wrestling perfect versus complete

The Age-old Wrestling Match: Perfection Or Completion?

As we bring this year to a close, it is the “perfect” opportunity to bring up an age-old challenge. Should we be “perfect” in everything we tackle, or would it be better to be more focused on completion?

This question seems like an awful dilemma. It looks like an infinite wrestling match with no clear winner. Let’s look at two questions: Perfection Or Completion?

What Is “Perfect”?

That is a perfectly unanswerable question (pun intended). Isn’t it always possible to do things one notch better, even when they are already quite good? Yes! Thus, what does “perfect” mean? The word describes an illusion. “Perfect” does not exist because improvement is always possible.

As a side note: I am a recovering perfectionist. I’m all too familiar with this battle. I’ve read that the underlying motivation for perfectionism is fear. Fear of getting it wrong and getting criticized for it. Yikes. One can overcome this, though – through awareness and practice.

What is “Completion”?

What does completion mean?

Sometimes that is very clear. Your kid answers all the questions on a quiz at school. He gets all the answers right and receives an “A+.” That quiz is complete.

Yet, the finish line of many larger projects is not quite so easy to determine. There is a range of what we mean when we say, “It’s complete.”

Completion may mean you made something that is functional. Yet, maybe it does not look “polished.”

  1. Or, it could mean it is both functional and polished. The question is, polished to what degree?
  2. It could also mean it is functional, polished, and has many extra features.
  3. There is an almost endless range of what “complete” can mean. Thus, we have to agree with ourselves and others what “complete” means in any given situation.

Two Examples of the “Perfect-Versus-Complete” Yin-Yang

  1. Imagine you are rehabbing and flipping a house. If you underdo the job, the house might not sell well or for the price, you want to get. If you overdo it, you spend too much – and the project drags out longer – and cut into your profit or even lose money.
  2. Writing my Brilliance Nuggets: If the quality is low, the content is boring, or spelling errors distract from the message, it is useless. I might as well not do it. Yet, if I spent three hours each day on composing, editing, publishing, and emailing the nugget, a sanity check is in order.

What Is “Provisonally Complete”?

If you are creating an online course, it is tempting to hold off with letting people take the course until it is “perfect.”

Since “perfect” is an illusion, the better question is, “What does it take for the course to be functional and create a significant positive impact?”

Stephie Althouse

When a course (or another project or product) is functional enough to create an impact, you can call it “provisionally complete.” Put it into action, and get feedback while making a difference. Improve the course while providing extra levels of support to those first cohorts of people going through the course.

Key TakeAways

  1. “Perfect” does not exist. You can always make improvements.
  2. The definition of “complete” is also vague. We need to agree on what complete means in any given sitation or project.
  3. “Provisionally complete” means it the project is sufficiently complete to be useful. It can generate impact now.
  4. We can overcome perfectionism through awareness and practice. I invite you to ask yourself: “Am I going overboard? Is what I have good enough to create impact with it now or what would it take to get to that point?”

I’m Curious

  • What is your stance on “perfection” versus “completion”?
  • How good are you at bringing your projects to completion?
  • Which shift, if any, would benefit your impact, success, and happiness?


  1. I so love this nugget! As you said, perfect is an illusion, a mirage.

    Completion is so much more powerful.

    Provisionally complete is empowering. I can see how it can be used to place a task in pause mode because you have done all you can pending further actions from others.

    Thanks for this!

    • Stephie Althouse on at

      Thank you, Robert! Your idea for using “provisionally complete” as a way of pausing projects because you have done what you can on it, is interesting! I didn’t think of that application when I wrote the nugget. Thank you!

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