Perfect is the Enemy of Good

*My imperfect attempt at lettering the title of this post. I could have spent more time making it pretty, but I would have never published my post. It would have been ridiculous and ironic to delay my post to make my lettering nicer, given my post’s subject, so I went with it.

I had my annual physical yesterday with my primary care physician, whom I’ve been going to for over 20 years. I like her because she takes time to talk to me and check in on my emotional and mental state rather than focus solely on my physical ailments. She was happy and excited to learn I had graduated from nursing school. She asked whether I planned to have more kids. I shared my anxiety over my ability to have another healthy child at my advanced maternal age. I started to talk about parenting and the guilt I feel about being an older mom to my daughter. She knows me well, however, and knows I can be overly critical of myself.

I responded that this was the problem with being a perfectionist; I recognize I can be needlessly hard on myself. She declared, “I want to eliminate the word ‘perfectionist.’ What if we replaced perfectionist with ‘overly critical’? No one wants to be overly critical!”

“What if we replaced ‘perfectionist’ with ‘overly critical’? No one wants to be overly critical!”

Dr. M

I tried to explain I am not proud to be a perfectionist and am trying to change. Still, I shared how my perfectionist attitude got me through pre-requisites and helped me complete a competitive accelerated nursing program. She shared how she can relate to this and proceeded to tell her story when she was younger.

When she was in medical school, residents were required to go to counseling. She met with the counselor, who eventually noted, “You have a harsh critic inside, don’t you?” The counselor encouraged her not to be so critical, “You don’t yell and scream at a two-year-old to learn their alphabet. You don’t yell and scream at a toddler to get them to walk. You don’t have to be so difficult on yourself”. My doctor defiantly declared to her counselor that she had no intention to change since her harsh critic served her well. My doctor rationalized to her counselor that she accomplished her goals and got to medical school because of her “harsh critic.” Her counselor responded that she didn’t do those things BECAUSE of her harsh critic; she completed those things DESPITE her.

I appreciated my doctor’s story because it paints an alternative to being “overly critical.” As a parent, I can relate to the patience and compassion needed to teach a child a new skill. I could scream and make my daughter cry about brushing and flossing her teeth, for instance, but there are other ways I can guide and encourage her. In the same way, I can choose different ways to talk to and motivate myself. I don’t have to suffer so much by my internal critic or be perfect to achieve my goals.

I have had to consciously and regularly examine the toll of aiming for perfection in nursing school. I shared how I would reason, “I could kill myself to get 100% on a care plan, or, I could spend more time with my family and get a 93%.” After hearing this, my doctor exclaimed, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” She echoed what I have struggled to remind myself over the years.

“Perfect is the enemy of good.”

Dr. M

There’s a book entitled “Good to Great” by James C. Collins that my pastor talked about during one of his homilies years ago. From it, my pastor learned and shared, “Good is the enemy of great.” I never got around to reading the best-selling book, but that message stuck with me: I would challenge myself to do better. I’d ask myself if my work or actions were the best I could do. At some point, however, I’d get discouraged and have an all-or-nothing attitude. If I couldn’t do things as well as I thought I should, I didn’t want to do it at all, or I’d scrap an entire project. I’d be ashamed of myself and compare myself to others. Striving to be perfect, I would feel frustrated, resentful, and spent. However, years since that homily, I’ve often thought, “Perfect is the enemy of good enough.”

While I do not advocate living one’s life by always doing only the bare minimum, sometimes the bare minimum maintains my sanity. “Good enough” has allowed me to survive and move forward from perceived failure. I’m learning to ask myself more often, “What’s it going to take?” and “Is it worth it?” (like in writing dreaded care plans) or “How can I approach this without so much suffering”? I still need reminders to be gentle with myself and that not everything has to be perfect to be great, so it was nice to hear my doctor affirm my previous thought.

I appreciated my doctor taking the time to remind me: perfect is the enemy of good. No one is perfect. Humans are imperfect and fallible, and it’s our struggles that lead to our growth…And sometimes, “good enough” is pretty frickin’ remarkable.

