The Best is the Enemy of the Good

I generally like to do a good job at whatever I set out to accomplish. More than that, I’ve been taught from the time I was little to “always do my best.” And that’s generally good advice. But I’ve definitely come across instances in my life where that desire to do my best overwhelms me, and I end up doing nothing at all.

Case in point: studying Slovak. Last year, I set a goal for myself to study Slovak for a half hour each day. I kept up with that for a while, and then I dropped the goal down to 15 minutes, because finding a full half hour each day was difficult, and I found myself skipping the goal when I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete it that day. Except I found on days when I was really busy, even 15 minutes was rough to meet.

Now, if I’d taken a step back and asked myself, “Which is better, studying some Slovak every day, or only studying if I can get 15 minutes in,” I think the answer would have been clear. Studying it a bit each day is better than not studying it at all. But I didn’t think of it like that. I felt like I had to do my best on the goal, or else I’d fail. And so I just did nothing at all, in the end. The goal slipped off my radar, and I admitted defeat.

This has happened before with me. Good things I want to do end up going nowhere because I can’t do them as well as I wish I could.

For me, this is the classic example of the best being the enemy of the good in my life. Because I can’t do my best, I don’t even accomplish the good I could get done if I settled for less. Whether it’s decluttering, reading my scriptures, cleaning the house, getting work in on a writing project, or anything else. I opt to do nothing because I can’t do everything, even though I realize how nonsensical that is.

Additionally, so much of getting something done on a project involves simply starting work on it. If I can commit myself to do something on a project, even if it’s just a little, I’ll often find myself ending up doing much more on that project than I’d thought I’d have time for. Overcoming inertia is a huge step.

So I’m trying to keep that in mind this year. I’m back to studying Slovak each day, even if it’s just for five minutes. Because with five minutes a day, I’ll still end up having studied Slovak for over 30 hours over the course of the year. And 30 hours is much better than nothing, right?


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