At some point in life, most of us are introduced to the maxim, "anything worth doing is worth doing well." Which is another way of saying, "if you're not going to do a good job, don't bother." Perhaps, like me, you've lived much of your life by this phrase, routinely going the extra mile to do your best. Maybe it's even something you've repeated to your kids (I know I have!).
Here's the thing: it's time to abandon that maxim. It's toxic. And just plain wrong. In her book How to Keep House While Drowning*, KC Davis encourages readers to adopt an alternative maxim:
"Anything worth doing is worth doing half-assed."
Let that sink in for a moment. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing in whatever way you can get it done! Now, I'm not going to try and sell you on "done is better than perfect." I don't believe that; perfect is, after all, perfect. But, it also isn't achievable much of the time: you may lack the time, energy, or skills to achieve an ideal result. Or, there may not be a clear definition of what perfect is for a specific task or project (I'm looking at you, logo design).
Take the last few weeks of my life as an example:
I got the flu two days before Thanksgiving (and one day before my flu shot appointment). It completely knocked the stuffing out of me. And then, because the flu is an overachiever, I got a sinus infection.
Almost three weeks later, I just swallowed down my last antibiotic, and I'm slowly starting to feel a bit better. I'm still easily fatigued and have a nagging come-and-go cough, but I'm finally emerging from my DayQuil-pajamas-cheesy-holiday-movie cocoon.
My list of accomplishments from "the cocoon" includes:
Roasting the turkey and cooking most of the dishes I had planned to make for Thanksgiving. A couple of days after Thanksgiving, while wearing sweatpants.
Watching the movie "Falling for Christmas" not once, but twice.
Small bouts of crafting and making it through a 4-hour Girl Scout craft fair (because supporting the next generation of female entrepreneurs is non-negotiable).
I also canceled meetings, canceled on holiday guests, took a lot of naps, and let my kids spend a ridiculous amount of time playing video games. To say that I half-assed life would be an understatement. But, if I had insisted on perfection, that expensive turkey would have rotted in the fridge.
Having the flu might seem like an easy opportunity to embrace the "half-assed" maxim: being ill is draining but temporary. But I don't see the benefits as temporary. Abandoning the mandate that everything you do has to be done to perfection is liberating and gives you a path toward progress.
When we remove perfection as the sole benchmark in life, we change the narrative from one that wallows in shortcomings to one that lauds overcoming challenges. This mindset shift allows me to approach my day with the knowledge that whatever steps I take toward my goals—small steps, slow steps, stutter steps, or great confident leaps—I am still making progress that I can feel good about. Furthermore, focusing on the progress allows me to go into tomorrow with the boost of a positive mindset rather than the anchor of feeling shame over what wasn't.
Sure, you probably won't see "anything worth doing is worth doing half-assed" on a best-selling motivational poster anytime soon (but hey, it might be a good product idea!). But try embracing this new outlook, especially when you struggle to get started or feel overwhelmed. You'll find that it's the permission you need to begin making progress.
*How to Keep House While Drowning is not a "how to" for keeping a clean house. I would be remiss if I didn't share that this book was a healing read for me. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially those who have felt overwhelmed, stressed, or shame from being unable to "do it all" to perfection, and to anyone who is neurodiverse or loves someone who is.