We are a society of improvers, constantly exhorted to try our best to be our best. We want to give our kids the best, to get the most out of life, to make the most of every opportunity. From high-school coaches to business mentors and lifestyle gurus, people make entire careers out of challenging us to give it 110%, to push further, grow bigger, get more and more and more.
Not that there’s anything wrong with improving your life, your house or yourself. It’s just that trying to improve everything all the time gets pretty exhausting. It might be good once in awhile to make a cup of tea, sit back and assess the situation. Does it all need fixing? Does everything really need your attention, or are some things good enough?
Good enough. That’s a loaded phrase these days, isn’t it? Somehow, in the hands of those coaches and mentors, it’s come to mean the exact opposite. It’s come to mean not good enough. We are told not to accept good enough, to see it as a negative, to reject it in favour of the best.
Does Everything Have to Be the Best?
But, honestly? Does everything have to be the best? Does your home have to be as clean and organized and styled as it can possibly be or would good enough be, um, OK? Your weight and fitness level – do you really need to be up to Olympic standards or can you be content with staying healthy and fitting into your clothes?
Financial experts are great at this. Not only, they tell us, do we need a million dollars in assets if we ever hope to retire, but we need to have them NOW! Which seems a bit overachieving if you’re not actually going to need them for another twenty or thirty years. Wouldn’t being on the path to comfortable work?
I started thinking about this when I realized that Alan and I have been living in our current apartment for nearly a year and a half. That’s a long time for us. Our usual pattern is to move into a place and work like mad to get it fixed up and ready to sell. Not this time. We’ve done a bit, but we’re, for a bunch of different reasons, taking it slowly this time.
It Feels a Little Funny
And even though it feels a little funny not to have everything done and I am sometimes a little embarrassed about the state of our floors, it’s actually OK. I have time to look around and appreciate the little details of this place – the way the sun comes in the windows, how the garden is developing. And I have the time to think through what really needs doing and what I just think needs doing. We’re saving a ton of money by taking it slowly.
The curtains in the photo were a quick fix to hide really ugly paintwork and a not very inspiring view. They’re made from the fabric that was wrapped around our Ikea sofa-bed. I never really intended to keep them. I was going to make “real” curtains right away. But other things took priority and they’re still there. They do what they were meant to with the added bonus that early-morning sun and late-night shadows look beautiful on them. I think I’ll keep them for awhile longer. They’re good enough.
In my living room is my parents’ old love seat, circa 1982. I painted it to cover the ugly fabric, meaning it to be a temporary fix, just till we could find something better. That was about five years ago. It’s comfy. It fits the room. It probably won’t be featured in a decorating magazine anytime soon (I used to be a design blogger – these things matter to me) but it’s good enough. It’ll stay.
It Comes Down to Knowing Your Priorities
I think it comes down to knowing your own priorities and limits and allocating your time and energy accordingly. If you want to be a huge success in business, you may not also be able to win the marathon. If you want to be really well-read, you might not be able to devote endless amounts of time to your career. And if you want great relationships with your spouse, your family and your friends, you might have to leave the office once in awhile or let the dishes pile up a bit.
Yes, we want to fix up our apartment. We also want to be solvent and occasionally go out for dinner. Slowing down the renovations will let us do that.
Good Enough Really is Good Enough
You cannot do it all. It’s mean to yourself to even try. Most times, good enough really is good enough.
So to celebrate this weekend, I suggest fixing yourself a cup of tea or pouring a glass of wine and making a list of the things in your life that truly are Good Enough. Then post it on your fridge to remind yourself how great you and your life really are.