minimalism · personal growth

THE ‘GOOD ENOUGH’ APPROACH

I’ve been trying my best lately to address my perfectionistic tendencies – something I discussed in the second episode of my (brand new!) podcast. Yesterday I had an interesting experience which really put me to the test and I think it’s worth sharing.

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve returned to uni this year to complete a postgrad qualification (the reason for my less frequent posting lately 🤯 ← It’s kind of hard to tell but that emoji is supposed to be a brain explosion!). Over the Easter long weekend, I put in a hard slog and submitted my first assignment! It was a big one, too. I had to record a ten-minute conference-style presentation, write a literature review and design a learning activity along with lesson plan, teacher instructions, student handouts, worksheets and homework sheets, and provide references to support all of the above (For context, I’m studying teaching English to foreign learners.).

I was so proud of myself because I really focussed for the whole weekend and managed to submit my work more than a week before the due date so that I could allow extra time to get started on the first assignment for the other subject I’m taking. So I submit the thing, then yesterday I’m doing a reading for next week’s lecture and I come across a paragraph in the chapter that would have been absolutely perfect as supporting evidence for my classroom strategies. So, I had to quickly make a decision. Since the lecturer has allowed multiple submissions, I could go back and edit my work, or I could sit tight.

Knowing I had put my absolute best into the assignment and had stuck to the criteria carefully enough to pass (and perhaps even do well🤞🏼), I finished reading the chapter with not a single pang of regret and didn’t redo the assignment. This tells me that I’ve come a long way in the last little while! In the past, I would have dropped everything – taking valuable working time away from my other assignment – just to perfect something that was already more than adequate.

My decision reminded me of Barry Schwartz’s wisdom in The Paradox of Choice (he also has a TED talk, which is a very quick overview of the book but worth a watch), and it’s partially thanks to this wisdom that I’ve become committed to recognising ‘good enough’ in my everyday life. I like to think of it as a kind of minimalism in action.

‘Good enough’ is not an excuse for laziness or half-heartedness. It encourages effort, perseverance and determination, but it also sets clear limits and encourages self-compassion. It doesn’t mean we can’t go above and beyond – I think it’s good that we sometimes do – but it keeps things in perspective so we can go easy on ourselves when we don’t have the time, energy or resources to go that extra mile. If there were a formula behind this approach, I think it might go something like:

(EFFORT + PERSPECTIVE) – PERFECTIONISM = HAPPINESS

In the case of my assignment, I put in my absolute best, maintained perspective of what was adequate given the circumstances, then resolved to simply not pursue the mental treadmill of perfectionism. And at the end of the day, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome – regardless of what my mark ends up being!

Do you live by a ‘good enough’ kind of approach?

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16 thoughts on “THE ‘GOOD ENOUGH’ APPROACH

  1. I love your formula! I struggle with perfectionist tendencies as well and have definitely been living with a ‘good enough’ attitude to keep myself from going off the deep end.

    In my job, there is little room for error. Copy for a post has to be grammatically correct, the image has to fit and it has to be timed perfectly. If anything is off, our brand could be permanently damaged.

    At the same time, I’m not saving babies. It doesn’t actually matter in the grand scheme of things. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do a good job. But it does mean I shouldn’t make myself sick or anxious over it.

    Thanks for your perspective on this, Lisa! I love it!

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    1. Thanks Britt for reading! That’s a very interesting comment about how in your line of work there is little room for error, but you still manage to find the perspective to avoid anxiety and perfectionism. Every week I’m doing up letters on the company letterhead and sending out emails to large distribution lists, so I can definitely relate to that. At the end of the day though, like you say, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Perspective is such a wonderful thing. Welcome back from holidays, by the way!! Seriously can’t wait to hear all about your trip.

