The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good (Walking example)

“I’m going for a walk,” I announced to Kris at about 10:30 Saturday morning. Though it was cool and rainy, I needed some exercise. It’s been a while since I made my three-mile stroll through the neighborhood. But before I could get out the door, I decided to change into warmer clothes.

I went upstairs and rummaged around to find the perfect pair of pants. I sorted through my sweatshirts, looking for my favorite. When I couldn’t find it, I had to settle for second best. I put it on. Then I decided that the wind would be too cold on the back of my neck (I just had a haircut), so I pulled off my sweatshirt, put on a turtleneck, and then put on the sweatshirt again.

Now that I was dressed, I had to find my shoes. My lawn-mowing sneakers were by the front door, but I couldn’t find my walking shoes. I eventually found them in my office. I put them on. I grabbed my iPod from the kitchen table. My gloves were there, too, and I paused for a moment to debate whether I needed them. I decided against them.

“I’m going,” I shouted to Kris as I paused to check my e-mail. The clock on the computer said 10:51. One message needed an immediate reply. I was hungry, so before I wrote back, I went to the fridge to get a snack. I microwaved some leftovers, then sat down to reply to the e-mail.

Finally, at 11:16, I left the house. I started walking downhill and realized I did want my gloves after all. I went back to get them. As I was leaving a second time, Simon came meowing up to me. I went back to let him inside. It was now 11:20. It dawned on me that I was doing everything I possibly could to avoid this walk, so I procrastinated just a little longer. I sat down to write this list.

It took me over an hour to actually leave for my walk. This is dumb. I could have — and should have — simply opened the door, put one foot in front of the other, and walked.

It’s the same with your finances.

You can come up with all sorts of reasons to put off establishing an emergency fund, learning about money market accounts and cd rates, and to put off cutting up your credit cards, to put off saving for retirement. Stop it. Stop making excuses. Your best choice is to start now. You should compare interest rates, but you shouldn’t completely obsess – who cares if you don’t find the absolute best interest rate? Who cares if you don’t find the best mutual fund? You’ve found some good ones, right? Pick one. Get in the game. Just start. Starting plays a larger role in your success than any other factor.

The perfect is the enemy of the good. When you spend so much time looking for the “best” choice that you never actually do anything, you are sabotaging yourself.

Open the door, put one foot in front of the other, and go.

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