Can 'Good Enough' Be Enough?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I freely admit that I'm a perfectionist. I like things done a certain way and sometimes get frustrated when things don't go as planned. I spent many years putting too many items on my daily to-do list, then easily discounting all my daily accomplishments when a few things on the list weren't completed.

The past few years, I started getting tired—not just the tired like you feel at the end of a long day, but a really worn down kind of tired. I blamed the fact that I'm a busy mom with lots of responsibilities, but deep down I knew that some of what was happening was totally under my control. The expectations I was setting for myself were too high, and I was constantly struggling with falling short. I was trying to be a superstar in all areas of my life and it wasn't going well.

My husband encouraged me to think about my daily tasks and whether or not they all really needed to be on the to-do list. Did the house need to look spotless every day? Did I have to make a complicated dinner every night, or were sandwiches okay sometimes? Did I have to be the first one to volunteer for every project, or could I take a backseat and let others step up?

As I thought about the answers to these questions (and more), I also had to think about why I was setting these unrealistic expectations for myself. As much as I I'd like to think I'm not concerned with other's opinions, I don't like to disappoint anyone. That alone has caused me to try to be great at everything, which is impossible long-term. It's been a slow process and many times I still take on more than I should, but I'm learning to shift my priorities.

I can't be great at everything—no one can. However, I can be good at the things which are most important, and good enough at the things that aren't. But what does "good enough" really mean? Does it mean that you don't put any effort into certain tasks? To me, "good enough" means that instead of elaborate homemade birthday treats for your child's class, you buy a box of cookies from the store. Instead of doing your planned 45-minute run, you ended up taking a 10-minute walk. When you ran out of time to make a healthy dinner, you opted for the healthiest option at your neighborhood fast food restaurant. None of these things should be considered failures even if they are less than your ideal.

"I think we let too much of society define what is best or good enough for us," explains GARDENCHRIS. "I am 64 years old, in reasonably good health and I am still out in my garden working. I don't move as fast as I did when I was in my 20s, but I have reached a point in life where I don't care what other people think of how I look, whether I wear makeup or not, what type of clothing I decide to wear, nothing! I decide what is good enough for me, no one else. Do I try to improve my activity or what I eat? Do I sometimes mess up or think 'whatever?' Of course—it's called life. But I don't dwell on it and I move on." 

When it comes to adopting a healthy lifestyle, it's easy to get caught up in perfection. You ate too many sweets at the neighborhood potluck, therefore, the week has been a total disaster, for example. Why jump to such a dramatic conclusion? In that split second, you've quickly erased from your memory all of the positives from this week—you tracked your food daily, stayed in your recommended calorie range six out of the seven days, exercised three times and got a good amount of sleep. Was the week good enough even though it wasn't perfect? Based on the fact that the good points far outweighed the bad, the week seems to have been a success.

Living that 'Good Enough' Life

MARYALICE411 believes everyone needs times when "good enough" is enough to prevent mental burnout. "Yesterday, my two-year-old grandson looked at me and said, 'Walk with grandma?' so we went for a walk. I live in the country. We fed the pony, collected rocks, watched the bugs, smelled the flowers and took slow, little steps. Yes, my step count was down for the day and, no, it wasn't a brisk, aerobic walk, but it was good enough. I walked with a two-year-old and saw the walk in a whole new way," she recalls. 

PATRICIAAK has a simple way to determine her success: "When I can say I did my best, no matter what others say or do, it's good enough." 

"I don't set high expectations other than to do the best I can," says SLIMMERKIWI. "That way, I can't beat myself up for not achieving them, and it means that I live a happier life. That applies to food and anything else—I do what I can, when I can; I wear what I want; [and] I don't give two hoots what others think. They aren't me. They don't know my likes, dislikes, wants or needs—only I know all of that." 

"In 2017, I signed up for a half marathon but a number of factors left me untrained for the event," explains SHEENADEE.  "I was sad and pouty and feeling so disappointed in myself for not preparing for the race. If I couldn't do the half marathon, I didn't want to do anything, because considering a shorter race seemed like a failure."  SHEENADEE finally decided to change her mindset and do as much as she could, switching to the 5K event and walking it with a friend. "I decided the 5K was good enough and better than doing nothing. I still had a sense of accomplishment, and it was a good kick start for me to get back on the wagon with my walking."

How to Decide If 'Good Enough' Is Enough for You

When determining whether you should settle for "good enough" instead of striving for perfection, ask yourself these three questions:
  1. What will happen if the result isn't perfect?
  2. Will I be happier overall if I can accept less than 100 percent and move forward?
  3. Is the amount of energy I'd have to put in to reach that 100 percent worth my time and effort?
If your answers help you realize that this task deserves all of your focus at the expense of everything else, then perhaps it's worth the time to make it perfect. But if it's something that doesn't require perfection in order for you to feel accomplished and happy, then maybe "good enough" really is enough.

Have you learned to accept 'good enough' in some areas of your life? If so, how? 