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  2. Hi Lisa, I just loved this post. You managed to say very concisely some thoughts that had been floating around in my head recently and your example absolutely captured this. I, too, can be a bit of a perfectionist and sometimes lose sight of the wood for the trees! I love your formula – taking perfectionism out of the equation has made it perfect! Lxx

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    1. Thank you so much Lorraine! I’m so pleased that this post was able to bring those ideas together for you. This idea of ‘good enough’ is something that had been floating around in my head recently too, and it felt great to put that into words today. That’s definitely one of the (many!) great things about blogging – I find the writing process fantastic for picking my way through my own thoughts and feelings, and coming to a much better understanding of them. A big thank you to you for reading them. 🙂 xx

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  3. Awesome, Lisa! Barry Schwartz was one of my advisers in college. His work is brilliant. That idea of making “good enough” choices really helps us let go of perfectionism. It is a great reminder to me as well, since I can obsess about decisions sometimes. Thanks for this thoughtful post!

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  4. Congrats to you for breaking out of old habits! I’m also a self-proclaimed perfectionist, and working on my school assignments I often find I’m stressing over minute details that probably won’t make an impact either way on the final grade. I like my work to be up to my standards, but I also have to realize when I’m going too far, and sinking more time in than it is worth.
    I hope your assignment gets a great score, as I’m sure it will, from all the work you DID put in!

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    1. Thanks Steph – what a lovely comment! I really appreciate it. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out my mark! 🙂

      It’s interesting to hear from so many people that they have a lot of perfectionistic tendencies, too. I think it says a lot about the way we have been conditioned to view success in the Western world, and I think self-awareness surrounding those thought patterns is key to changing them. I hope you’re able to continue to maintain that sense of perspective as you continue working through your Master’s this year. 🙂 I’ll be cheering you on as I can empathise entirely with the work/life/study juggling act!

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  5. Hi Lisa, Are you going to be teaching in schools to ESL students or are you thinking of working with adults? It’s such meaningful work.
    I’m pretty sure that teaching English overseas is going to be part of my future. I’d like to see more equality in our global society and teaching English overseas is one small way to help that happen.

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    1. Hi Cathie! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂 Since I’m doing straight-up TESOL (rather than Education), I won’t be qualified for the primary/secondary system (and let’s just say that having the patience to work with kids is unlikely to be my forte 😆). My goal at this point is to work in language schools with adult learners, first here in Brisbane and then overseas if possible. My husband and I are entertaining the idea of going to Japan or Canada once I’ve established myself in my new career. Japan because we’re both fascinated by its language and culture, and Canada because hubby is French (and I’m therefore learning French) and I think we would both find it really interesting to live and work in a bilingual country. That’s great that TESOL is something you’re interested in for the future, too. I think teaching English is such a wonderful field. It opens up opportunities overseas, allows us to better understand other cultures and – best of all – see students enjoying and growing from the learning process. 🙂

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      1. I teach ESL in American schools. I love it. Its hard work but i do feel i learn so much from my students. Good luck with your studies,

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      2. That’s interesting that you’re working in ESL, Joanna. So glad to hear it is rewarding for you. That’s the overwhelming impression I have been getting from those already working in the field, and I can’t wait to experience that for myself one day soon!

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  6. This is interesting. I am not a perfectionist at all but definitely do my best work always, what intrigues me is that my children have the ‘good enough attitude which is great at times but other times I think they could put more effort, I wonder what to expect with my kids, I don’t want them to feel the pressures of perfectionism but putting a best effort is important too,

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    1. Hi Joanna! Thanks so much for reading and for contributing to the conversation. 🙂 That’s interesting that your non-perfectionism has been passed on to your kids. It’s fair enough to say that sometimes too little effort is not necessarily a good thing either. I guess both extremes on the perfectionism continuum – not just the perfectionism end of it – have their drawbacks!

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  7. Thanks for sharing your great example! Settling perfection has definitely prevented me from starting many projects. In some areas of my life I’m pretty good as accepting imperfection (crafts, DIY), but in other areas I really struggle with hunting for perfection.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I really hear you on that one. I wonder if the reason behind that could be that pursuits like crafts and DIY are more ‘permissive’ of imperfection, so to speak, perhaps since they’re considered creative endeavours. In other areas of our lives – like study, work and appearance – we seem to be taught that nothing but ‘perfect’ (whatever that means!) is good enough. Thank you for stopping by and reading. 🙂

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