Last week I gave one tip for how I handle my struggle with perfection. I ask myself “is this a piano?”
If you haven’t read that click here so you can get a glimpse into my truly imperfect and sometimes funny world: Two Keys To Conquering Perfection: Part 1
While I’m getting better at learning to let things go when I make a mistake, another area I struggle with is knowing when to quit. Do you struggle with that, with knowing what is the difference between “finished” and “perfect?” I drive myself crazy trying to make something perfect. I forget theses verses from Psalm 127:1-2. I like The Message translation here:
If God doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap. It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work our worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?
Does that sound familiar to you? I tend to frequently “work my worried fingers to the bone” for some kind of made up perfection I can never attain. Then, I look around and wonder where Jesus is in my mess. He’s there, and will help me, but He was also there long before I worked myself into a panic. He had a better plan all along.
So here is the second question I ask myself to combat my perfectionist nature: “Does this need to be a piano bench?”
I know you’re wondering what on earth I mean. There’s a point. While a piano needs 88 keys each tuned to perfection, a piano bench is much less important in terms of design. From someone who has spent years playing the piano, it’s nice to have something comfortable to sit on and pretty to look at when you’re not playing. Perhaps the bench has some ornate carving, a storage area for sheet music, and if you really want to get fancy, it’s padded. That might be the dream. It does add to the enjoyment of playing, but it’s not necessary for playing. What is necessary is a place to sit. That’s it; something a three-legged stool would accomplish. If you can reach the keys and pedals, that’s all you need.
Of course there are lots of steps between a stool you found in your garage under some old paint cans and an ornately carved bench. That’s where discernment comes in. Here are 3 question I ask myself taking, the bench as an example
- What is the minimum I need? I need a starting point. If you’re planning on playing a piano for any length of time, it would make it more enjoyable to have something comfortable to sit on. Perhaps an adjustable stool or basic bench would do.
- What is the maximum I want? This is where I get to dream a little. What I’ve found is allowing myself the freedom to dream, often shows me I don’t always want the most outlandish option. I don’t really want an ornately carved piano bench in my living room. If something is that pretty, I want where others can see it, and enjoy it on a regular basis.My maximum would be a sturdy bench with room for storage, and some padding.
- What is my budget, both money and time? This is when reality sets in. My creative side kicks in, and I want to do everything, but I have to be realistic. I have to stop and think what will it cost me financially, mentally, emotionally, and physically. A little tip I’ve learned the hard way; I suggest setting your maximum limit a little lower than what you really could do. This way if something unforeseen happens you still have the resources for it.Taking that into account, I have a comfortable bench that’s pretty, has a storage space for sheet music, but no padding. It’s more than the bare minimum, but not outlandish.
Once I’ve decided on those things, it makes it easier. Here’s one situation where I put this into practice. Hopefully you can relate. I like to bake so when there’s a party I’m often the one responsible for the cake.
Step 1: What is the minimum I need? I need some kind of cake that tastes good and looks good.
Now on to step 2: What is the maximum I want? It would be a blast to make something nothing short of a showstopper, maybe even a life sized sculpted cake. Is that really the maximum I want though? I’m planning a cake for a small family dinner, not an event for three hundred people. So, time to scale back. The maximum I want is something small that’s 3D sculpted.
So I’ve already narrowed it down. I need a cake that looks and tastes good, but isn’t crazy over the top. I could do a basic cake with white icing that says “Happy Birthday” or something on a small scale of sculpted. That gives me plenty of room to be creative.
Now reality check at step 3: What is my budget, both money and time? Sometimes making a cake is more expensive money wise than buying one from a grocery store, but if I’ve thought about it, I have the financial budget to make something that could easily feed 20 people. Time budget is harder. This time I have 5 hours to do everything from baking, decorating, to clean up. (Ugh clean up, I really have to work on that whole “cake batter splattered on the refrigerator door” thing.) Since 5 hours is my maximum, I’m going to scale back to four hours. That gives me time to be prepared for when I take a picture of my finished masterpiece and drop my phone on the cake, causing me to make emergency repairs. (It happens!) That has narrowed down my options. When I take prep time, baking time, and clean up into account, I’m probably left with 2 hours out of 4 to actually decorate, maybe even less. Realistically, carving a cake is going to take too much time. I still have time to make something pretty though.
This time I can handle a round chocolate layer cake with chocolate buttercream filling and vanilla buttercream for decorations. I can do more than just write “Happy Birthday.” Perhaps the birthday girl likes polka dots. Why not make a white background with rainbow neon polka dots? It’s simple to execute, won’t leave me feeling exhausted, but the cake will still be beautiful.
That sounds easy right? The hard part is when I execute my plan, and wish I had added one more tier, had one less color, or added a border. That’s when I have to remember perfection is something that won’t be attained because there will always be something else I want to change. It simply needs to be “finished.” Remembering that, I can take a step back, admire my work with a smile, and take a picture, hopefully without dropping my phone on the cake. Once the party comes, I’m not exhausted from the work, and everyone is happy with the cake.
Is there an area you can apply this to? Perhaps it’s a project at work, your morning hair and make-up routine, your summer garden, an art project, or a website you’re designing. When we remember God doesn’t want us to drive ourselves crazy in search of perfection that doesn’t exist, we often find we can have our cake and eat it too.
I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment, and let me know if any of this resonated with you. Also, let me know if there something you’d like me to cover in a future blog post.