Some Days, 85% is Good Enough

I am the worst person to go to the gym with, my sister says. No matter what I’ve done during my workout, as we’re leaving the gym, I’m complaining. I could have done another rep, I say. I could have ran five more minutes. I didn’t really need to take a water break. I end my whine session with saying, today’s workout wasn’t all that great. And true to character, my sister looks at me and rolls her eyes. At least you went, she says. That’s good enough.

What is “good enough?” It seems as if it’s a state, not a goal. “Good enough” is often not what we strive toward, but where we end up in pursuit of the goal. Most people frame “good enough” as a cop-out, a negative. “Good enough” is what we say when we don’t really want to put any more work in, or we don’t particularly care about the goal.

The truth is that while we think of “good enough” as a bother keeping us from pursuing our goals, all of us would be dead if it weren’t for that little phrase. There are areas of our lives where we can’t physically spare the time to put in our 100%. Me putting in my 100% on my Statistics class would mean that I literally wouldn’t sleep. Ever.

There are also times in our lives where we won’t be able to put in the 100% because it’s just not going to happen. We’re sad, we’re tired, we lack focus. Some days our “best” is going to be 85%, and that’s it.

While making “good enough” the norm isn’t anything to live by, it gives us room to have some days that suck. It allows us to admit that there are constraints on our 100%. I don’t have the time to give my absolute 100%, work-out-until-I-pass-out effort every day at the gym, nor do I really wish to work out until I physically pass out (because wouldn’t that technically be 100%?). If I held myself to some high standard of “I’m ALWAYS going to give my 100%,” I would probably never go to the gym at all.

In pursuit of our goals, it’s the cliche to say that we plan on “giving our all.” But in order to operate in the real world and to avoid getting discouraged, sometimes we have to perform at a level that is “good enough.” We have to allow ourselves to have less-than-stellar days and to accept that an effort which was not so hot is still progress compared to no effort made at all.

At the end of the day, “good enough” still has “good” in it. And that’s “good enough” for me.

*Inspired by a wordpress prompt about obstacles that get in our way of accomplishing what we’d like to do.

Other bloggers’ takes on the subject:

  1. Harry Potter, Famous Dads and Stoke Newington | AS I PLEASE
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  3. Motivation Needed | suzie81’s Blog
  4. Neanderthals | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  5. I want to be a dreamer when I grow up | From One Crazy Life To Another
  6. Barriers | Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This
  7. Scenes From A Barrier Island | Exploratorius | Photo Hack & Curious Wanderer
  8. Daily Prompt: Obstacle Course -as a Medical Student | Journeyman
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  16. blossoming individual | peacefulblessedstar
  17. Getting Things Done « One Crazy Mom
  18. Adventures in baby cereal | Life Love Lily
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  20. Getting Out of My Way | The Silver Leaf Journal
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  24. Obstacles to Peace and/or Prosperity/Daily Prompt | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  25. Purpose | Phelio a Random Post a Day
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  27. An obstacle for everyone | LauGraEva
  28. The “Motif” Obstacle Course! | Home’s Cool!
  29. Daily Prompt: Obstacles « My journey to qualify for the Boston Marathon…and everything in between…
  30. The Silent Treatment. | Hope* the happy hugger
  31. Daily Prompt: Obstacle Course | Awl and Scribe
  32. of nothingness « Anawnimiss
  33. Why Did I Tackle This Obstacle Course? | Sued51’s Blog
  34. Time and Time Again . . . But, There Never Seems to be Enough | meanderedwanderings
  35. Daily Prompt: Obstacle Course | sixty, single and surviving
  36. Inspirational quotes by Steve Jobs | Processing the life
  37. Life Can Be A Obstacle Course | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  38. Daily Prompt: Obstacle Course | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  39. Self Motivation | A mom’s blog
  40. Smoke Screen | Broken Light: A Photography Collective
  41. Busy, Busy, Busy Bee… | An Upturned Soul
  42. Time and Tide | Flowers and Breezes
  43. Daily Prompt: Obstacle Course | Kauniiksi katsottu – Seen as Beautiful
  44. WP Daily Prompt: Obstacle Course | 101 Challenges in 1001 Days
  45. Bottled Gumption | A.C. Melody
  46. You Can’t Tie Your Shoes | Sam Wight
  47. Daily Prompt: Obstacles / unlocking my doors… | Louie Behogan
  48. Overcoming barriers | Mishe en Place
  49. DP: Obstacle Course |Metaphor is a pushy jerk. | thejimmieG
  50. Obstacle racing | Unknown File

Do You Secretly Want to Fail?

We’re about halfway through January. How are those New Years’ resolutions coming? For those of you who are rocking it, congrats. For those of you that are struggling (and for those of you who are rocking it, too!), your number one obstacle in succeeding might not be your lack of work ethic or external factors, but your own secret desire to fail.

Yes, maybe you don’t actually want to lose those ten pounds. Maybe you don’t want to start eating healthy. Maybe you don’t actually want to learn that new sport.

Why would I say that, you ask?

It’s this funny little thing called self-handicapping. Self-handicapping is a psychological phenomena by which we purposely don’t try our best so that when we fail, we can say that it wasn’t because we just weren’t capable of succeeding. It’s just because we didn’t put in the work. We do this because we want to protect our self-image. If you worked as hard as you absolutely could at a goal, and still couldn’t meet it, that would be awkward, right?

“So Bob, why didn’t you do well in that half-marathon you trained for?”
“Well, Sally, turns out I’m just not a runner. Trained my absolute hardest, but turns out I’m incapable of doing any better.”

That seems like an awkward conversation for most of us. No one wants to admit that they’re inherently not good at something.

Self-handicapping comes out of fear. In high school, I was a master self-handicapper. My sport in high school was debate (yes, it’s a sport), and I loved it more than anything. But looking back, I wasn’t confident that I was that great. So I didn’t put in the work. I didn’t spend the twenty or thirty hours required to write a good case, and I didn’t spend hours and hours perfecting my speaking. I put in enough to do pretty well but I didn’t put in my 100%. Now I can see that I only did that so that when I didn’t achieve my goals or didn’t get first place, I had an out. I could say, “Well, you know, I could do that too if I put in fifty hours of work.”

I probably could have. But unfortunately life does not operate on the maxims of coulda, shoulda, woulda. Life only counts action.

So when you’re looking at your New Years’ resolutions, whether they’re going well or not, be sure to catch yourself when you’re self-handicapping. When you don’t want to run that extra mile or put in the extra hour of studying, ask yourself why. Is it because you’re scared to go out on a limb and give it everything you’ve got?

Sure, it’s completely possible that you end up like hypothetical Bob and you don’t make your goal. But that shouldn’t keep you from trying. While it seems awkward to be Bob, I think if I were Sally I wouldn’t think a thing of it. I wouldn’t go, “Wow, Bob. What a loser. Sucks that you tried your best and still failed.” I think most of us would be like, “Props to you, Bob. Way to try your hardest.”

Even if you don’t attain your goal or keep your New Year’s resolution 100%, there’s value in the effort you put forth. I think Gandhi puts it beautifully. “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.”