Sarah Sheldon’s Big Deshishions: (4) Good enough has to be good enough

A chronic over-deliverer, Sarah Sheldon told her outraged friend that overtime for a laxative newsletter might make her miss her wedding

Good enough has to be good enough

Overprepared. Laura Eades 2014

Sarah Sheldon writes:

Over-prepared since Day 1

At school, I had a rucksack which more often than not was impossible to lift, so filled it was with extra-curricular paraphernalia – a hockey stick, gym kit, flute. All of which would invariably be covered in Ribena leaked from the plastic beakers that my mum would give us to take to school, unwavering in her belief in Tupperware and deaf to our pleas for cans or cartons.

I would spend far too long on my homework, meticulously doing my best for every subject however irrelevant.

Good enough has to be good enough

Overprepared. Laura Eades 2014

Getting all the ‘A’s

Having made it into the local newspaper while at primary school, for collecting highest number of out-of-date telephone directories as part of a recycling challenge, the seeds of anxious over-achieving sprouted into full fledged perfectionism when it came to A-levels.

Entire weekends would be spent at the central library in Manchester trying to memorise everything that happened in the 19th and 20th centuries. Often the only other person in that section of the library was our history teacher, Mr T. He would be wearing odd shoes as he researched his videos. They were of him reading out his notes. He’d watch them along with the the class, with genuine interest.

Good enough has to be good enough

Overprepared. Laura Eades 2014

Proud of imperfection

This drive came entirely from within; my parents were not strict. My mum’s best friend Lesley had a son who did all the proper teenage things: dyed his hair, ripped his jeans, broke his ankle at a music festival. I always suspected my mum felt slightly disappointed having little to relate during their telephone conversations; the stories about me in my bedroom writing to my German pen-friend comparing our respective education systems or telling her about my daily routine were unlikely to have kept Lesley on the edge of her seat.

Good enough has to be good enough

Overprepared. Laura Eades 2014

Too much to bear

At school and university success was quantifiable, measured at first in different coloured acorn stickers and later on in grades and assessments. Even though the real world operates without this structure, I continued to over-prepare.

Just as my rucksack for school was often impossible to lift, for my first backpacking experience abroad I included a dressing gown, tennis racket and flute. There were actually so many items that I had to put some of them in a suitcase. I was unable to single-handedly carry the suitcase and backpack to the airport which meant that my mum had to give me a lift. Oddly it hadn’t occurred to either of us that I might struggle on reaching my destination, which I did.

None of these items were cheap, so I couldn’t leave them there, and I ended up feeling under particular pressure to try and find someone with whom I could play a flute duet or a game of tennis to justify having packed them in the first place (which I didn’t).

Good enough has to be good enough

Overprepared. Laura Eades 2014

Just in case

I duly over-prepared for my first job teaching English as a foreign language. I would turn up for lessons struggling under the weight of photocopies, books, games, boxes of Scrabble and videos of Mr Bean (in case I ran out of material). As the class initially looked on in confusion, no doubt wondering how we would pack all of those activities into just 45 minutes, I would drift off during listening exercises or when the students would do a speaking activity, exhausted from hours of lesson preparation.

Good enough has to be good enough

Overprepared. Laura Eades 2014

Overtime addict

In other jobs, I would stay at the office far later than anyone else, seeking out the definitive, most up-to-date piece of data on the Bolivian gas sector or whatever I happened to be researching.

The response of utter disbelief when I suggested to my friend that I may have to miss her wedding as I still had bits and bobs to do for a report on the Lithuanian laxative market undoubtedly served as a wake-up call.

Sense of proportion

Discovering the principle of “good enough” several years ago proved a revelation. There is a freedom to realising that a piece of work does not have to be the definitive response to the task at hand but a compromise between other factors like time and sanity.

While working hard to conduct just enough research into this particular issue, I came across one insight which appeared in all of the few sources I consulted – from  US psychologist David Burns – that:  in “Reaching for the stars, perfectionists may end up clutching at air”. I have to agree with Mr Burns, about whom I know absolutely nothing.

But that’s enough of this blogpost, so if you want more detail, you’ll have to do your own homework.

* * *

Perfectionist? Great at burdening yourself with resolutions and promises? Chronic over-deliverer? Or have you mastered the fine art of merry mediocrity? Click on the pale grey dot beneath the blogpost, yea he with dem plus sign, to posty comment

* * *

This post is part of a seriesin which comedian and journo Sarah Sheldon unravels the big unconscious decisions that have shaped her life experience, and replaces them with a more constructive outlook.

Read more on Illustrated Guide to Life: (click on the pale grey category headings below) or visit: