Do you ever ask yourself the question is this good enough? Have I done everything I can think of to make this project good enough for now? I think sometimes we get so involved in a project that we don’t notice that it is completed to a level that is good enough. It may not have all the bells and whistles but for all intents and purposes it is done.
At the 2019 ICD® (Institute for Challenging Disorganization) conference in mid-September a few of the speakers referred to the expression ‘good enough’. I admit it is one of my favorites and was happy to hear the speakers: Ari Tuckman, Stephanie Sarkis and Roberto Olivardia advocate for its’ use when we, as professional organizers, work with our clients.
What exactly does ‘good enough’ mean? The thesaurus gives these words as synonyms for good enough: fit, presentable, satisfactory, suitable.
Currently, I’m reading a book titled Hack Your Anxiety: How to Make Anxiety Work for You in Life, Love, and All that You Do by Dr. Alicia H. Clark. In this book, Dr. Clark references Carl Winnicott – a pediatrician and author. She states that in his work with parents Dr. Winnicott saw the negative impact unrealistic or perfectionist expectations can have and the shame that parents feel when those expectations aren’t met. He was an advocate for ‘good enough’.
In her book, Dr. Clark asserts that ‘cultivating a standard of good enough can provide a powerful ballast against the pressures that threaten our sense of balance’.
This definition of ‘good enough’ works for me. Aren’t we all looking for a standard which personally resonates allowing each one of us to create the semblance of balance in our lives and in our homes?
If you have unrealistic expectations for the outcome of a project, then you are probably setting your standards too high and you set yourself up for failure. That can manifest in a couple of different ways.
Either you never start the project because you know you won’t have time to complete it exactly the way you want to or you start the project and never finish it because it doesn’t measure up to the perfect image you are holding in your mind.
How do you know when something is good enough? In my opinion, when you have done your best it is good enough.
You know when you have not given something your complete attention or if you haven’t taken the time to prepare.
There was another expression the expert speakers advised us about at the ICD® conference. Each one of them, in their own way, advised us not to use the word ‘perfect’.
Is anything ever truly perfect? Can’t we all think of ways to improve something? Why strive for perfect? We can be happy with ‘good enough’ and then move on to something else. You can get really stuck by obsessing over perfection.
Over the next few weeks I plan to take this concept of good enough and apply it to different organizing projects I encounter on a regular basis.
Write me back and let me know what you think about the concept of good enough. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I think the concept is powerful. For me, the idea of having done “my best” can be tricky because even when I have worked hard, I can find a thought path that says I could have done more. I wish there were an objective measure of good enough! It is worth the effort to fight to keep this concept front of mind, though, because I do totally agree that perfectionism keeps us from achieving anything for the reasons you mentioned. Great topic… I hope to keep learning on this one!
Thank you, Seana. I’ll look forward to continuing this conversation with you.
I couldn’t agree more. As a web designer, I frequently have trouble making time to revamp my own sites, and when I do, I can’t afford to spend time making them perfect. But knowing that a website is always a work-in-progress, when it comes to my own sites, I will launch as soon as it’s “good enough” and continue to make tweaks afterwards. Otherwise, it would never get done at all! (Of course, I let my clients be the judge as to when their sites are “good enough!”)
That’s a great example, Janet.
“Good enough” has always been one of my favorite topics! Have you listened to Janine Adams’ and Shannon Wilkinson’s podcast “Getting to Good Enough?” I love it so much I wrote a blog post about it.
Thank you, Hazel. I have not heard Janine and Shannon’s podcast. I’ll look for it!
Early on in my career, I organized clients that were perfection-oriented. It was super hard for them to settle on a solution. I also found that it was hard for them to keep the system when they made it super complicated. This happened before all the research that is out there now about the organizing processes and how we respond to it. I now tell clients that “good enough” systems need to be streamlined and convenient so you can maintain them easily.
Thank you, Sabrina!
I’m a big fan of “good enough.” Although I know that in certain areas, it doesn’t apply, for instance, I would want my surgeon to be more of a perfectionist than subscribe to the “good enough” theory. That’s just one example. But in general, I think that more situations and projects can benefit from taking things done a notch. By releasing ourselves from the concept of perfection, it opens the door for taking action, completing tasks, and setting more realistic expectations for ourselves and others.
The other phrase that I prefer to use for myself is “doing my personal best.” To me, that doesn’t mean doing something perfectly. It means that given the time, resources, circumstances, and requirements, I will put forth the best I have to offer at that time. There are qualifiers embedded in this. Not all projects demand the same type of effort. Not all circumstances provide the time I have available to give.
It becomes a balancing act of the different forces. Given all the parameters, I aim for the “doing my best,” which sometimes is “good enough.”
Trying to strive for perfection is something many people do. I’ve done it myself, and I’ve worked with clients with perfectionist tendencies. You are right, waiting until everything is perfect to get started, having unrealistic expectations of a project, and high expectations to maintain”perfection” can set you up for failure. In my opinion, “good enough” is something that can be accomplished, is realistic and maintainable.