Creativity for the Rest of Us

Loving Good Enough

to do list

I am a recovering list maker. Once upon a time I took great pleasure in making lengthy lists. I drew cute little boxes next to each item. There was always something else to do so the list never reached completion. It continually morphed into a new iteration. I was always busy.

I am also a recovering perfectionist.   Not only were my days filled with completing tasks, I had strict standards to live up to. My self worth was based on pleasing some amorphous group of critics and how many of those little boxes I checked off. It was hard for me to delegate as very few people lived up to my self-imposed standards.

Perfectionism and list making do not a happy couple make. I was a hostage to my to-do list, stressed out by my perfectionism, feeling guilty if I wasn’t constantly doing something. Relaxation, or the idea of reflection, was not even in my awareness.

My wake up call came about ten years ago, as it often does, through my daughter. I was in a frenzy of preparation (a.k.a holiday insanity) getting ready to host my family for Christmas – cleaning house, preparing food, wrapping gifts, and decorating. Also riding herd on my spouse and daughter to “help” while silently criticizing how they did or sneaking behind them to redo it myself.

I still remember where I was standing in the living room when my daughter said to me in frustration: “Mom, the holidays are no fun with you when you’re so crazy about it all being perfect.” No fun. That hurt. It also got my attention.

“Excuse the mess, we live here.” – Roseanne Barr

Fast forward to today. I’ve learned – sometimes painfully – to let go: to love what’s good enough, to appreciate excellence over perfection. I spend more time now being instead of doing. My list for the day (if I even have one) is more of an intention than a strict plan. Meditate. Move my body. Create something. Make a connection with someone. Watch the birds. Be open to something new.

I still run a business and get things done. The surprising difference is it happens at a more relaxed pace, I don’t resent what I’m doing, and there are many things that I simply let go of.

The fun part is the magical synchronicities that show up when I’m not trying to control or schedule the life out of the situation. Many of the things that would have been on a list now spontaneously take care of themselves. I’m getting better at asking for help.

When I welcome people into my home, it is now in a spirit of hospitality instead of with a fear of criticism or wanting them to like me based on how things look.

It’s much simpler now. What will allow us to have an enjoyable time together? What creates relaxation and comfort for my guests and for me? Refreshment and comfortable seating for the body. Good conversation for the heart and mind. Unstructured time for something surprising and magical to show up.

That’s good enough for me.



If you are a chronic list maker, go for a week without making one. Start each morning with a few minutes of quiet and reflect on – What would I like to have happen today? Forget about how it will actually get done – just set the intention.

Track at the end of each day:

What did you enjoy most about the day?

How did your intention play out?

What were the surprises?


If you are a perfectionist:

What did you let go of?

Where did you allow the unexpected to come in?

Where were you able to stop at good enough?

3 Responses to “Loving Good Enough”

  1. Daniel Saenz says:

    I’m not sure I can give up my lists, but I think all take your advice and really ask myself what I enjoyed most out of my day, and if my intentions were successful. I also like your thoughts on perfectionism. Definitely have to let that program go.

    Best, Daniel

  2. Daniel – As long as your lists don’t preclude spontaneity and surprise, you’re good. They are meant to be of service to us, not the other way around.

    Enjoy the exploration – Mary

  3. Steve says:

    Love this post.. so applicable to me! Thanks for sharing Mary….


  1. Loving Good Enough, Part 2 | - […] I’ve been reflecting more about perfectionism and busyness since my last post. […]

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