What's GOOD ENOUGH, anyway?

As if to prove just how interconnected we all are (and how blissfully unaware we are of this), my coaching calls in any given time period all seem to center around a particular theme. The theme lately? GOOD ENOUGH.

What's GOOD ENOUGH, anyway?

Well, for a lot of us (I’d venture to say all of you who are reading this post), GOOD ENOUGH seems to mean settling with subpar work; it’s the slippery slope to mediocrity; it’s the status we allow ourselves only when we’ve absolutely run ourselves into the ground and are plumb out of time and bandwidth. And even then, GOOD ENOUGH is less an empowered choice than it is a reluctant surrendering.

But really: What’s GOOD ENOUGH? Like, objectively-speaking?

It’s hard to tell.

(Let’s be real: There’s no way an objective definition of it even exists. But let’s try for one anyway.)

I’d like to propose a new, possibly radical understanding of it.

GOOD ENOUGH is shorthand for two separate determinations:

This is GOOD, and

this is ENOUGH.


Why two separate determinations?

Well, my clients are accustomed to excelling and even then, pushing themselves to do more and better. When they hear my suggestion to aim for GOOD ENOUGH, they’re quick to see it as a single unit of measurement: From their perspective, an effort that’s GOOD ENOUGH has barely cleared GOOD. They see the ENOUGH part as a mark below, a minus, points deducted—instead of the qualifying score, a clap on the back, the solid achievement that lands them (still!) in the top percentile.

And when GOOD ENOUGH is seen as something that barely clears GOOD, it’s no wonder we’re going to be far less inclined to willingly aim for it. (After all, who wants to barely be GOOD?!)

This means we’ll continue to aim for EXCELLENT when it comes to each and every endeavor on our list and in our life—and, in the process, cheat ourselves out of the satisfying feeling of being good and being enough...and being able to move on to the next thing that needs our attention.

From my work with clients, then, here’s a list of what I’ve learned about GOOD ENOUGH: 

  • GOOD ENOUGH is sanity-keeping.

  • GOOD ENOUGH is sometimes EXCELLENT, sometimes GOOD, but never POOR or BAD; though it will inspire some fear of the latter two, that fear will prove to be unfounded every single time.

  • GOOD ENOUGH can’t shape-shift into anything less than GOOD ENOUGH.

  • GOOD ENOUGH doesn’t sit atop a slippery slope.

  • GOOD ENOUGH isn’t actually detectable by others.

  • GOOD ENOUGH leaves room for many other endeavors to be GOOD ENOUGH (whereas EXCELLENT usually doesn’t; one thing gets to be EXCELLENT while everything else sort of falls off the radar into...not so much POOR or BAD territory, but more like...OBSOLESCENCE).


What’s your working definition of GOOD ENOUGH? Do you like mine better? (It's yours to keep.)