What's the Cost of "Good Enough"?

I feel like I’ve been hearing the phrase “good enough” a lot lately. It seems to be showing up with multiple clients. As our routines stay all shaken up from quarantine and transitioning into the reopening phase, motivation seems to be fading and “good enough” seems to be taking hold. As I’ve pondered this topic, I’ve realized that no matter what challenges we are facing, settling for good enough is a dangerous roadblock.

An example of this came up during a coaching call with a client. She brought up how frustrated she is by her perpetually cluttered kitchen island. I asked her to look at each item on the island and reflect back on how it ended up there. Looking at it all, she realized that she brings stuff in from the car and ends up setting it on the island intending to put away later, thinking that “At least it’s in the house. That’s ‘good enough.’” The problem, though, is that when later comes, she’s completely overwhelmed because of the number of things on the island and that triggers a number of negative emotions. All because she settled for “good enough.”

Does that sound familiar in your house? How about this example:

Imagine that you had another long, draining day of work and the store was particularly crowded on your grocery run, making it impossible to social distance. You’re tired, hungry and still have some work to do yet today. You haven’t worked out or done much of anything physical in about five days and you’re feeling like a slug. So you decide to pull up your favorite online trainer for a 45-minute workout class. As you follow along, you continue to ruminate on how fried you are and how much work you have to do. You end up stopping after 25 minutes so you can have a glass of wine while you finish off the leftovers before you get back to your office work. You think, “That’s good enough. At least I did something.” Unfortunately, this has been your pattern during quarantine and you’ve somehow gained four pounds, with little enjoyment and no progress towards your goal of losing weight.

These seemingly little decisions made in the moment add up surprisingly fast, sabotaging your healthy habits and goals. Before you know it, you’ve quietly gained an extra 20 pounds and have 20 bags of stuff sitting there that still need to be put away!

Let’s consider some other examples.

  • You eat a little too much of these new recipes you’ve been cooking at home and justify it by saying that you don’t usually eat so much. The truth is that your portions have kept growing a little bigger as quarantine has continued on and you’re feeling stuffed on a semi-regular basis.
  • You find yourself snacking in the kitchen during work hours and justify it by saying it’s only a handful. But the truth is you’re in the kitchen snacking on a couple handfuls every day which has added up to make your pants a little tight.
  • You enjoy having a glass of wine or a drink pretty much every day, well, maybe two, and minimizing it by telling yourself that at least you aren’t getting drunk. Or you may even be drinking a whole bottle of wine and telling yourself that it’s okay because that’s what everyone is doing to cope right now.
  • You begrudgingly get out of your comfy bed every morning and show up for a job that you no longer love but keep because you make “good money.” It doesn’t feed your soul, but it does feed you and your family.
  • Your new boyfriend is easily irritated by normal human behavior which can ruin his mood for the entire day, but you accept that as just part of who he is - or maybe convince yourself it’s only quarantine moodiness - and you continue the relationship because you have so much in common…even though you feel like you have to walk on eggshells. 
  • You’ve always dreamed of hiking across New Zealand. You even have a recent article about someone who hiked New Zealand from end-to-end taped to your scenic views of New Zealand wall calendar. You regularly hike various spots within hours of where you live, but you continue to not take any steps towards your dream thinking New Zealand isn’t even open and that you’re just happy to be hiking somewhere.

There are infinite possibilities for how we use “good enough” to justify things we do or don’t do. It comes in all shapes and sizes and can apply in basically every area of our lives. For each of those times we settle for “good enough,” there tends to be one general outcome… A lack of the true happiness and fulfillment that you are craving…and deserve. Whether it’s in the short- or long-term, we find ourselves wishing we would have pursued our dreams or taken better care of our bodies or wouldn’t have wasted so much time…  

So what’s a person supposed to do???

Stop settling and start demanding what you deserve – NOW! I know this is easier said than done, especially now in the middle of so much uncertainty. But this is your life. It’s up to you, and you alone, to step up and take control. Here are a couple suggestions:

  • Get clear on what your goals and dreams are – crystal clear. No more ambiguity. Write out all of the details of your vision, add pictures if you want. Whether it’s a clean, clutter-free home, a purpose-filled life or traveling the world for four months, get clear on the vision and then identify the steps you need to take to make it happen.
  • Shift your mindset. Start a gratitude journal. Keep it easy and simply write out at least five bullet points on things you’re grateful for at the end of each day. It’s amazing how this activity, when done on a regular basis, can shift your perception!
  • Get curious! Stop thinking that you know for certain how things are or should be and start saying “I wonder.” Instead of “I know I can’t afford that,” start saying “I wonder how much money I can save each month so I can make that happen.”
  • Challenge yourself by asking “I wonder how quickly I can get this all put away” or “I wonder what I can stop spending time on so I have more time for that.”
  • Work on showing yourself more love and respect.
  • Create a new mantra. The client I mentioned earlier adopted the mantra “I deserve better now!”
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: meditate! Meditation is going to help you stay present in the moment and help keep you feeling balanced so you will be less likely to settle for less than you deserve.

So is it REALLY “good enough” to bring a pile of stuff in the house and put it on the counter? Wouldn’t it actually be so much better if you got everything in the bag put away too? Of course! But it's up to you to take the extra minute to make it happen.

Quarantine and the reopening phase have us all shaken up. Our healthy daily habits and dreams can seem way out of reach. It’s important to remember that, no matter what challenges we are facing, you CAN still be making progress towards your dreams. The steps might be small and they may look different than what you were doing before, but progress is progress! Don’t settle and sell yourself short because you created the roadblock of “good enough.” 

Whether you had dreams and goal pre-quarantine or just discovered that you have different dreams and hopes than what you were working towards - this is the PERFECT time to start working towards them, instead of towards anything that is just “good enough.”

You are one step closer to a clean and clutter-free home when you put those things away.

You are one step closer to your weight loss goal when you finish your workout.

You are one step closer to traveling when you start a saving - even if it’s only a dollar a day.

You are one step closer to happiness when you set boundaries with people.

You’re one step closer to fulfillment when you start looking for a new job or networking to increase your opportunities.

We each deserve more happiness than what we get by settling for “good enough” or “close enough.”  These ideas are just some examples that you can start creating for yourself to overcome settling for less than your best. Think of them as building blocks towards making your life that much better, happier, more fulfilling. Pretty soon taking that extra step will become normal and you have more time to tackle your next project and go after your next dream!  

The question is: when are you going to stop settling for good enough and rise to the level you deserve?

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