For most of my life, I have completely avoided the task of painting. I’m so bad at it that even when I offer to help I am usually dismissed from the task fairly quickly.
Our 1970s home has trim sorely in need of painting. The rest of the house was freshly painted (by a painter, that I hired, because I hate to paint) before we moved in but we ran out of time and money to address the trim issue. My hope was to remove all of the old, ugly trim and replace it with pristine, perfect new trim.
My mom, a freak of nature who LOVES to paint, enthusiastically offered to come help me paint the trim. She has been after me for months to set aside time to get this task done. I finally relented, and found myself holding a paintbrush and a Handy Paint Pail one Friday afternoon.
So there I was, glumly brushing paint onto the trim with a swirl of negative thoughts going through my head:
This looks really bad. Like, really, really bad. Look at all of these ugly brush marks. Ugh, is that a hair in the paint again? Why do I shed so much? Look at that huge drip my mom missed. Didn’t she say she was good at painting? This is hopeless. We should have just replaced this trim with new, beautiful, perfect trim.
At some point during the process, I stepped back to look at a door frame that was nearly dry. I took a few more steps back to compare the door frame to a frame that we hadn’t started working on yet. The difference was stark: the newly painted door frame looked amazing next to the dingy frame we had not yet painted.
After we finished for the day, I was able to appreciate that the freshly painted trim looked beautiful compared to the state it was in before. The entire room seemed brighter thanks to a coat of paint and a few hours work. Suddenly, the idea of ripping out perfectly good trim in the entire house seemed insane.
Hi, my name is Shelly and I’m a recovering perfectionist.
The truth is, perfection is fleeting. Even if I had replaced the trim in my entire home, it would not have stayed perfect for long with a 4 year old that loves to run anything with wheels right into the baseboards.
“Perfect is the enemy of good.” -Voltaire
My career as a professional organizer has opened my eyes to the problems that perfectionism can cause. With my clients, perfectionism can be a motivation killer: they want so badly for their spaces to be pristine that they cannot envision a starting point. The very thought of a less-than-perfect result becomes a reason not to start.
Perfect is not just the enemy of good… it is the enemy of done.
If you are struggling to get started on a project because you are overwhelmed by perfectionism, try setting aside an hour and diving in. I am betting that you will appreciate your progress even if it is far from perfect. As for me, I still have several rooms with gross old dingy trim to tackle but now that I have seen progress I’m actually looking forward to picking up that paintbrush again.
Written by Asher Collins. Asher has since left Gateway Productivity to pursue his passion in ADHD coaching. You can find him here.
This is so true! Just to get started, that is the problem 😉 Once I get going, I want to continue. Thanks for sharing, I needed to hear this.
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