I have been listening to Alain De Botton’s talk on love and relationships. He often mentions the British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicot, whose famous phrase was that parents don’t need to be perfect just “good enough”.
This has made me think about how perfectionism can hold us back from achieving goals we truly desire. Procrastination is hardly ever about laziness; its root cause is some kind of fear, generally fear of failure and occasionally, fear of success. The best way to overcome this habit is by letting go of perfectionism and embracing the idea of being good enough. One can also apply the philosopher Alan Watts’ “backwards law”. This law of reversed effort is a seemingly paradoxical theory: the harder you try to do something, the less likely that you are going to succeed.
I also came across an interesting research in positive psychology that was conducted by KU Leuven University in 2014. The study was looking at the correlation between positive affirmations/gratitude and wellbeing. The research was looking to find if wellbeing interventions are truly effective (not just placebo effects), and if they had the same effect on all 7700 participants.
The participants received small daily wellbeing tips for four weeks, and one more elaborate wellness practice once a week over the four weeks. One of the most interesting finds for me was that most people showed significant increases in wellbeing that lasted for about 6 months. However, the participants who had a tendency for perfectionism and avoidance in relationships, showed less improvement.
The study also concluded that the effects were relatively small, and largely depend on the extent to which participants actively become involved in a process of reflection about their priorities, values and goals.
So, the takeaway is that for any intervention to work effectively in the long run, we need to invest time and effort to self-reflect, and aim for just being good enough rather than perfect.
Would you be able to give yourself the permission to be just good enough?