Being touted as a “driven” or “highly ambitious” individual is considered high praise in our society, which clings to the mantra, “you can do anything you put your mind to”. And while sky-high goals are an important chapter on the path to self-improvement, wanting too much, too soon, can sometimes turn ambition into an unhealthy rumination on perfectionism.
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According to philosopher and author Alain de Botton, in his video (featured below) as part of The School of Life’s online gold mine, the need to be perfect can be offset by realising that sometimes good enough is, well, good enough indeed. According to de Botton, British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott coined the phrase when researching relationships between parents and children in the 1950s. After talking to parents who felt they were failures, he realised their unease stemmed from a particular place: excessive hope. He then developed the phrase “good enough”, explaining to participants that no child needs a perfect parent in order to be raised well. Instead, having a moderately healthy upbringing would do the job just fine. De Botton further captured this idea thus, “good enough was invented as an escape from dangerous ideals.”
“It takes a good deal of bravery and skill to keep even a very ordinary life going; to persevere to the challenges of love, work and children is quietly heroic.”
So, if you’re thinking your relationship falls short compared to your favourite rom-com, or your job isn’t quite your dream gig, instead ponder the fact that you’ve made some authentic friends or connections, you enjoy some of the aspects of the role, and you are gaining new skills, thus fostering a more healthy “thought life”, concluding that your situation is, in fact, good enough for now.
According to de Botton, “It takes a good deal of bravery and skill to keep even a very ordinary life going; to persevere to the challenges of love, work and children is quietly heroic.” And in a world where sometimes just getting out of bed seems achievement enough, we really like the sound of that.