks into the new year. There is snow on the ground, and it's finally gotten properly cold. And the vast majority of resolutions are on the verge of failure.

There's all kinds of reasons for that failure: unrealistic and unachievable goals, a lack of support, the wrong tools, perfectionism.

Are you one of those folks who picks a word to be your "theme" for the year? It might be gratitude or focus. Simplify. Balance. Perseverance. I'm not one of those folks, but on every page in my planner this year, I write down the phrase, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Sure, it's cliché. But it's also a great reminder, every time I look at my to-do's, that it's actually perfectly OK—even normal and expected—to not be perfect. As long as you don't let that failure become a permanent state. As long as you get up and move forward again.

As a bit of a perfectionist and a complete-ist, this has been rather a long and difficult lesson. (Truly, I'm still trying to get it after 40-some years.) I really, really want to put a checkmark on every day to show that I did the things I meant to do. I want all the gold stars. But that's never going to happen. And that's perfectly OK.

Idealism is just that: idealistic. But it's not very realistic. Far from it.

So, are there ways in which you let the perfect become the enemy of the good?

I imagine this must happen quite often in recreation, sports and fitness facilities. You get a budget to build a new pool, and then the fight begins over just what you'd like that pool to include, and then eventually bump into the fact that you simply can't do it all. You have to compromise on your ideal, but that doesn't make the end result—a new pool for your community—anything less than good.

Or you initiate a program to try to reduce your energy consumption by 30 percent. When you only manage to reduce it by 25 percent, is that a failure? Or is it a success?

Or you plan a new program and hope 20 people will show up and reap all the benefits of your planning. When only 17 people sign up, haven't you still served your audience well?

None of this is to say you shouldn't set goals. And it's also not to say that you shouldn't try your very hardest to achieve them. It's just that, if you don't quite make it, that doesn't equate to failure.

Every time you move the ball forward, you've moved the ball forward. Stop. Gather yourself. And get ready to move forward again.

We might not ever get to perfection. But it's all good.


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director,
Recreation Management

[email protected]