It was Voltaire who said: “perfect is the enemy of the good” – and he should know. A strident critic of existential perfection, Voltaire spent much of his working life attacking the notion of a world imbued by flawless divinity.
In Candide, his most influential work, Voltaire describes Professor Pangloss, a devoted follower of Leibnizian optimism – the philosophy that God has created the “best of all possible worlds”. Candide, the muddling pupil of Pangloss, often attempts to reconcile the moral imperfections of his mentor, with the notion of an optimal world, but ultimately despairs. It is only by these failures that Candide is painfully cured of his obsession with perfection.
Fast forward a couple of centuries and the lessons learned by Candide remain relevant today. We live in a world dominated by the pursuit of perfection. From the sports field, to the classroom, to the office and everywhere in between; perfect performances are the pinnacle – the very definition of success for many. Yet, as Candide discovered, there is an inherent flaw in this logic. For perfection is a standard which can never be attained and ultimately offers all but misery for those who try.
The stress will get to you. It gets to everyone.