How to reclaim your life with three words
Several years ago, in the middle of a therapy session where I had just spent the last 40 minutes explaining why I was overworked and exhausted, my therapist asked innocently, “Instead of constantly hustling to make sure everything is perfect, why don’t you just go for ‘good enough’ and get some of your life back?”
Good enough? GOOD ENOUGH?! Was she joking? Did she understand me at all? I considered firing her on the spot. And conveniently ignored the alluring idea she tacked on at the end.
“Good Enough” — a seemingly innocuous statement — carried a lot of baggage for me. I assumed it was for those who simply weren’t as invested in the work as I was, who didn’t care as much I did. It was for the slackers, the box checkers, the bare minimum-ers.
For as long as I can remember, I was always taught to “do my best”, which on the surface, is a virtuous goal. But Best quickly becomes a synonym for Perfect — and Perfect, I came to find over the years, quickly becomes a trap.
I lost years of my life to Perfect — spending countless hours finessing presentations, fixing formatting, writing and rewriting emails, overthinking conversations, wrestling with wording. Was that time well spent in the end? Did it actually make the difference I thought it did?
I’m not sure, but I do know that I found Perfect intoxicating, comfortable and familiar. There was little scary about Perfect — not a whole lot of risk-taking or fear of failure. In fact, I was repeatedly rewarded for Perfect in the form of promotions, awards and praise.
So when she suggested Good Enough, I literally thought she was crazy. Why would I leave this warm, safe comfort zone that’s earned me so much success?
But fast forward six years and many hard lessons later, I’m preaching the gospel of Good Enough to my team every chance I get — with a small tweak that’s made a big difference. Instead of encouraging them to do work that’s “good enough” — with all the negative connotations I’ve carried with it over the years — I introduced the idea of doing work that’s Good and Enough.
As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve searched for a work philosophy that honors the balance I crave while not forsaking my value of working hard. The addition of and completely transformed the meaning of “good enough” for me and reframed what it represented.
Now I strive to do good work — work that makes me proud, dazzles my clients, challenges me to grow. And enough work — work that leaves time for my daughter and husband, allows me to pursue a hobby, preserves my weekends.
This simple yet powerful concept has liberated me from the trap of perfection and completely changed the way I feel about work. I’m happier, more balanced and a better mom, wife, manager and colleague than I ever was before — mostly because I’m not taking on the pressure of Perfect or carrying the resentment that comes along with that.
So to all the overachievers, workaholics and perfectionists out there, how might today be different if you set your sights on Good and Enough?