Several years ago, when I was a full-time computer programmer, I worked for a small but growing company. I was assigned to a team to develop the company’s major new product. It was an excellent team; we got along well together and we all enjoyed programming. After working on the project for a month or so, it became clear that it was much more complex than originally thought. Soon we were working long hours, late into the night and on most weekends. Every time we finished a section, it became apparent that there was something else we could do to make it even better. Since this was the start of a new product line, we wanted to create the best program possible. As the amount of work continued to grow, the team’s morale dropped. We barely had enough time to finish the basic project much less the improvements that would tremendously enhance the original design.
At one of our meetings when we were discussing how to implement some of the enhancements, our manager stopped the discussion and began to talk about the difference between “good” and “good enough.” He explained that “good” is perfection, the absolute perfect project that is so complete that nothing will ever need to be changed or improved. The perfect program would never need enhancement. “Good enough” is the best that is humanly possible. Good enough is not doing something just to get it done, but doing the best that can be done at the present time.
This quieted all of us. We knew that perfection is impossible in a computer program. There is always something that can be added or improved upon so no program is ever complete. In attempting perfection, we were attempting the impossible. The best we could hope to do was “good enough.” Since most of us were perfectionists, it took us a little while to adapt to this way of thinking, but when we did, our morale improved which helped us complete the first version. The program was well received, and in subsequent versions we added a number of the improvements that we had conceived in the project’s early stages.
Many of us set perfection as our goal at work and at play. In a yoga pose, we would like to have every bone and muscle in exactly the right place. Unfortunately, no yoga pose is ever that perfect. There is always a way we could move a muscle differently, have a little more extension here or flexibility there. If we become completely focused on doing the ideal pose, we run the risk of losing the joy of the pose because we can never reach that perfection. Instead, if we view the perfect pose as doing it to the best of our ability and being happy and content that we have done our best, the pose becomes fun. Over time our poses change. Our flexibility or strength may increase with practice or decrease due to an injury, but if we do our best, each pose is no more or less perfect or enjoyable than the one we did months or years before.
When we are working to the best of our ability, the way in which we view each task, project or pose is all a matter of attitude. When perfection is our only goal, we are disappointed because no matter how hard we try, there is always something more that can be accomplished and we always fall short. If instead we approach life with the intention of doing our best, the results become less important and we can enjoy the steps along the way.