Good Enough Isn't Good Enough

Starting when I was young everything had to be done in the go hard, do NOT quit mentality. When young, the main areas of life where this showed up for me were academics and sports. I would study for hours. It wasn’t always about getting the A, 100%, it was about obtaining as much knowledge as possible. Even now, I rarely read a book that does not impart massive amounts of knowledge on me. In sports I would run, HARD. It wasn’t always about a medal or being first place. It was about beating my time; racing myself. Figuring out what my best could be. Playing soccer was the same. Score a goal, run faster down the field than my opponent, faster than the last time I ran down the field, bicycle kick a throw in because I could and SHOULD. There were so many things to focus on at once.

I have previously discussed my all or nothing thinking and need to be perfect. This is such a high standard. What exactly is perfect? Especially when gaining knowledge or at the gym. I cannot know everything or even apply everything I know. I cannot even know as much as various people in my life. We are all experts in our own lives, according to our interests, life experiences, and even learning style. When in the gym there is always a faster time to run or finish a workout or a heavier weight to lift. There will always be someone who is faster or stronger, or both. And I compare.
I have been challenged recently to try to redefine success and failure in my life. I believe success is perfection. I believe failure is anything short of that. IN EVERY AREA OF MY LIFE. I need to be the avid reader, the most knowledgeable in my field and beyond, the most efficient and successful at my job, the fastest runner with the most endurance, the strongest, the hardiest, least emotional, most empathetic, and kindest. The challenge to redefine success and failure has been nothing short of nearly impossible for me. In a moment of anger when told to redefine success in a specific situation I said that success is not being a f***up. And yes, I did use that language. I was angry. I was feeling vulnerable. The response was that I just needed to be good enough. Good enough for what? Good enough to who? If I believe that where I am right now is good enough I am afraid I will not continue to push. I must go hard all the time.
There is nothing wrong with pushing to be better. There is nothing wrong with going hard all the time. I suppose, though, that attempting to obtain perfection leads to burnout. Thinking extensively and talking about this topic with others has helped some. I have come to three conclusions that, in theory, seem digestible to me. I am unsure of whether I can retrain myself to avoid perfection. I have decided that:

1. The intention is what is important. Going hard, not quitting, and then knowing that was good enough in the moment does not lead to burnout. It leads to the feeling of success, actually it makes one successful. Focusing on the moment means while I am pushing I am recognizing that this is the best I have right now.

2. Success is in the next step. Success is in the process. You cannot finish a marathon unless you take the next step, and the next step, and the next step. My son just started running with me. He is seven years old, and he ran his first mile in 12 minutes flat. Immediately after finishing he started talking about running two miles and then three miles. He recognized that the goal may be more miles but that there is a process to get there. Small goals, small successes.

low angle grayscale photo of empty brick stairs

Photo by Ravi Kant on

3. Success is defined by the goal. For me, the goal is to always be better. Better than I was last time, better than the person next to me, better than the best person. This goal is not well defined. A well defined goal is described as this: SMART. Work SMARTer, not harder. Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Nothing about my goal for perfection meets those criteria.

As I was saying, I am unsure whether I can retrain myself to avoid striving to be perfect. Good enough isn’t good enough for me. but I am beginning to burn out, again. I am struggling. I need to try to live in the moment. In this moment I am exactly as I should be. I need to try to enjoy the process the way my son is. He loves running a mile, but he looks forward to running longer. Last, I need to work SMARTer, not harder.

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