Jeremy Côté

Being Good Enough

This phrase sounds like a failure. If you tell someone that what you did was “good enough”, the reaction might be that you didn’t try very much. We can be hard on ourselves for only doing something that is passable instead of great.

This comes up all the time in education, particularly early on. When students are in secondary school, there’s a race to be good at everything. Why? Because for some reason we have decided that being good at everything (read: a high average) means that you are smart enough to continue on in school in one area. And so we begin to filter students by their overall ability, instead of thinking about their strengths.

The truth is that being good enough is, well, good enough. You don’t need to ace everything in your life. You don’t need to appear impressive in everything you do. In fact, if you try to cultivate this image, you are hiding. That’s because we simply can’t be good at everything.

It feels weird though to admit that we aren’t great at everything, particularly if we have a reputation for being really good at something specific. If you are an amazing athlete, people will look at you in awe. However, if they saw how much you struggle in other areas of your life, they will be less impressed. But that’s true of everybody, not just athletes.

We only have the time to work on a small number of skills throughout our life. As such, we must pick what we want to be good at. For the rest, we just need to be good enough. Not horrible, but good enough.

This attitude might be seen as lazy, but the truth is quite the opposite. By allowing yourself the freedom to be only good enough at most activities, you can spend the bulk of your energy on the few things that really excite you. You can ignore the rest. All it takes is a willingness to move away from being excellent at everything in life, and focusing on what truly matters to you.

This is the problem with seeking “balance” in your life. Instead, I think it’s better to practice “purposeful neglect”. Do the minimum required in most areas so that you can be functional, then focus the rest of your attention on what you care about. That way, you get the most out of your life, while still accomplishing the basics.

It’s tempting to try and keep up the veneer of being good at everything. However, this is just a front we put up. In reality, we are much less impressive than the persona we develop for others. As such, maybe it’s time to do away with those false images and focus on the aspects of life that are important to us.

Being “good enough” isn’t a bad thing. It’s a sign that you know how precious your time is, and that you aren’t willing to spend it to get better at activities you don’t care about.