Did you know that good is usually good enough? Not everything requires an A+ effort. This was news to me during my first year of motherhood. When I learned this invaluable mantra, however, it brought much peace and simplicity to my life. Good is good enough. I love it, and yet some of the peak moments of my life have involved accomplishments where more effort, accuracy, or verve were required—situations where I pushed myself to the limit and scored some kind of win, even if only against myself. As leadership author Jim Collins writes, “Good is the enemy of great.”
So, how do you know when good is good enough and when it’s the enemy of great? It’s a matter of knowing your priorities. This week, I stumbled upon a simple process that has helped me focus on what matters most.
First, let me sing the praises of “good is good enough.” Adopt it, and you can avoid obsessing about details that don’t matter. For instance, if you’ve got a jam-packed weekend with errands to run, a volunteer event to attend, and a family birthday dinner to host, something’s got to give. Now, you may fancy yourself a real gourmet—and there’s a time and place for that—but what if you simply picked up a cake at the supermarket and ordered in pizza? What if you just barely managed to vacuum before the guests arrived?
Do you think your family would have less fun? Would they think you were lazy?
Of course not. Good is good enough. If you start thinking this way, you’ll see that there are many times where this is an appropriate response.
I learned this mantra in a Personal Renewal Group for Moms that I started attending when Linnea was eight months old. With my 9-to-5 job and my new role as a mom, I felt overwhelmed and inadequate. It felt like I wasn’t doing anything well. Sure—nobody can do everything well, but to me, it was important to carve out at least one area where I felt truly successful. I needed to decide what mattered the most and then focus on that. I ended up writing my memoir, and even if it never gets published, I will always be proud of the effort that I put in.
Recently, I discovered a book that helps families prioritize their lives by asking and answering three big questions. I won’t go into details, but I found one gem that will stick with me. One of the questions is, “What is your top priority—rallying cry—right now?” What is most important to you over the next two to six months?
For a long time, my rallying cry was the book. After talking to Josh about it last night, we agreed on one for our family. Naturally, it has to do with money. But I don’t want to spend so much energy avoiding spending money that we forget to live, you know? So our rallying cry for this spring and summer is frugal family fun. We’re going to focus on having fun as a family and watching our budget closely. By the end of the summer, I hope that we can say that we did a great job at playing and at saving money. With this new focus, I may not get as much writing done, and I may just barely get the highchair cleaned up before bedtime (I’m looking at bananas smashed all over the tray as I type). For now, those things are going to be “good is good enough.”
I learned a few other things this week. For one, impulse control is tricky. I decided that I need a new pair of shoes, and while I found a pair that I loved right away online, I made myself get more creative. Friday night, Linnea and I hit a consignment shop, then Goodwill, and finally, Marshall’s. Sadly, I did not find the perfect shoes. However, Linnea had a ball trying on fluorescent pink pumps and other hideous footwear at the Goodwill. We had fun. And I actually found several cute pairs of shoes that I didn’t buy because they weren’t exactly what I needed. I came home and cyber-stalked the perfect shoes some more, crafting a plausible justification in my mind. But I waited. The next day, I dragged the kids to DSW, where I found the perfect pair for half the cost. If all the shopping had been stressful and frantic, maybe the money saved wouldn’t have been worth it, but it was fun.
For several days, I’d been craving a hot fudge sundae. Tonight, I desperately wanted to drive to the Dairy Queen and get one (I honestly saw the proximity of our house to the DQ as a selling point). No big deal, right? It’s fine to indulge in a three or four-buck treat once in a while. But if you do it often—plus grab a treat for the rest of your family—it adds up. It’s the latte syndrome that wrecks so many people’s budgets. Somehow, I convinced myself that a reasonable substitution would be some homemade chocolate chip cookies, so I whipped up a batch. Did I save any money tonight? Not really. But I changed my mindset, and I know it will make a difference over time. Plus, what’s not to love about warm chocolate chip cookies?
I Want to Know
- Do you have a personal or family rallying cry right now?
- How do you avoid the latte effect (or don’t you)?
- What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to impulse control?
Disclosure: I work for the publisher of the book I mentioned! I discovered the book randomly and shared it here simply because I found it useful.