Press on with Purpose

Last week, the world discovered that Chadwick Boseman, an actor best known for portraying The Black Panther, died at the age of 43 after a 4-year battle with cancer. He played a superhero and legends on the screen, but as we learn more about him and his life, we realize he was a heroic icon himself. While he battled cancer and underwent treatments, he visited sick children in hospitals and continued to film movies without revealing his illness.

Chadwick Boseman used his gifts and talent to make a positive impact in the world. He found his purpose and pursued it with a passion. Below is an excerpt from a 2018 commencement speech he gave at Howard University where he speaks about his struggles in pursuit of his purpose (the full speech can be found at Howard University’s channel on YouTube)…May Chadwick Boseman’s life and words inspire you to think about your purpose and your own pursuit of using your talents and gifts to best serve the world.

“Sometimes you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you. God says in Jeremiah, ‘I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’… when you have reached the hilltop and you are deciding on next jobs, next steps, careers, further education, you would rather find purpose than a job or career.

Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill. Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose. When I dared to challenge the system that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me, the path to my destiny.

When God has something for you, it doesn’t matter who stands against it. God will move someone that’s holding you back away from the door and put someone there who will open it for you if it’s meant for you. I don’t know what your future is, but if you are willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that has ultimately proven to have more meaning, more victory, more glory then you will not regret it. Now, this is your time. The light of new realizations shines on you today. [Howard’s] legacy is not wrapped up in the money that you will make but the challenges that you choose to confront. As you commence to your paths, press on with pride, and press on with purpose”.

Chadwick Boseman, excerpt from 2018 Howard University Commencement speech

RIP, Chadwick Boseman. We are thankful you pursued your purpose, inspiring generations.

A Nursing Pioneer, Illuminated

Many people, even non-nursing professionals, have heard of famous nursing pioneers such as Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, or Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing who was also known as “The Lady with the Lamp” (her moniker, since she would administer to hospital patients at night with her lamp). During a recent lecture, however, my professor asked the class if we had heard of nursing pioneer, Mary Seacole. None of us had. Apparently, Mary Seacole was a nurse of Creole descent who also nursed wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, during the same time as Florence Nightingale. Supposedly, Mary Seacole’s fame rivalled that of Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, yet not a single one of my 28 other classmates ever heard of Mary Seacole.

Mary Seacole was a Jamaican woman who came to London with a desire to volunteer as a nurse and be recruited as part of Nightingale’s delegation of women to serve as nurses in the Crimean war. Mary Seacole was instead met with racism and was refused the opportunity to serve as one of Nightingale’s nurses. Mary Seacole, therefore, independently traveled to the Crimea to establish and fund her own hospital, the “British Hotel” and tended to sick and wounded soldiers. She wrote an autobiography describing her experience as well as personal travels, “Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole”.

Mrs. Seacole was a woman who was undeterred and forged forward doing what she was called to do, to be a nurse, despite the racism and other obstacles she encountered. After hearing a bit about her from my professor and googling more about her, I decided to put her book on my wishlist and received it as a gift on my birthday a couple weeks ago. Aside from my textbooks, I’m glad to add this to my library of nursing books alongside my “Notes on Nursing” by Florence Nightingale.

While overwhelmed with school works and projects, I felt compelled to start reading and learn more about this woman. I kept meditating on the fact that I never heard of Mary Seacole, or didn’t really know of any other famous or pioneer nurses of color. It bothered me because, prior to the recent Black Lives Matter protests, I also had never heard of “Black Wall Street” or the “Tulsa Massacre”. I’m a person of color, born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in a suburb of Kansas for my childhood. I did not grow up in a diverse area and was typically one of only a handful of minorities in all my schools. Now that I’m an adult, I realize there are gaps in my education – history, in particular – that exist due to the omission of the non-white perspective.

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to have professors offer different perspectives and illuminate the history of nursing and nursing pioneers beyond “The Lady with the Lamp”. We need to celebrate and encourage diversity in Nursing. I feel that one step towards cultural competency and addressing racism in healthcare is to take time to hear different voices and promote diversity in healthcare. This also allows me to draw from a richer well of people to inspire me to move forward in nursing, despite obstacles I might face. I encourage you to move forward, seek different voices, take action, and draw inspiration from where you find it, too.