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See more: goals goal setting


CECELW 3/15/2020
You just have to know when good enough, is enough...but it's not really that easy Report
CATNAP629 10/21/2019
great article Report
FISHGUT3 9/20/2019
thanks Report
PAMBROWN6286 9/13/2019
I have absolutely accepted that if I am doing my best then good enough is good enough where work is concerned. I used to try to put my work ethics on others and be frustrated when it didn’t pan out. Now, I have come to realize that if I am doing my best I have to forget the rest. Besides there is no such thing as perfection. Perfect is like weight loss in that there is no one size fits all. Report
KHALIA2 7/25/2019
Thanks! Report
It is really difficult for me to settle for good enough but I am working at it. Report
Good enough is okay with me - in most things. Report
Sometimes good enough is settling and we deserve better. It’s all in what makes you happy. Report
Good enough is enough if you gave it all you got. That makes it perfect because you cant do any better than your best. Report
An interesting and important lesson it's taking a lifetime for me to learn! Report
An interesting and important lesson it's taking a lifetime for me to learn! Report
An interesting and important lesson it's taking a lifetime for me to learn! Report
An interesting and important lesson it's taking a lifetime for me to learn! Report
An interesting and important lesson it's taking a lifetime for me to learn! Report
Good enough works for me. I’m never going to reach perfection anyways. Report
Thanks. Report
Awesome blog... and a lesson that can be repeated, over and over, across the decades! Polly Perfectionist just wants to live in our heads, and every so often, we have to remember who's in charge here! Report
Thank you Report
Thank you Report
I have been struggling with this since I was a child. I definitely appreciate this article! Report
I am 73 and during my recent years I have wondered about the earlier times in my life. I question whether we are setting up our children for failure. I did it all. I worked, did activities with my children, planned and served meals at the table, sewed their clothes, etc. & more. I thought at the time that I was teaching them how to be responsible adults. Did I really set them up for failure? Did I set the ground work for perfectionists and over achievers? Report
Perfection is highly overrated.

Too many people try to be the perfect wife, husband, parent, best friend, housekeeper, daughter, son, dieter, athlete, etc., but we can't be all things to all people.

I was watching a women's NCAA volleyball game recently, and the commentator made a great statement when one of the players made a mistake. The commentator said - "you have to have a short memory. Forget the mistake you just made and move on to the next play. That's what makes a great player."

If you focus on your shortcomings, you'll make yourself miserable. But if you can learn from your mistakes, you become a better and more successful person.

This is how I am approaching my "dieting & exercising" this time. All the times before, I've been super strict about what I eat, counting every calorie + extra "because you never know," and while, yeah, that made me lose weight, it was exhausting and stressful.

But this time? This time I'm just working on eating "generally" healthier. I meal plan so that makes it easier, but if someone brings donuts to the break room or a friend wants to dine out--sure, whatever, no problem. Will my weight jump a little, my progress slow a little? Yeah, it does, but I'm still gradually bringing myself down and I'm much happier doing it this way. :) Report
Being happy with good enough has come with age for me. Report
I used to be a perfectionist, until I realized I was setting myself up for a failure that would justify overeating. Report
Such a good article!! This is something I struggle with, wanting perfection which is impossible to achieve, I am never - and I mean never - happy with myself or my progress. It's never good enough. It's a hard mindset to change. Especially when one close to you is so quick to point out "what hasn't been done" and seems blind to the changes that have been made. I equate that with "I don't measure up." Report
I have learned to accept good enough. When I am doing my best, it’s all I can do. In those situations, that’s good enough for me. Report
This is a great article. As many have shared, as we age we tend to realize that there is no such thing as perfection. That we will never reach that "goal", because everything can always be improved upon. Report
This is a great article. As many have shared, as we age we tend to realize that there is no such thing as perfection. That we will never reach that "goal", because everything can always be improved upon. Report
As the years go by, I am becoming an expert at "good enough"!!! Report
It's called a hypertrophic superego, & I have one too. Report
Love the article Report
This is truly a great article! Thanks! Report
Great article! "It might not be 100%, but it's 100% better than NOTHING!" Report
Maybe your "perfectionism" came through in this article because it certainly is "perfect" for so many of us, me included! Report
Perfection is the enemy of good Report
Thank you so much for this article. Very timely and relevant! Report
Great article--thank you so much! Report
I needed this article so much today. Thank you!! Report
Thanks, great! Report
Right now owing to my health problems,I have NO choice Report
My perfectionisms surface while dieting, so helpful to remember that I don't have to earn my spot on the planet. I like the mindfulness and centering techniques mentioned in the article, too. Just plain slowing down a little is a challenge for me, I get so hyperactive about stuff and drive everybody nuts. Yoga helps me keep ba lances in every way. Less spazzing out and bossing people. Course I still Am The Bass most of the time, but seem to be able ty o cool it and not drive everybody nuts. Report
The year my mom passed away, I felt like I needed to do everything big and wonderful, especially holiday celebrations. I felt like I needed to cram in as much as I could because I didn’t know how long I might have. We had some great family times, but I was exhausted. I finally realized that “good enough” was often better than perfect which allowed me to really enjoy the things I was doing and I wasn’t always stressed out. Having the energy to smile makes much better memories! Report
Excellent article. Thanks! Report
Love this. Yes, sometimes good enough is good enough. Today I wanted to try a new class at my gym which, after 10 minutes, I realized was just not my thing. So I left class, did 20 minutes on the treadmill and 30 on the equipment. It wasn't the best but it was certainly good enough! Report
Thank you so much! I needed this more than you know!

Heidi Report
Thanks. Report
Reformed perfectionist here! I Had a child with health issues and, eventually, that put things into perspective for me. Perfectionism is fear based, underneath it all. Usually of not being good enough or not having control. A perfectionist only really feels good about themselves and safe when they meet all their specific criteria. It's a game that is so harmful because no one is perfect. We each deserve to be loved for who we are, not for completing certain tasks, and in an arbitrary certain way. Living from a place of fear isn't really living. GREAT article! Report
Great article! Report
Great article. I had to learn this the hard way too. So happy to be on the other side. When I start to backslide, now I just need a mental reminder about what is good enough. Report