I GREW UP among people who insisted perfection was the only acceptable goal. Anything even one molecule shy of perfection was a distant second—so distant it was indistinguishable from utter failure. Ironically (or predictably) the only thing these perfectionists did perfectly was ignore their own imperfection. And my quest for perfection only led to perfect stress and perfect self-loathing.
Even though most of us aren’t that type of high-level perfectionist, we sometimes become one when trying to make decisions and choices. If that sounds familiar, consider the following:
1. Perfection doesn’t exist
2. Even if perfection existed, it would be temporary, because the context in which it is perfect changes
3. Even if something is perfect, we can imagine something better, making the perfect thing seem imperfect
4. Imperfection is better than nothing; good enough is almost always good enough
Number 4 is the biggie. Outside the perfectionist’s fantasy world everything is a compromise. But that’s okay. An imperfect solution is better than no solution.
Perfection becomes an excuse
There are perfectionist out there making preparations to become full time nomads. They’re going to take the giant leap from their familiar, society-approved life into the newness and uncertainty of living in a vehicle. They want those preparations to be perfect. The perfect vehicle. The perfect bed. The perfect source of heat. The perfect time to leave. The perfect place to go. And so on. Then nothing can go wrong because everything is perfect. These are the people who delay and delay because perfection isn’t in place yet. And it never will be.
Fredkin’s Paradox: The more similar two choices seem, the less the decision should matter, yet the harder it is to choose between them. As a result, we often spend the most time on decisions that matter least.
Pragmatism becomes a tool
Some people might think demanding perfection puts them in the position of power, puts them in control of their life. But it actually puts them in a position of weakness. It makes them a supplicant at the mercy of a world uninterested in the perfectionist’s desires. If they need perfection to be in control, to feel whole, they never will be since perfection doesn’t exist.
On the other hand, accepting something less than perfect gives us power because we don’t let the imperfections hold us back. Because the goal — going — is more important than the details of how we go.
Improvement rather than perfection
Seek progress. Improve your life step by step, even if it’s two steps forward and one step back. If you stay where you are because everything isn’t perfectly ready yet, you’re losing ground as the world — and your time in it — moves on. Each day spent waiting for perfection is another day lost.
I know a woman whose nomadic life seems like the result of perfect planning and flawless execution. In reality, she started as one of so many women who fled an abusive marriage with only what she could scrounge from the house and toss in the car before her husband got home. It was by no means a perfect start, but it was a critical one. And it was a definite improvement — the first in a series of improvements.
The great leap into nomadic living doesn’t need to be a leap at all. It can be a series of steps, rungs on a ladder, temporary waypoints, short-term goals. It can be doing what we can at the moment, with our imperfect resources and abilities, to get from where we are in life to something else, something better.
On the road to gratefulness
Nomadic life isn’t just about freedom from conventional society’s restrictions, flaws and horrors. As my therapist asked during one of the darkest periods of my old life, “In all your running away, what are you running to?” What was my life goal? Hmmmmm… To create a new me. Not a perfect one, just better. More aware, more contented, more appreciative of the life I have. Perfectionism would make that hard — or impossible. Today, my basic needs are sufficiently met. So are a few higher level needs and desires. Sufficient is good. Mostly okay is good. Barely adequate is good. Not horrible is good. When I let go of perfectionism I realized I’m surrounded by so much that is good. And good is good enough.