A Father’s Encouragement

What I Learned at Preschool

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I attended my first parent-teacher conference this week for my preschool daughter.  I had wrapped up my final exams just two days before.  While my own grades were still unknown, my husband and I learned about my toddler’s progress and “grades”.  We got a snapshot of where she was as far as cognitive skills, emotional development, gross motor/fine motor, and social skills. My daughter’s ratings were “P”, “B”, or “D” for her various skills.

I asked the teacher, “What do the letters mean?”

She replied “P is for proficient.  B is for building”. 

I then inquired, “Is D for deficient?”

She said with a laugh, “No, D is for developing.” 

In a prior Facebook and Instagram post, I shared how a professor described my “deficiency” after a clinical simulation and provided solely negative feedback to me.  I was unexpectedly triggered by my own insecurities at my daughter’s preschool review, thinking “D” meant “deficient” for areas where she could use more work.  Instead, the areas where she could improve are ones in which she is still “developing”.  What if I gave myself the grace and focused on how I am still developing?  What if I transformed “deficient” to “developing?”  Stating, “I’m developing a skill” elicits a very different response and attitude from, “I’m deficient in a skill.” 

What if I transformed ‘deficient’ to ‘developing’? Stating, “I’m developing a skill,” elicits a very different response and attitude from, “I’m deficient in a skill.”

The Mature Student Nurse

I got emotional during the conference and started to cry. I cried at the recognition of myself in my daughter.  I cried about projecting myself on her progress and development.  In a moment, I felt my issues had me resigned to suck at parenting.  The traits and behaviors I notice in myself that I try to “fix” or change show up strongly in my daughter: stubbornness, perfectionism, and inflexibility.

  • She may give up on doing something if she notices she is not doing it perfectly.
    • She was doing a cutting exercise with scissors but just gave up and decided not to do it because she saw she wasn’t exactly following the cutting line.
    • I have multiple calligraphy sets that I don’t use because I get discouraged with how my writing ends up looking – even though I know the whole point is to practice.
  • She can be very driven and direct herself, but so much so where she does not welcome working in teams.
    • She loves working on puzzles by herself, but she gets upset when her classmates try to join her.
    • I sometimes find it challenging working on group projects. I dread them at times. 
  • She can fixate on things and become emotionally derailed if things do not go as she planned.
    • She melts down over clothing. 
    • I go into panic mode over a bad test grade.
  • She gets an all-or-nothing attitude.
    • She was supposed to draw a picture of herself.  She started, but was unhappy with how it turned out. She erased the image and tried to re-draw the picture, but never finished.
    • Because I want to do things perfectly, I can take a long time doing things or worse, I won’t do it at all.

I realize my daughter will naturally take on her parents’ traits – good AND bad, whether we purposefully do this or not.  How can I expect her to act differently when I do not know how to do this for myself?  How can I give her tools I do not have?  To an extent, I realize my stubbornness and perfectionism has served me well and allowed me to get into a very competitive nursing program.  However, I also recognize where it has not served me. 

I’ve heard the saying, “the enemy of great is good enough,” but I know my issue can be summarized as “perfection is the enemy of good enough.”  I can get overwhelmed or paralyzed from not being able to do things perfectly or exactly the way I think I should.  Comically, I now recognize that my perfectionism is what had me put so much pressure on myself as a parent that I was driven to tears at my daughter’s parent-teacher conference. 

I would not want to label my daughter as “deficient,” so why am I so quick to label myself this way?  My daughter is DEVELOPING. So am I. 

The acknowledgement that I am still developing is a gift and empowering.  I can work with that.  If I want my daughter to know that it is okay to make mistakes and pursue projects imperfectly, I need to demonstrate that.  Before I can change my behavior, I need to notice it.  I see how my behavior impacts my life (and my daughter’s). I can do something about it now that I recognize it.  I am figuring it out as I go along. I feel lost at times and may not make the best choices, but I’m trying – I am still developing.

