Excellence is always adequate.
I try not to use the terms “never” and “always”, but in a recent discussion with a friend, I found myself making the statement above. This friend is known for beating herself up and reliving every minor error in her mind over and over. She is also extremely capable and conscientious, and most people see her quite differently than she sees herself.
We often carry unexamined messages from childhood that affect our lives. These may be comments that were made casually by our parents, and have affected our self-image ever since. Many of us strive for perfection and exhaust ourselves, rather than saying something is “good enough”.
Others are comfortable with “good enough” and don’t make the effort to make or do something that they will be proud of. There are times when “good enough” is not “good enough” to satisfy our personal standards, and we may choose to raise those standards from “good enough” to “excellence”.
I have decided that I will give myself a score of excellent if 97% of what I produce is error-free. The Pareto Principle, or 80/20 rule states that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained. There are diminishing returns with the additional effort. I generally want to do better than 80%, therefore 20% of the effort is less than I choose to put in. To create results I’m satisfied with or even proud of, I am willing to put in 60% to 70% of the effort required for perfection in order to produce an excellent result.
Further, there are projects and tasks that are not important enough to require 80%, and others that require 99% rather than 97%. However, I have scratched my head searching for tasks and projects that require 100%, or perfection and come up with nothing.
Oxford defines adequate as “Satisfactory or acceptable in quality or quantity.”
Merriam-Webster defines adequate as:
- “Sufficient for a specific need or requirement”,
- “good enough : of a quality that is good or acceptable”, and,
- “of a quality that is acceptable but not better than acceptable.”
I suspect that the final Webster definition is the one that sticks in the craw of those of us who drive ourselves to great lengths, and suggest that we visit tasks and projects on a case by case basis to determine which require more attention (excellence rather than adequate).
How many times do you drive yourself to distraction trying to be perfect?
After careful consideration, I have determined that for me, excellence is always adequate. There is never a time when perfection is required. If I have put in the effort on a worthy task, and the output is excellent, it does not need to be perfect.
P.S. In the first publication of this post, I spelled adequate wrong in the title. It’s not too late to revisit and improve your work!
Jocelyn Hastie is the founder of Unbridled Business Solutions Inc., a company specializing in communications related training and creator of Cutting the Crush of Criticism.