When working on something, there are essentially two approaches to deciding when to stop: Either aim for the best we can do (optimising) or aim for
good enough(satisficing). The trouble with optimising - and this is especially true for highly able people - is that one's idea of
The best I can domay be a very high standard indeed, so high that in practice it's unattainable -
The best is the enemy of the good.* This is why I don't like being called a perfectionist; I see myself firmly as a satisficer - able to recognise
good enoughand so finish that task and happily move on.
The thing is, my idea of
good enoughis very variable, depending on the task in hand. At work, my standards have always been very high. I simply don't care that everyone else working in my field is happy to do it that way - if I can see a mistake, I will work to correct it (and then persuade everyone else...) A new boss was once concerned about the amount of time I was spending on a consultancy project. I explained about the lengthy calculations that I hadn't forseen at the start of the project, but once spotted, needed doing.
And people would notice if it was wrong and we'd look bad?he asked.
No-one would notice, but we'd be saying something that isn't true.
On the other hand, when it comes to the
domestic artsI really don't feel these high standards are necessary. When I made a baby blanket for my sister, I gave it to her even though it was wonky, and she was pleased with it.
When it comes to cooking, it doesn't matter if things don't come out quite the way I intended, so long as they're edible. I tried icing cupcakes the other day, and it wasn't a great success. I put too much water in the icing so it was very runny. The cakes were also rather small because I'd forgotten to put baking powder in (I was surprised that made so little difference).
Fail cakes are still cakes.**
*I had to look up who said this. Apparently it was Voltaire. Very wise, that Voltaire.
**I didn't have to look up who said this as I was there at the time. It was my husband. He can also be very wise.