Called to a New Plan

I went to church Sunday morning with my family and saw the devotional booklet “Our Daily Bread” offered in the vestibule. I hadn’t seen one in a while, but became familiar with them through my mother and relatives from the Philippines, who used them regularly as a daily devotional. The booklet highlights a bible scripture each day and provides a reflection based on that reading. Feeling like I needed to focus more on my spirituality beyond church (it’s so hard sometimes to focus in mass with a rambunctious defiant toddler!), I grabbed one. The bible passage and reflection for that day (April 28, 2019) spoke to me. Because of that, I wanted to share it and invite you to read it at https://odb.org/2019/04/28/gods-retirement-plan/# .

At this moment in your life, what might God be calling you to do for His greater purpose? What new plans has He placed in your path?

Our Daily Bread (April 28, 2019)

The reflection was a great reminder of my second-career journey. Becoming a nurse is the new plan God has placed in my path. I feel I am called to become a nurse to better utilize my talents for His greater purpose. Do you ever feel like you’re on the right path because of the all the “signs” God places before you? You may not have the sign of a burning bush like Moses, but do you feel called to do something, even though you’re uncertain of how exactly you’ll accomplish what you sense you must do? Are you continuously driven towards a vocation without knowing how or if you can really make it happen? And, somehow, a path reveals itself? I feel this way about Nursing – really, I do!

Every step of the way, I feel like God has aligned things for me to allow me to get into Nursing school. If I had waited even one month to look into pre-requisites, I wouldn’t have been able to take the classes I did or complete them before the application cycle. If I had waited one week before researching how to get volunteer clinical experiences, I wouldn’t have become a COPE Health Scholar in a local hospital. If I were in a different volunteer program, I wouldn’t have been able to take patients’ vitals, witness biopsies, circumcisions, C-sections, vaginal deliveries, or perform chest compressions on patients who have coded. God placed people and experiences in my life, to allow me to grow in my compassion, abilities, and skills as a future nurse. Somehow, things aligned or confirmed and re-affirmed my choice to purse a career change. God placed the desire in my heart to consider nursing years ago, but He did not call me into action until now -when I have the social, emotional, and financial support I didn’t have before. His timing was perfect. I prayed to be able to serve God in whichever way He willed, and nursing is where I have now been lead. I have a peace and joy in my heart when I think about my [future] career, but I am still open to God’s vocational plans for me in my life.

Are you called to something new or to continue when you were about to quit? I encourage you to be open to new possibilities or to where God might be calling you. Explore what or where that is, and if you’re called to act, pursue it whole-heartedly. Like Dr. Warwick Rodwell discovering the ancient statue in the Lichfield Cathedral in the “Our Daily Bread” reflection, you could be surprised with the treasure you uncover.

Motivational Meditation – “Your Heart’s Desire”

I want to share a prayer/meditation a dear friend shared with me, right before she told me she would change career directions from Law to Medicine.  This prayer/meditation, “Your Heart’s Desire” helped motivate her as she discerned moving and leaving Southern California to attend medical school in Poland.  I love this prayer/poem, but neither my friend or I know who wrote it.

adult air beautiful beauty
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

“Your Heart’s Desire” is inspiring and speaks to the idea that we all have a calling in life.  Your “vocation” might be your occupation or profession, but per its Latin roots, your vocation is also your “calling” or your “summons” in life.  I feel like this calling to become a nurse was clear for me only recently – it could have been God’s timing or perhaps my stubbornness and inability to listen – but I truly feel called and drawn to nursing after many years of working as an engineer.  Maybe I needed to fulfill my calling to become a wife and mother before becoming a nurse, who knows?  Either way, I hope you enjoy this prayer/meditation and that maybe it speaks to you, too:

“Already in your past life from time to time, God has whispered into your heart just that very wonderful thing, whatever it is, that He is wishing you to be, and to do, and to have. And that wonderful thing is nothing less than what is called Your Heart’s Desire. Nothing less than that. The most secret, sacred wish that lies deep down at the bottom of your heart, the wonderful thing that you hardly dare to look at, or to think about–the thing that you would rather die than have anyone else know of, because it seems to be so far beyond anything that you are, or have at the present time, that you fear that you would be cruelly ridiculed if the mere thought of it were known–that is just the very thing that God is wishing you to do or to be for Him. And the birth of that marvelous wish in your soul–the dawning of that secret dream–was the Voice of God Himself telling you to arise and come up higher because He had need of you.” 

-Author Unknown