The Case for Being Good Enough
Don’t aim to be consistently great; aim to be great at being consistent.
It is better to strive to be great at being consistent than striving to be consistently great. Why? Because being consistently great is really, really, really hard. Especially over the long haul.
Take a moment to reflect on an ongoing process that you’re involved in. It could be anything, really — from parenting, to coaching, to running, to managing, to teaching, to writing, to making art. It could even be something less exciting like storytelling in PowerPoint or financial modeling in Excel.
Now think about how often you’re great. I’m talking about the really on top of your game, everything clicking, firing on all cylinders kind of great. Also think about the effort-level, focus, and presence of mind-body that kind of perfect performance demands.
Is that a reasonable expectation to set? Or, is it an expectation setting you up for a few really good days and a lot of failed ones?
Perfect is enticing, especially when you’ve experienced it, when you know it’s possible. But that doesn’t mean it’s probable.
Being perfect every once in a while and internalizing it as an ongoing expectation is a surefire way to lose motivation, experience anxiety, and burn out. Setting perfect as an ongoing bar rarely leads to your best performance — and certainly not to your best life.
Some simple math makes this clear.
Let’s say that it’s reasonable to be about 80 percent “on it” 90 percent of the time: 0.8 x 0.9 = .72. That’s a lot better than being perfect, or 100 percent, only 40, or even 50, percent of the time: 1.0 x 0.4 = 0.4 and 1.0 x 0.5 = 0.5.
Being perfect every once in a while and internalizing it as an ongoing expectation is a surefire way to lose motivation, experience anxiety, and flame out.
For most people in most endeavors, especially in those that unfold over time, it’s better to aim for good enough rather than great.
Good enough is a lot more probable than great. Good enough is a lot less angstful than great. And, the reality is that good enough over and again is precisely how you become great to begin with. Go big or go home and you often end up home. Go small, steady, and consistent over time and you end up with something big.
Brad Stulberg (@Bstulberg) writes about performance and wellbeing. He is the bestselling author of the new book The Passion Paradox and Peak Performance. You can subscribe to his weekly newsletter here.