Perfect, Good Enough, Better than it Was...

Perfect, Good Enough, Better than it Was ….

As physicians, most of us are wired for perfection. Face it, there are few professions that are expected to be 100% accurate 100% of the time. If you hire a gardener to plant 10 shrubs and one dies, you consider 90% a pretty good yield (and you replace the dead shrub if it is in a “noticeable” location). If you buy 2 dozen filled cupcakes and one has a little less filling or frosting, no big deal. But, as a physician in the course of patient care, if you miss a diagnosis, choose a wrong treatment, or misinterpret a test result, the outcome may be catastrophic. It is stressful. Not only can serious harm come to your patient for overlooking or blatantly missing subtle details, but medical liability can ruin a career (and one’s spirit).

I am not advocating for mediocrity, by no means. My family jokingly refers to me as having “CDO” — that is” OCD in  alphabetical order as all things should be”. However, that tendency can be harmful when spilling over into other areas of life. For years, I drove those close to me crazy with my checking, double checking, replacing finishing touches, and over planning and preparing. Sure, from time to time I arose the “hero” when I pulled out a threaded needle to fix a popped button, the back up copy of the boarding passes when someone misplaced their original ticket, and the flash drive with every file of meeting minutes from the beginning of time — but not without cost.

The holiday season can be the most stressful time for perfectionists — with the additional details, obligations, and decisions, energy can be expended in unintended places and personal well-being will be neglected. Now retired from medical practice, I look back on how I navigated working full time, decorating three themed trees, baking legions of cookies, creating those perfect gifts (yes, many hand crafted), and attending nearly every community, church and work-related holiday event — completely missing the “peace on earth," and forgetting to breathe.

My approach to this time of year is vastly different from five years ago. I am more selective of what I do and who I spend my time with, and less selective about the shape of the evergreen and coordinating color themes. I am more intentional of where my energy is expended and less picky about the condition of the floors in my house. I no longer agonize over tangible gifts and consider what experiences will be cherished by my gift recipients. I am less rigid with my calendar (though, it is still color-coded) and more open to adjusting (or cancelling) plans. I only carry 2 colors of threaded needles with me (and several pins) for those unanticipated wardrobe malfunctions. I have learned to identify what truly needs to be “perfect” for me and when “good enough” is absolutely fine. Wishing you all a “less-than-perfect” holiday season!

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